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The one about Identity

A few years ago, I had made note of an essay by Prof. Amartya Sen who talked about the need for humans to embrace broader identities. He thought that this would break barriers and promote the spirit of oneness around the world. The idea that I could shape my identity through my interests fascinated me. I have always felt a kinship with like minded people and was quite happy when I realized that these broader strokes could help me find my place in a global society. The internet and social media fueled my quest. Social media websites such as Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Blogs, Podcasts made me see a side of things that I had never had the chance to experience before. My taste for global cuisines grew, I started reading a wide genre of books, I discovered music artists from around the globe.

While I don’t think that these experiments fundamentally changed me as person, it made me more aware of things that I had not really paid attention to before. And the more attention I paid, I started to become more biased to experiences that fascinated me. My online social media circle became limited to a carefully curated set of personalities that I found appealing . My  real world social interactions became increasingly limited to folks who subscribed to my view of ideals. On one hand, I wanted the people to see and hear about the things that I was discovering, and yet as I found out that many did not particularly care or had other interests that seemed unworthy to me I wanted to go be left alone. The struggle manifested itself as impatience,  frustration. There was no end to the list of things that could annoy me. I thought that I could control things by indulging in my own interests. The harder I tried, the less fascinating the experiences were. I started to feel like a disoriented cave diver in the dark waters. I had no sense of direction and I was swimming around in circles. I knew I had to reorient myself quickly. I have the privilege of having a very stable support system to get through some hard times. I knew I could rely on that to haul me out of my predicament.

One of the things that I had trouble agreeing to with many was the definition of Identity. What is one’s Identity? The answers that I could come were I am a father, a husband, a son, a brother, an immigrant, a programmer, a runner, a bibliophile, an Indian, a foodie. I could have gone on and added generic terms that described my nationality, my mother tongue, my sexuality but I am still not convinced that these helps define Me as a person. If you walk into a room full of people and call out people who match these identities I can assure you that there will be more than one who fits the bill. So how do these things uniquely identify me? Another thing that was bothering me was the obsession with “I”. Was I becoming a victim of my own ego?

The answers randomly seemed to come to me through the Principal Upanishads. The book talks about the importance of realizing the value of self. It seemed ironic at first that I would go back to the oldest known books to validate my thoughts. On the contrary this took me down a path of extreme learning and made me understand the nuances of Dharma (Righteousness), Artha (Wealth), Kama (Desire) and Moksha (Liberation). The key lessons were around the importance of senses and consciousness. The clarity of thought in these books amazed me. I learnt that while the senses helped focus on the outward aspects of life the consciousness allowed to focus on the inward aspects of life. When one questions oneself, then he invokes his consciousness and strives to balance the four phases. Ultimately, everyone pursues the four to varying degrees, and it is extremely important to understand that the others need not have the same spectrum of interests as you do. This was the ray of light I needed to reorient. While I still cannot answer the question as What am I, I am no longer weary and now I understand that to understand what I am I need to be what I am.

I come from the land of people where the mind is without fear, and the head is held high and where Knowledge is free. I do wish that others  wake up to such a heaven.

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