Cogito ergo sum. I think, therefore I am.
For the last few years, I have been having an identity crisis. But not on the same level of most people. I mean my crisis is not along the lines “Do I like blue or red? Or am I kind or stingy?” I'm questioning “Who is… I?”
Am I this body? Am I an organ? The brain? The heart? A limb? A toe? What? Who? Why? (Damn it… brain freeze).
In Carlos Castaneda’s terms, stalking the self (in Islam its jehad alnafs which translates along the lines of the battle within) would help us see that all we are, or all who we think we are, is but a collective of habits that resulted from conditioning, also known as experience.
If one day the science of habitual conditioning got so advanced that it can prove, for example, I like the color red because I associate it with something nice that I experienced in my childhood, then… then… what did that leave for my individuality? For my ego to exist? For the “I” to keep being associated with the image it insists is the only truth.
Am I saying that, yes, even if what I am does come down to habits, or how I’d like to put it, “likes and dislikes” (habits are the conception of actions taken either because they bring me happiness or avoidance of the opposite, which will result in happiness, I guess) it is ok? Because, yes, the “self” with all its magnificence and unfathomable wonder, is nothing but habits?
Well, I don’t like this… I do not like this one bit actually. Ok… back to square one, who is this “I” and why am “I” getting offended by this? Well I can tell you that if “I” am being told that “I” with all “My” individuality and uniqueness, am nothing more than preconditions, well it wouldn't sit well with me I'll tell you that. Preconditions that given the proper advancements in science, can be recreated?
If I made a list of all that I am. What makes me, Abdulaziz, me? Ok let me just tackle one strand of who I think I am.
I think I am a romantic (that's so cheesy of me, I know).
So let’s say someone can come up to me and tell me. Yeah, but you’re a romantic because:
1) Your father used to tell you stories on your way back from chalet every Thursday when you were a kid, which developed your love of happy endings (an example of a “like”?)
2) You were frustrated, as a kid, often (a dislike), and that made you escape in your mind to the world of stories and fantasies (like). Which made you wish you lived a fairy tale with a happy ending.
3) As a grown up you had everything easy, and you wish to live the anguish of the hero in a fantasy story, the anguish that the hero has to go through to reach his happy ending.
Anyway, I am sure there are other reasons why I am this way now, and each reason can be drilled down further more until a probable cause for it appears in my childhood.
Ok so this dismantling of my “self” is not a piece of cake, but it’s doable, it’s calculable.
Let’s say I did take time off and tried with all my might to do this exercise, which is called recapitulation by the way, and I ended up with all of the habits or personality traits that I’d like to think as a whole would make “me” who “I” am, and each trait can be traced to an outside stimulus that I simply reacted to, based on the preconditioning of previous stimuli. Does this answer the question of “WHO THE HECK AM I?”
I personally cannot take “You are the collective of your experiences” as an answer. And I also refuse to accept that “I” and my “ego” are interchangeable descriptions of the same thing. I was cut off during my ride back home today, I got so pissed off. This burst of anger, is it “me” or my ego? Fine, let us say that this is who “I” am and this is based on previous experiences. This means I can undo it. I can, with time, recondition the preconditioned.
If I can do that, then I can undo the bad habits and the good. After all, there is this saying “Wisdom is not about having good habits, it’s about having none”. Because as long as I am a slave to my routines and habits, then I am not free. For me to really know who “I” am, I have to remove all that surrounds “me”…
I looked deep down into myself, and I found… nothing… nothing… but what was I to expect? There was nothing to begin with…
PS. I don’t know how this post would have added value for the readers. But I guess if you separate the “I” from the “ego” you can see your habits from a third person’s point of view, and if you don’t intend to reach this breaking down of the ego for higher purposes, you can at least treat those bad habits you carry over your shoulder.