Monday, July 13, 2009

The Paradox of Being Yourself

UG often used to say that you don't have to be anything and that being yourself is the simplest thing you can do. Unfortunately, being yourself may not be as simple as it sounds.

‘Being yourself’ is contrasted with trying to be (or become) someone other than yourself. If, for instance, you think you are inferior than someone else, or you feel inadequate or are afraid, in being yourself (trying to be yourself) you don’t change what you are into something which you are not, namely superior, adequate or not fearful.

Part of being someone or something other than what you are at the moment includes not being elsewhere at anytime.

You accept your lot, whatever it is. Shall we say you remain content.

Man’s condition is such that he or she cannot just be (or be anything) without being aware of that condition. But the problem with being yourself is that the mere awareness of what you are implies a judgement about yourself or your condition and in that very act of judging is imbedded an attempt to transcend it, to be something else or someone else -- at any rate, an attempt to be rid of the problem and thereby improve one’s condition.

Unless you include these various attempts to be other than yourself (or be elsewhere) to be part of yourself, the notion of ‘being yourself’ is a contradictory notion; or at least it seems so; for to be yourself must necessarily bring an awareness of one’s self and that awareness is automatically also an attempt to become someone or something other than yourself, that is not being yourself. In that case ‘to be yourself’ paradoxically means ‘not to be yourself’. Or you could say, that ‘not being yourself’ is what constitutes ‘being yourself.’

When you are so aware, and also become aware of your attempt to transcend your condition, you can try to be what you are by telling yourself that there is no point in changing your condition, that there is nothing wrong with it, or that no solution to a problem has been shown to succeed, and so on. This telling yourself might help you succeed in returning to yourself momentarily. One could say then that one has learned to accept oneself or learned to be content with what one is.

But the mind is a comparative instrument. It not only is aware but it also compares -- the awareness and the judgment that comes with it are comparative. The comparative judgment has to bring in (no matter how much one tells oneself otherwise) a process of becoming something other than oneself or be in some other condition (that may only be as a fantasy or daydream).

Cutting the Gordian knot: This paradox, in my mind, can only be resolved by letting oneself be even in the state of becoming – you are aware of the process of becoming; and you just go through that without resistance to it. At some level or other you must come to terms with what you are – even if it be just to keep trying or keep becoming. When we are able to do so even at the most superficial level, then sooner or later, the acceptance or letting go will penetrate through layer after layer until you can accept your condition, fear, pain, guilt or whatever. Total acceptance has to involve surrendering, if you will, to the pain, fear or guilt. Then you are not yourself, because the self structure has been dissolved (at least relatively or momentarily) and you revert to mere consciousness or bodily awareness; you just are. So, in the final analysis, when we get through the structures of the self, ‘to be yourself’ means just ‘being,’ being without trying to become something else.