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Monday, 16 April 2018

Know thyself a.k.a. Who am I?

A human body consists of some 37.2 trillion cells, which rejuvenate about every 7 years. Still, we believe that we are just "1". We call this phenomenon the inner or true Self. Biologically, the inner Self cannot be located; neither in the brain nor anywhere else. If only because our brain consists of some "100 billions of neurons, interconnected via trillions of synapses".

On the ancient Greek temple of Apollo at Delphi is written: Know thyself. In other words: Who am I? For many people, this question is difficult to answer. Often we state our character traits instead, a.k.a. What am I? The sum of these traits may give an indication to Who we are, if answered with accuracy, completeness, relevance, and timeliness (eg, NCBI, Wiki).

The Who, What, When, Where and How questions follow the Why question, because everything follows Why (my 2017 blog). Why is it important to Know thyself? We tend to self-deceive by pretending to be different than we really are (eg, Nautilus). We may even believe in our self-deception. Self-deception will give an insincere answer to the question: Who am I?

The layer of self-deception may disappear when being alone. There’s no need for pretending as there is no group to blend in. Adversity is another situation in which humans may reveal their true colours. However, Abraham Lincoln allegedly stated: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.”

In 1887, Lord Acton may have referred to the (alleged) Lincoln quote by stating: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority.”

In Sumerian beliefs and Zoroastrianism, the Soul is either good or bad. This translates in good or bad intentions, words, and deeds. A good Soul defines a good person and vice versa. Answering the Who am I question, is still not easy as there are many shades of gray between bad and good.

We perceive bad and good as a judgment. Therefore, it feels uncanny to judge yourself. This may explain why it's hard for us answering the question: Who am I? By stating our (positive) character traits, we hope that others will assume that we are a “good" person.

In The Good Place (IMDb), 4 dead people assume they were “good" persons while alive. It hurts when they (slowly) find out that they were not good. Interestingly, “The Good Place” also uses the consistency between deeds, words and intentions. Good deeds with bad intentions lower your score in life - and afterlife. Bad deeds with good intentions may work similar (eg, white lies).

It’s not easy to live a life based upon good intentions, good words and good deeds. Hence, it’s not easy to qualify yourself as a good person with a good Soul. This may, again, explain our difficulty in answering the question: Who am I? Self-deception is our “friend” in those situations.

We may create an alter ego (a.k.a. other self) - or a "mask" - for external consumption to hide our true self. We probably have different “masks” for different situations, like in a relationship and/or at work. Over time, we may get confused between our inner ego and our outer alter ego. This confusion will create an imbalance between Body, Mind and Soul. Hence, know thyself.

True Colors (1986) by Cyndi Lauper - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

But I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful,
Like a rainbow

Note: all markings (bold, italic, underlining) by LO unless stated otherwise