The following is an essay I wrote for my introduction to philosophies class in early October.
My “self” is an assortment of mismatched paper mache. It’s a flimsy and ever-changing clay molded by my unyielding loyalty and blind devotion. It is a cracked pot, damaged by my spontaneous passions and desperate need to see the good in people. My “self” comes from the experiences I have lived through, from the darkness and sadness that I have seen, from the utter joy and kindness I have witnessed, and from the emotions I have felt on all planes. My “self” is what motivates and drives my need to stay honest, to never stop learning, and to bring altruism to anyone I cross paths with.
I would like to think that people see me as a genuine person who honestly cares about them and will do almost anything to make them happy. Unfortunately, I know this is not always true. People see aggression, ambition, and anguish. I like to challenge social norms and will, without a second thought, stand up against what I believe or know to be wrong. And that has gotten me in more than enough trouble.
Upon asking a friend, who has known me from some time, what three characteristics he would give me, I was given three simple words: outgoing, spontaneous, and smart. But I thought he must be biased. So I asked again, but this time to a definite stranger and received: outgoing, kind, and fall. I didn’t understand, so I asked him to elaborate what he meant by “fall” and was given: “I don’t know. You seem warm and adventurous. It reminds me of fall.”
Amid further reflection, I found myself, far different from my “self,” confused. I had never considered myself an adventurous or spontaneous person. I thought I was level-headed and meticulous. So I looked deeper, analyzed who I was and what I did. I thought about habits, recurrences, problems; I tried to disprove everything that I thought I knew about myself, and I found some things that fit but I didn’t, and still don’t, necessarily like.
I am selfish. I am easily offended. I am constantly tired. I am invariably anxious.
But I am diligent in my work. I an unwavering in my quest for knowledge. I am kind.
All humans, on some level, share this sense of ignorance. Maybe that is too strong a word, it is more of a subconscious desire to reside in absolutes. Thoughts like “I am good,” or “she is bad.” We tend to always see ourselves as the just protagonist in the climax of our own feature plays. It’s never your fault.
I wish I could say that sympathy is another of the common characteristics in all humans, but I cannot honestly state this. Sympathy has become a superpower and empathy even more rare. In contrast, all humans share envy. It is how the capitalist society thrives. We always want what’s best because we all care about what others think and we hate when others think of us as less than another. We are always “keeping up with the Jones’.”
Humans have a knack for rebellion as well. It’s been a part of almost every culture, the foundation of our own in fact. To me, humans all share a rebellious characteristic. This is what creates competition and new cultures, what expands horizons and causes sorrow. There has been social, economic and scientific rebellion as seen with the American colonies, Karl Marx, and Charles Darwin. But not all rebellions can bring a positive fallout. Take Hitler and the Nazi Party for instance.
As humans, we have a tendency to ignore the bad. We like to think of ourselves as the hero in every movie or the rebel without a cause that somehow saves the day. In our own everyday lives we play the roles of both heroes and villains. It is our job to realize the nefarious prospects of our “self” and create something benevolent and caring out of the evil that would have been sent out into the world through our voluntary disregard. We must look inside of ourselves and realize that we are not all good, but we are not all bad. We are human. Do not deal in absolutes; when you only have two pieces to a puzzle, you are lost, blind and incomplete.