‘Be yourself’, they say to us,
Be yourself. A life philosophy.
Be your self. We hear too often.
What do those words even mean?
What really is my ‘self’?
Is it that self that wanders
On walks of want and misery,
That leaps into the past and the future,
But is never present?
The self that promises freedom,
But locks me up instead by whispering
‘You should be somewhere else’.
Or is it that self that constantly craves
For the big, the new and the shiny,
That diminishes my perfectly good jacket
While staring at a trendy offer
On a pane of glass in my palm?
The self that flips without hesitation
To the latest fashion, the next big thing,
Always sampling and tasting
But never sinking and savouring.
Or is it that self that is smitten by status,
To be in a different league as one’s peers,
To acquire new peers and start all over?
The self that takes stock and benchmarks,
Always my worst with the best of others,
That drives me to blame and flagellates me
Towards the next mirage on the horizon.
Or is it that self that burns
With a fire insatiable
Fueled by bursts of chemical pleasure
That reduces dignity and accomplishment
To piles of ash and cinder?
The self that fills our shopping lists,
Fills cupboards and living rooms,
Fills garages and guest bedrooms
Even as it empties us out inside.
Or is it that self that puts itself first?
That cries and whines like a toddler spoilt,
For praise, attention and indulgence?
That is oblivious to the world outside
Like a cat with eyelids tightly shut
That confines the infinite universe
To the prison cell of its individual bounds.
When they say, ‘be yourself’,
Which of these monsters do I choose?
The self is but a fleeting shadow
Of the form that our suffering takes.
True wisdom is to see your self,
Observe it, understand it and separate it.
True wisdom, in other words,
Is to NOT be your self.