The Self

I am a self, a thinking, feeling, acting being enclosed in a mystery I can neither fully comprehend nor control.


My mind registers every current in the cosmic sea. That old devil moon moves the tides in my blood. Distant vibratory events ripple through the plasma of my mind. Just as the DNA in any cell of my body encodes all the information necessary to reproduce my entire body, so my mind contains in germ the wisdom of the cosmos. I am a microcosm of the macrocosm. I am a gateway to the world, a nexus through which all lines pass. Deep within and far beyond meet in the depth of my spirit.


My body is a living museum of a natural history. As a fetus I passed through every stage of evolution. I had gills before lungs. I slithered on my belly like a reptile and walked on all fours before my reptilian and mammalian brains were crowned by the glory of the cortex. In my holographic mind and evolutionary body eternity and time meet. My nervous system incarnates the story of Bethlehem.


I am always transcending myself. I am a child of my time, blessed and bound by the values and prejudices of my family, clan and culture. And yet I can dispel my most cherished illusions. I can be a truthful witness of my own lies. I can sacrifice my immediate pleasure for a greater good. I can wonder, wait and work for a future I will not live to see. I can rise above my greed and cruelty and aspire to love.


Being both conscious and self-conscious, I will always ask that most difficult of unanswerable questions: Who am I? I can hold up a mirror to myself, re-collect and remember a thousand yesterdays and craft a story, a coat of many colors, to shield me from anonymity and meaninglessness.


This ability to reflect on my life is both my glory and my burden. Sometimes, like Narcissus, I become hypnotized by an image of myself as beauty or beast and I crave the simple instinctual spontaneity of animals. I want to lose myself in passion, drugs or work. But the effort to be rid of myself is never successful for long. I keep coming back like a song. The mirror moves and another image comes to the surface. I am many persons, rich in contradictions and paradoxes.


I am unique. No one like me has ever existed before. I have fingerprints, a name and a story unlike any others. No one can play my part in the drama of history. I am an important piece of the puzzle without which the picture of life would be incomplete. My vocation is to become a gnarled, original, exceptional individual.


I am common. Like all humans I have a hungry stomach and a divided heart. I need food and love. I was born small and helpless, grew into the fullness of my being, and must make the return voyage into decrepitude and death. I struggle to create intimacy and muster daily courage to deal with the anxiety of the unknown. I believe, I doubt, I celebrate and I grow weary. I am both greedy and generous. It is not easy to be me. Often I allow myself to be what you want me to be rather than expressing what I feel and value.

Yet, again and again, a small voice—call it conscience, spirit or consciousness—calls me back to myself.


I am alone. You can never know exactly what I think or feel. You can’t make my decisions, battle my fears, suffer my pain, enjoy my pleasure or do my dying. I alone bear the joyful responsibility for the life given me. At times I am lonely. I lock myself in solitary confinement and can’t remember where I hid the key. I may invite you into my inner sanctuary but never allow you to be a permanent resident. Even when I am alone I am always in relationship. Without touch I shrivel. In the beginning I was enwombed, inseparable from the Mother-Ground of my being and born into a caring circle of family and community. In time I became a friend, a lover , a spouse, a parent, an elder. The masks I wear and the roles I play are shaped by the applause or disapproval of my audience. I exist in your eyes.


Without a thou there would be no I. Without you I could never know the comfort of enfolding arms, the ecstasy of love. Your self and my self are linked, for better or worse. The greater our interaction our interbeing, the stronger and more capacious we grow.


I am tough minded, practical and shrewd. I do what I must to survive and thrive. I crave power and gain potency by acting.


I am a dreamer, half my life spent in unconscious darkness. In my most creative moments and in sleep, I abandon the polite façade of my personality and slip into wild costumes. In dreams I change forms, like Proteus, become a bird, a snake, a hero a seducer, a murderer. I play childish and terrifying games. I travel beyond time, create and destroy heavens and hells, savor forbidden pleasures and construct alabaster utopias. Nothing is impossible. I am large as anything I can hope, and small as any fear I will not recognize and banish.


I live within abstract structures—government, nation, law, economy. I am a single cell within a social body that both nourishes and threatens to inundate me. My country gives me work, security and ideology but extracts a heavy toll on my time and conscience and I struggle to balance public demands and private needs.


In modern times I have grown accustomed to urban ways and the convenience of machines. Computers have multiplied my calculations and media have extended my senses. But my feet are still in the soil. I am rooted in the humus. From dust to dust. My ecoself is a member of a commonwealth whose citizens include whales and starlings. I flourish only so long as I respect the communion that links me to all living beings.


The final word? There is no final word. I define myself, and yet I escape all definitions. I am unfinished, pregnant with longing and hope. There is always some fulfillment just beyond my reach, some adventure calling me. I am a citizen of three kingdoms: the long ago and far away, the here and now, and the not yet. My self a gypsy, always on the road.