To be alive one needs to think. It is your first move. You are what you think. Before words and before actions comes the thought – the thought of “Self”.
The thought is everything. It is an emotion, it is a vision, and it is everything around you. Try to eliminate the thought, and everything around you turns into objects just like you. Without thought you become vulnerable and needy. Desires are consuming you, and what is there to guide your next move? Instincts?
A first free minute after all instincts are satisfied and all calls of duty are answered gives a luxury (or misery) of Self. Kids are fed and safely asleep. There are no predators or creditors on the horizon. And Self could begin to emerge. The thoughts of success or failure. The thoughts of direction and final destination: “Where all this will take me?”.
First 30 years of our life there is a chance to gloss over the issue of “I”. There are expectations, and parents pre-arrangements, and growth, and sense of direction. Even 40. You can keep busy with the house, and kids, and work. But there is a point, when all is set. You already organized some kind everyday procedure, and it doesn’t require your 24×7 attention anymore.
For the first time you begin get some “Me” time. You begin to gain some glimpses at accomplished and on a road ahead. You need to learn to do something with yourself. It is no longer about career, or better car, or house, or kids. What do you do the rest of the life?
First 30 or 40 years taught you to get busy: study, engage, search for a better position, mate, house, even climate. But all this can’t be an answer. You do not spend all your life searching for the better, and miss the life after all. What is it I am searching for? What is the end goal? You begin to suspect a trap.
You used to identify yourself with work, or family, or land, or nation, or skill, or some other affiliation. But in all of these, the so cherished Self is dissolved and is quickly disappearing. You could ask where is my unique precious Self in all of this?
You might even begin to search Self in recognition of others. What do they think of me? I will survive in what others will remember me by. This is a dangerous path. In a search of self you are moving away from yourself.
In fact, the very first thought of “What am I?” is a manifestation of Self. When danger and hunger are conquered, when all the social and personal obligations are silenced, you can find a vanishing Sunday afternoon, and force the thought of Self, and be alive for the first time. A complex machine that is you is composed of billions of cells and myriad of needs. And that machine wants to know what IT is. Somewhere inside, you can’t even tell exactly where, this question arises. What am I? Do now be afraid of this question, but cultivate it. The very thought of you is You. This is the only unique manifestation of your unique you. It is not what you ought to do, it is not what you shouldn’t do, it is not about what others are thinking about you. It is the thought of you that is you.
People go far and wide to encounter this question. The only trick here is not get caught by surprise. Compare these two situations of discovering the truth about the Self.
—A— You worked hard for a long time. You got to a long holiday. You pack your things and friends, and you find yourself at the end of the world. It is noisy, it is fun. Everyone is busy, everyone is occupied: cooking, setting, arranging something at the end of the world. IT doesn’t even have to be that far. The fun goes deep into the night, and only many hours later you wake up in a strange place, in a strange surrounding, and everybody is still asleep.
There is nothing to do. You climb out outside and see the results of last night fun. And reality catches up with you for the first time. Fun is over. Garbage is everywhere. You have a lonk packing and driving back ahead of you. And when you return, there is nothing to look forward to. Just more work and more chores. “Where am I?” “What am I doing here?” “Where am I going?” “What am I?”
This is a discovery of Self in a tough “out-of-my-normal routine” circumstances. After such a sudden discovery your might renew the search for the better, make hasty decisions and plans, try to change, or try not to touch these matters for as long as you could. The least desirable result of such encounter is an attempt to get even busier with obligations, and chores and tasks.
—B— Now compare with this scenario. You worked hard, and you want to get away. Finally a long weekend is here. You pack your things and you arrive at the end of the world, or even closer. There is a flame in tha dark. It is all quit. No dangers. No obligations or tasks to perform. You realize, you are fulfilled the dream of solitude, and it is surprisingly hollow. There is nothing to do, nothing to judge. There is nothing ahead. There is nothing to be proud of. “Where I am going?” “Why I am here?” “Why I never asked these questions before?” “Why people around me are not torturing themselves with these questions?” “Why I was so busy to ever talk to myself like this?” And you have a whole quite night ahead of you to examine the situation.
In both very similar cases a person escapes the routine to be in a position to question Self. But it is so much better to confront the issue in the dark with a cup of tea in the hand. It is unbearable to get struck with the issue in the dim light of the morning, when tasks, obligations and waking people surround you from all directions.
To be alive for the mind, is to think about the idea of Self. It is to return to those questions , and be prepared not to find answers. To be alive is to remember about questions of meaning and direction, and measure all other efforts and obligations in the light of these questions.
Once discovered (preferably in the middle of the night) questions of Self open a new dimension in your life. You are no longer a task-driven machine. You are no machine at all. Instead of two modes – “On” and “Off” – you acquire a new quality – ability to think about Self, and in that short moment to be uniquely Self.