Sometimes life seems to drift along and you get so caught up in the drama of life that you don’t take the time to ask yourself, “Who am I?” For some unexplained reason I asked myself this question this morning as I gazed at myself in the bathroom mirror.
I normally don’t take much time to really look at myself in the mirror, I mean REALLY LOOK. You know, look PAST the physical appearance and see who’s BEHIND the mask, see who’s IN THERE. Early in the morning a quick glance at myself is about all I can handle. I don’t get philosophical.
But today was different. I saw my image in the mirror and it dawned on me that I didn’t know the person who was staring back at me. It was like I was seeing a stranger. It frightened me. After all these years, it hit me as I stood there that I didn’t really know who I was.
Maybe I was reacting to the article I read yesterday about how the words “Know Thyself” were written in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi at the request of the great philosophers and statesmen of ancient Greece. And these same two words were adopted by Socrates and Plato as they grappled with the mystery of self-identity. These are the same two words that subsequently had a major impact on western thought as we know it today and have troubled the minds of almost everyone for centuries.
Think about it. Every day people sit with their therapists trying to figure out “Who Am I?” Millions of people delve into genealogy trying to discover their identity. Currently, the trend is for people to have their DNA tested to determine their roots. The world of literature has consistently dealt with this same question. Lewis Carroll, famous author of The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland, asked “Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.”
So, there I was looking at the image in the mirror and realizing that I really didn’t know the person I was looking at. “Who am I,” I wondered. “Who is this person?” I can look at the image and describe features, interests, maybe a few minor talents, but none of this really answers, “Who am I?”
I wondered if I was going to pass through this life and never truly discover “Who I am.” Questions whirled in my mind as I gazed at my image. What makes me tick? Am I just one of billions of people marking time until I’m gone? Am I basically an anonymous person, a cipher, who simply exists from day to day and will leave this world without leaving an impact or a contribution? Will I simply be one of those “here today, gone tomorrow” cases who is remembered only when someone walks through the cemetery and notices a name on a headstone?
I know that tomorrow I will face the same image in the mirror and perhaps ask the same question. Wouldn’t it be great if I could say what Shakespeare once wrote: “I know myself now, and I feel within me a peace above all earthly dignities, a still and quiet conscience.”