Tuesday 4 September 2018

Who are you? Who are you really?

Much of the misery of peacetime life in the West can be attributed to people not knowing who they truly are.  We live in a state of ignorance or plain denial about ourselves and make arrangements based not on who we are and what we are likely to do but on who we wish we were and what we like to think we would do. A non-controversial example is featured in the home decoration book Mad about the House, which suggests you not set up your sitting-room as a place for conversation when  you really will use it to watch television while eating popcorn.

A priest once mentioned, with despair, that people do not confess their REAL sins. He lived in a religious community, so I wonder if his brothers went to confession to him and neglected to mention their obvious-to-him faults, like hogging all the granola or intentionally needling Father So-and-so into paroxysms of rage.  This was not, by the way, a model priest, but I thought that this was a very useful insight. It's why we need spiritual directors, or at very least honest friends and family who will give it to us straight.  

Thinking about who you really are should not take more than five to ten minutes of your day, ideally before bed when doing an examination of conscience. However the thought occurred to me while walking to the town library with a burlap shopping bag. It is very sunny today, and I was feeling cheerful and kind to humanity----unlike yesterday when it was dark and rainy, and I was feeling grouchy and misanthropic. It is pathetic to be so influenced by the weather. Am I really a happy person or am I a sourpuss? Am I really a rational soul independent of my environment, or am I a walking rock plant? 

A much more frequent thought should be "What do I really want?"--especially before buying or eating something. I am currently contemplating a trip to Rome--during which I will be working but B.A. will be free to look at churches--and roundtrip airfare for two is, at minimum, £250. Thus, I am thinking "What do I REALLY want?" and what it is, is for B.A. not to look so tired and ill and so occupied by trivialities.  

Thinking about What Else really is should take more than five to ten minutes of your day. Because I am now a reporter, I have to think about it for at least eight hours, five days a week, e.g. What did Raymond Arroyo REALLY say, and have I transcribed it correctly?" I wish I had thought more about What Else really is when I was a teenager contemplating how I was going to live my adult life, but that's too late now.  All I can do is determine reality NOW and to work at being more rooted in reality, minute by minute, day by day. 

At theology school, a professor of Christian ethics said that the question we should ask ourselves while making moral decisions is "Who am I becoming?" I think this is an excellent partner question for "Who am I REALLY?" because it underscores we have a choice in the matter. 

Who I am REALLY now, for example, is a woman who has studied Italian on and off since she was fourteen, and agreed to write a polite letter in Italian to a VIP. 

I am not fluent in Italian, and I haven't had a proper conversation in Italian since B.A.'s sick pay ran out and I said good-bye to my tutor (long story), but I know I can cobble together a letter in Italian,  as I have done so many times before, and so I will do it. At my very best, I will appear like a foreigner who first learned Italian in the 1980s--and that will do.

Who I am BECOMING is a woman with an excellent grasp of what it means to function in foreign languages, thanks to reading and almost-daily practise with a very complicated foreign language. Happily, this also means becoming a woman with authentic humility--self-knowlege that is rooted in reality: I am neither "good at" nor "bad at" languages because non-immersion language acquisition is usually based not in talent but in psychological training.  

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