I Who?

I went down some weird rabbit hole this week.

It all started when I was explaining to someone in my life how I felt about a certain thing, and their reply showcased all the ways how my actual legitimate feelings on the topic were incorrect. Because you know, there was a difference between my opinion of how I felt and this person’s opinion of how they thought I should feel. The conversation wasn’t much in itself…and it was certainly an unorthodox way for me to come to the edge of this rabbit hole and peer inside. I mean, we all have folks in our lives who truly believe it’s “their way or the highway”, so you best believe it was not my first time hearing this particular garbage from this particular person. The exchange’s details aren’t important, but the question that loomed up as a result and ultimately forced me to tumble into the depths of is.

Who is “I”?

Who is the “I” we’re referring to when we say “I feel sad” or “I love you” or “I’m feeling happy today”?

One thought is that the “I” is our ego. Ego in the sense of what we believe “I” is, not the ego that tells us we have a bigger penis or that we have this image we must maintain. The ego that tells us what “I” stands for is something we’re all vulnerable to because in its simplest form, it creates separation and distinction between “I” and everybody else. “I” makes us feel a little special and deliberate instead of thinking we’re some singular mass of humanity hurling a bajillion miles an hour through space on our twirling rock. Our egos tell us “I” represents us as the subject to everyone else’s object, the star of the show while those surrounding us go from supporting characters all the way down to the guy who sweeps the stage after, depending on their proximity to our “I”.

What drove me further down this hole is the idea that our egos are just another thought in our heads. Our “I” is just our own opinion of who we think we’re representing ourselves as. If we asked 20 different people their own opinions of who our “I” is, we’d get 20 vastly different answers. People love us, hate us, or are ambivalent about us end of story. Our egos are the vessel our brains use to carry all of our calculations on who “I” is, how “I” looks, and how “I” maintains the illusion of distance and superiority from the other humans.

So in this philosophy the “I”, if we’re saying it’s ego, is just some smoke and mirrors to bullshit everybody…including ourselves…into believing our “I” is concrete fact. The sum of ideas and preferences that we’ve hunted and gathered since we were cast out of our mommies’ wombs. And the opinion that our “I” can control outer circumstances and be unique and special from that weirdo over there and that one who dresses strangely and that one we don’t understand and that one who has a different opinion, skin color, socioeconomic status.

Well, that shit is just more opinions of “I”, right? Our “I”, no matter how goofy or stupid we each are, is desperate to believe it’s right. “I” is right. Everybody else is wrong.

So if “I” is just our ego, the glob of collected opinions and beliefs “I” holds, then what’s controlling THAT? If our “I” thinks it sucks and wants to change habits and opinions or maybe believes “I” could be wrong about some stuff, what’s lording over the resistance to change and correct the stuff?

This is where I got tripped up. Who is “I” if ego is just another malleable thought in our heads, and if “I” controls our thoughts and ego is just a thought instead of “I”, then what is “I”? What’s controlling everything behind the curtain? And what about those of us who have an “I” that are people-pleasers and suck everybody’s asses but hate it, or who want to change some beliefs but can’t seem to? What’s that struggle about?

Is our “I” that feeling of struggle? Is “I” that space between doing what’s easiest and what we know is right? Or is “I” in fact what we know is right and if so, why the hell aren’t we just living our truths?

Who the actual F is The Great And Powerful Oz?

If we’re being science-y we could chalk it up to “I” being the total result of conscious and subconscious thoughts. Simple, clinical. “I” in this case is just our rando decisions about what we decide we are. If we’re being spiritual-ey we could say that “I” is the self which forms from our religious practices and deep-seated beliefs about ourselves and our deities versus everyone else’s.

Okay, but that still doesn’t answer a damn thing.

My own spirituality dictates that “I” is our True Selves, the purest sense of us, and there should be no distinction between my “I” and your “I”. Humanity as a whole as just one big “us”, a collective consciousness that if you discover it within yourself, equals Enlightenment.

The kicker is nobody can tell us how to reach this “I” and as a consequence, this “Us”, because everybody is different and therefore everybody needs to figure out for themselves how they reach this nirvana and the journey is wholly dependent on our own individual brains and souls.

Sigh.

I mean, what this means is the path to “I” and “Us” is a mystery locked inside of each of our souls for each of us to find our own particular key to. And what that looks like and how to get there is different for everybody. And that no matter what our preference is, prayer, spellcraft, meditation, tent revivals, dancing with snakes, studying with a Stoic on a mountaintop…whatever path we choose toward that ultimate knowledge is a gimmick or a learned behavior that COULD lead us to the answer of who is “I”.

Dammit.

Some people say “I” is what we love. If “I” loves dancing, when we dance that’s “I”. “I” am a dancer. And if our “I” isn’t fully invested in something, our “I” is doing something contradictory to our True Self.

Yeah, that’s great but that shit doesn’t always pay those bills and we all gotta eat. Are most of us doomed to never meet our true “I”?

I’m just scratching the surface here of this ultimate, intimate examination of just who we’re referring to when we say “I”. It’s a loop, a riddle that asks more questions than it answers when we each dive headfirst into it. One essay isn’t going to solve it, certainly not this one because I’m not even sure this one makes any sense. If you ask one priest or guru the answer of how to find our “I” you’ll also find a hundred others in the same professions to refute their opinion.

Sooo, yeah. This could be a never-ending read for you and a never-ending write for me. And I’m probably overthinking this whole thing.

Maybe that’s our “I”. Not thinking about it. Just being what we feel is ourselves in that moment. Being fluid and swimming with the current. Not insisting others are wrong and we’re right until everyone is in their corners waiting for the bell to let us know when it’s time to resume battle. Maybe having the suspicion that there really is no “I” is the answer we seek and that will make us go insane in the process.

Who is “I”?

Who knows?

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store