Search for Self


My sister went to New York recently to find herself, but she couldn’t. She thought that the city was too busy and too similar to Toronto for this purpose. It reminded me of myself a couple of years ago, when I applied to become an exchange student in Italy. Back then my knowledge of Italy was non-existent. I knew that it looked like a boot and it was where pizza came from. I knew nothing of its culture nor its history. I wasn’t going to Italy for Italy. The purpose of my travel was the same as my sister’s, it was to find myself. Italy just happened to be the location for my soul searching, an incidental destination that could just have easily been France or Brazil, or anywhere else in the world for that matter.

I thought that by travelling, I could find my essence. Stripped of the baggage of externally imposed tendencies, pressures and norms (from sources like family, culture, and society), perhaps this core self could be expressed in the purest way. I could obtain perfect knowledge of my core and let it drive my actions, living as a liberated individual, floating above external structures. Digging to unearth this precious core, I find myself in a great wide space instead, a space in which I floated not outside of structure but invariably inside, a space tempered and transformed continuously by arbitrary situations. My personal search for self ended up in a discovery of selves, all of which had a legitimate claim to the title of me.

As the search wore on it started to resemble a flight. The search for the elusive core was perhaps an excuse for the flight from the aforementioned burdens that I couldn’t accept for whichever reason. It was a childish flight for freedom, with fiscal responsibilities borne by my parents. However, there comes a time when one must say good bye to Neverland. One day the Little Prince would have found himself resembling the grown-ups who perplexed him.

Individuals formed by the whimsies of history, running about trapped in rooms walled by endless distorted mirrors, will a clear image ever appear? Perhaps neuroscience (and associated branches) will advance to the point of perfection and fully explicate human nature. Then God’s absence on his heavenly throne will be replaced the material authority of spectacled Mr. Science. Similarly, perhaps one day there will be created a test (like an absolute version of the Myer Briggs personality test) that can fully represent the complexities of the individual. Then a divine light will suddenly appear from the ceiling of the room walled by endless disfiguring mirrors and a piece of paper will gently flutter down, the paper which will reveal personal destinies. The way to the One True Mirror will be illuminated, in which the self can finally be reflected with complete clarity, all for the price of a couple of hundred dollars to the local clinical psychologist.

One thought on “Search for Self”

  1. I think travelling as a cure to identity crises is a myth of our generation. Granted, it can be an invaluable thing to be able to experience living on your own, unattached to people and place. But to believe that there is a pure core that exists beyond the realm of our society is naive. Perhaps we are like the Hindi god Vishnu or the Amida Buddha – we all have more than one apparition according to time, place, situation… It’s less important where we are physically, it’s the opening up of that place in our minds for self exploration and growth that is perhaps true freedom.

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