Sunday, October 26, 2008

Who am I?

I have thought about this question quite often. Usually, I consider this question as it would be posed to a friend of mine. How would he describe me? What kind of person does he think I am? What does he see when he looks at me?
I wonder how my different friends would answer that question. I feel confident, however, that any answer they gave would be incorrect. I do not think they could describe in two words. Or five. Or even ten. I also wonder what one word they would describe me with, if they could.
A friend might say I'm smart- no, I'm not. I make stupid mistakes, just like anybody else.
A friend might say I'm funny- not always. I know when I'm annoying someone.
Any description you could give, I'll wiggle my way around it, and prove that somehow you cannot figure me out. You cannot describe me, even in one hundred words. You cannot put me into this category or that one.
Even if someone does seem to describe me perfectly (I have as yet to hear it), then I know that I would go at great lengths just to prove him wrong.
If someone doesn't think I'm kind, I'll show him I can be. If someone thinks I am messy, I'll show him I can be clean and organized.

Why do I feel this way? Is it arrogance mixed with ignorance and naivety, to think that I'm so...undefinable? Why do I feel that there is so much, that my friends do not see, and do not know about me, that I can disprove any assumptions they may have about me as a person?
I am not so sure.

But if I don't think my peers can correctly assess me, describe me, and categorize me, then how would I go about describing myself, if I know me so well, better than anyone else? Why should I be disappointed in them if I also fail at the very thing I'm asking for? So can I describe myself, and if so, how?

I think to answer that, I may need to delve deeper into what it is we can use do define ourselves.
In a certain movie, one character told the other, "It's not who you are on the inside, but what you do, that defines us." Or something like that.
Is this true?
Chassidus says it is; but only halfway. Only for when we do good. Not for when we do bad. For this, Chassidus gives us a valuable crutch.

The Alter Rebbe in Tanya brought forth a revolutionary concept about the way we look at our actions and conduct. He explained that the bad which one does, chas v'shalom, does not define him as a bad person. It is only a result of one's Nefesh HaBahamis, who is certainly not the real us. Before Chassidus, every sinner was a bad person, and cut himself from G-d with every sin he did. Chassidus teaches that no matter how far away we get from Hashem, we always have our Nefesh HaElokis, and therefore are always connected to the Essence of G-d Himself. Everyone, then, is a good person, it's just sometimes a person's Nefesh HaBahamis conceals this fact.
Therefore, our actions do not define us, at least when we do bad, chas v'shalom.
Our actions do define us when we do good, though. Any good thought or action we do is the real us.
Perhaps, the only definition and differentiation we can ascribe to people is according to how much good they do. How much of who they are do they reveal?

Which brings me back to almost where I started at the beginning of this post. The best way to describe me would be by how much of me comes out in what I do. So of course it is difficult to define me, because how is anyone supposed to know how big of a Yetzer Tov I have? Or how good of a person I can be if not for my evil inclination?

Of course, even if this could be done, it only helps me to understand how to describe and put your finger on someone based on his actions of good or bad. What about being smart, funny, popular, organized, courageous, patient, or any other part of a person's character, that can't be labeled 'good' or 'bad'? 'Mitzvah' or 'Aveirah'? How do you determine if this is all the smarts he has, or whether he is a genius, but you don't see it? Can you say that since you don't see it, he doesn't deserve to be defined as such?

I don't know. And I don't really have an answer.

After everything I wrote, I think I can at least say that everyone deep down wishes others could look at them and see more, and everyone knows that it is all there inside of them, and looks for the time that they will be able to show the world who they really are...whatever that may be.

So if I hope others to look at me, and not judge me based on my faults, but to realize that there may be more they are not seeing, then for sure that is how I must look at others. I will admit, I often judge people when I shouldn't, and in ways that I shouldn't, and then I'll see how wrong I am later. I must not be too hasty in throwing around labels and adjectives about people, if I want to be treated in the same way.

I guess I'm ending with the theory that nobody is describable. Nobody is definable. We are all mysteries- to those around us, and sometimes also to ourselves.