These two questions sound the same:
"Who am I?"
and "What am I?". They sound so much the same
that their edges blur and they blend into each other ...
as if they're really the same question posed twice, but
each time started with a similar yet different interrogative pronoun.
Actually they're very different. I've answered the
I?"* satisfactorily for myself on various
occasions. While my answer to this question has matured over the years,
it's stabilized into a core response which suffices for now and for the
foreseeable future. As I continue my inquiry, as I gain new and deeper
who I am
(or, spoken with
as I continue my inquiry into who I'm
myself to be), I'll continually update this core response.
As for the question "What am I?", I've not presented an
answer to it before. Its answer is a much simpler answer than the
answer to the question
"Who am I?".
Yet it takes longer to lay out.
Here it is: my answer to the question "What am I?" is "A man of the
world". Period. Anything else is just commentary.
OK. Having made it clear that anything else is just commentary, allow
me, a man of the world, to comment on my answer to "What am I?".
As a man, as a human being, I'm an organism, a complex and
sophisticated organism. But to say I'm an organism isn't enough. What
defines me as a man, as a living organism, is I'm an organism which
moves (if I don't move, I'm not alive, yes?). The platform on
which I move ie the scenario within which I move ie the
in front of which I move, is the world. Hence "I'm a man of the world".
Setting "I move" aside (I'll come back to "I move" in just a moment),
my answer to the question "What am I?" starts with taking the organism
I am, into account. Well ... for starters it's a lot of soft tissue,
and flesh and bone, all nicely wrapped up in a suitably porous bag of
skin - in other
really, yes? At this level I'm simply one of the many species which
And while it's been said my species is the only one with an
(a better distinction may be my species is the only one which utilizes
at this level I'm simply a long pig (as humans are known
on the Polynesian Marquesas islands) or a hairless goat
(in the case of younger specimens), or a naked ape (as
Desmond Morris espouses). And that's still not enough to completely
respond to "What am I?". In order to completely respond to "What am
I?", I have to distinguish I move.
Doing this is easy. One of the ways I know my life, in large part, is I
notice I move / it moves, which is to say something's happening
because everything's moving (as
may have said).
So I'm more than an organism - way more. I'm an organism which moves.
I'm an organism imbued with the power to play the game "Man of the
World" in the world. My body is the
piece, the token I use to be in the game - like the
or the race car or the top hat in Monopoly. I'm a man of the
world. I move. I'm in action. I travel from country to country.
in and am shaped by many different cultures. I move around in
the place I call home -
which has changed quite a few times. I walk through
stopping in front of exhibits - longer in front of some than others.
Occasionally I play a guitar and sing. I walk on the beach at sunset,
enjoying the view, the sounds, and the scent of the ocean. I run. I
swim. I write - sometimes ending long past midnight, sometimes starting
long before the dawn. I spend time with
occasionally driving over a thousand miles in a weekend to do so. When
I go to the stores to look for new clothes, I select articles based on
style, utility, and a reflection of
who I am,
although not necessarily in that order.
I can discern fine wine from bad wine when I have to. But I don't
consume much of either. It's enough for me to be alive.
Life doesn't have to make it fun for me. It's all already
a blast. It's all already alright, whole, complete, and perfect. I can
stand for all of it and speak for all of it being OK when it's
appropriate to do so. But I also know speaking it's already alright,
whole, complete, and perfect can be un-listenable when
human suffering is in play. Demons get out of the way when they see me
coming because I've taken responsibility for my own life (they don't
like that). I'm a friend of angels but I don't take them too seriously.
I live in the world, a man of the world, because I can't think of a
better place to live. I've stopped avoiding life.
Everything I do (and I do mean
everything) is one or another opportunity to
one or another opportunity to make a difference, one or another
opportunity to experience something new. There's nothing to run away
from. There's no holding back. I'm unwilling to waste time being
skeptical. Neither am I willing to live an unexamined life. It's not
worth the effort to live an unexamined life in the world (as Socrates
may have said). It's not worth the effort to live an
untransformed life in the world (as
may have said).
Telling you I'm a man of the world is really redundant, yes?
What else can I be? Where else can I be it?
My answer to the question
"Who am I?"
is laid bare in the essay titled
Who I Am.