The question of personal identity, in the deepest sense, is one of the most crucial to answer, and one of the most difficult questions that human beings can take on.
We grow up hearing from other people how they think we are. But we must each engage in a process for ourselves that is one part discovery, one part invention. Some of these question is engage by taking on the big metaphysical questions – having to do with the objectivity of morality, the reality of freedom, the existence of the mind, our attitudes toward death and questions about life after death, and meaning. How you react to these issues constitutes a deep part of who you are. But another part of the identity question is broached only when we face the practical issues concerning success in this world, in our daily lives.
What are your talents? What are you values? What do you really, most deeply care about? What is your mission in life? What legacy would you most want to leave the world?
These are questions of self-knowledge. And it’s only rarely that they can all be answered early in life. We grow in our understanding of the questions, and in our vision of their answers, as we live and experiment with different possible paths. Life is supposed to be a series of adventures – adventures of self-knowledge and self-creation. As we explore the outer world, we form and learn more about our own inner worlds.
“Who am I?” is less a question to answer than it is one to live with and use. It should always be connected up with another question: “What am I becoming?” In the end, each of us is responsible for what we do with the talents and opportunities that we are given. Each of us has the chance to do things that will make a positive difference in the world and that will express well who we are. But to accomplish this, we must use the freedom that we have to find our own way forward in life. Benefiting from the wisest counsel we can find, each of us has the responsibility to develop our own wisdom and put it into action. Only the process itself will finally answer the question of who we are.
- Tom Morris -