My search for myself was almost fifty years long. It only ended when my diagnosis with HIV placed so many other urgencies in my way that I forgot about the search for myself for a while in my haste and worry. At that time it seemed that my years were now quite limited and that they would just have to be lived as I was. Perhaps disease is the ultimate “come as you are party.”
Circumstances were such that I felt there was justice in my being indulgent of my less practical goals in life, doing only what I wanted, was gratifying, had meaning, or a thing I would be proud to leave behind. I turned work away if I couldn’t work at my best level, tried any kind of fun on offer, and started to explore experiences I had shunned, lest I die unknowing, or worse, criticize in ignorance.
The conundrum is this: it was only then, when I was no longer searching that I found myself, or perhaps better stated, that I realized I had never lost myself. It happens this way for many, and seems peculiar to some, but I believe there is a very good reason for it. In order to search for a thing that thing must be separated from us on some level. We use our minds, eyes, and bodies to move through thought or space hoping to discover that which we seek, and certain that we will know it when we stumble on it. That which we seek, in this case is our self. It is a rather humorous image of us all inextricably bound within our selves bumping around attic and alley and bazaar in the hope of stubbing our toe on some self we think we could claim. It is after all our self that is doing the searching, but being that self is so inevitable and mundane that we can not credit it as being worthy or sufficient. What then is it we search for?
I will answer only for myself. I was searching not for myself, but for another self which would suit better the people around me and not be troubled by all the quirks and insecurities acquired through a long and unprotected life. In reality it turns out to have been more a running from myself than a searching for it.
Is there not some feeling that for all of us there is a happy place where we work at gratifying jobs with respectful people and have peace and security in our life and home and self? Could we not have that if we just could find that self that makes the promise true and doesn’t disturb others or ourselves with that which lies beyond understanding or explanation?
I say I found myself, but in truth it was more an accepting than a finding. It was compelled by a seeming necessity but the urgency brought a great gift: the knowledge that the promise was a fantasy, and like most fantasies, it’s attractiveness rested on the denial of my own complexity and richness. It required as much conformity as a suburban life might, and looked at objectively promised more boredom and less self than the present state did.I sought self, and then realized that any self that might be found would be less than the one which was seeking.
We look to heaven and forget to enjoy our earthly home, we plan for a future in focused detail while the present sails past unnoticed, we speculate on the potential of our family and friends to achieve goals and attend events, but don’t hold life’s pressures at bay while they are with us so that we can know their mind and heart, we think always of what we ought to be, or could be, refusing or unable to see what we are and feel confident in it’s rightness.
What need is there except be ourselves, as we are and as we evolve? What supposition of our own identity can be more right than the inevitability of our being as it exists this very moment? Is it even possible to see or know it with out distorting it in the process?
When we walk without self-consciousness we walk best I think, when we walk directly and without contrived intention. When we react as we react, give without thought, love without agenda. When being is our only purpose and our way of being is nothing more than the natural impulse of our native force. It is there, in being without conscious thought, just as our inner force directs that resides our self. It is inevitable and inescapable, as in flux as the passing days, and as complex and contradictory as are the infinite stimuli it responds to. What other way could it be? Could we be? Except to be less than we already are, divided from creation’s interdependence, an extraneous link in the chain of life.