Open Buddha

Open Source Buddhism, Technology, and Geekery
Bay Area, California

whoami?

Like a koan, I hear “whoami? whoami? whoami?” This is a question that reoccurs in my life. I must assume that is reoccurs for all of us - that it is a universal or I hope it is…

When I was a kid or a young man, it didn’t occur to me to ask who I was. I simply was…adolesence and one’s early adult years (shit, one’s later adult years for many) are so much an exercise of being by acting. You push at the world, you push at your family, and you make a space for yourself. “I’ve got to be me!”, you say.

Well, you’re me and now what? What is it that makes you what you are? Is it like the mantra of from Trainspotting about “Get a life. Get a job. Get a nice flat. Get a girlfriend.” or is there more to it?

Then the liberating realization, the fearful realization, sets in… you are everything and you are nothing. There is nothing that really defines you that is unique in the world. You are not a precious snowflake. You are not special.

What then? All of that thundering of youth and what do you have as you get older? You’ve defined yourself but you’ve also fit yourself in as a nice little cog in the machine. You do your part. You’ve got your job. You pay your bills. Maybe you’ve got a mortgage to take care of and, oy, all those bills. You’ve got your vacation to plan.

What happened to you? Where did you become one of them, one of the despised, the ordinairy, the mortal, frail drones who you used to laugh at until you realized, shit, you are one of them and you always were. We all have our youthful indiscretions, son, now it is time to get to work.

There is a flipside to that realization that you aren’t special. If you probe deeper, the question arises as to whether there is any you there are all. What is the self in yourself? If you follow the rabbithole to the bottom, does it go anywhere or do you wind up where you started. Turning inward, how far does the spiral go into yourself.

Some will claim that at the bottom of the midden there is a diamond hidden in all that shit. Your precious snowflake will be found. I see no evidence of that. It’s turtles, turtles, turtles, all the way down, one on top of the other. In the end, like the Matrix, there is only the question that drives us mad: whoami?

Realizing that there is no answer, only the question, also means you are free. You are liberated. You are the rock star of your dreams or you are the poor guy doing drugs to feel alive. It’s up to you to create yourself but like any good set of clothes, you should be prepared to change them when they get frail, full of holes, and begin to smell… You are free if you realize it and the cell you are in is just a cardboard box.

Be free but keep asking “whoami?” Someday, if you follow that question, keep at it, maybe you’ll find an answer. I’m told that it can come in a flash or in can come in like the unstoppable tide but you have to keep questioning, keep looking, keep asking.

Thoughts for this evening. I think I’ll go do my practices now.