Identity

June 9, 2014

This teaching talks about how we become the people we are, how our identities are formed out of conditions but still remain, in some real sense, ours:

“Given the right kind of circumstance, anyone would be a hero.  Given a certain alignment of causes and conditions, anyone might play the martyr, the tyrant, anyone might be the murderer, and anyone the one killed.  Given an alignment of conditions just so, we each become the thing the conditions generate rather than becoming, somehow, ourselves.  And so a hero is not a person who lives inside of me, it is a person who lives inside of conditions, and it is not courage or virtue that generate the hero but the circumstances.  Once those have collided and I have fulfilled my role, then, indeed, I am the hero, I am the tyrant, I am the murderer, I am the murdered.  Then it is identity; it is real to me, it is mine.  I am not a hero because that is who I am; I am a hero because that is what I became.  And it is the same for a coward, the same for a liar, the same for one imprisoned in his own fear.  I am the person I am because circumstances created my role, and in fulfilling it, I lived it, and so it became mine.”

And though we come to believe that these identities are deeply, inherently our own selves, in fact:

“Whether you were the hero or the tyrant, whether you were the coward or the brave, your truest identity is no identity at all.  The identities that you have deserve careful and patient attention.  They deserve to be learned and to be lived, but not because they are intrinsically, inherently, your deepest sense of self, not because they were born in you, but because you have lived them, and you continue to live them still, and they are your pathway into life, your doorway into understanding.  They are, all those myriad forms of who you are, the way that life praises itself; they are like an endless benediction, form bowing before form, seeing itself as all that is.  We, indeed, will outlast circumstance, and so we will outlast all of our small ‘I’s.  We will outlast the very things we are terrified of now.  We will outlast even our own forgetting.”

One Response to “Identity”

  1. Essence-less, I am.

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