For the soundtrack of this post, crank up the cut from the Who's eighth studio album -- also half of a double-A sided single from 1978 "Who Are You?" -- with Roger and Pete and John, and the about-to-OD-and-die Keith "Moon the Loon" on drums ...
Whoooo are you? Who, who, who, who?
I was asked that by a psychologist once, and when I started into my response, she smiled.
Seemed I did what most people do when asked the question -- I went into a litany of what I did, believing that who you are is what you do. (Fun quote from Neil Simon's The Goodbye Girl: "Ask an actor a question, and he gives you his credits ...")
Well, I'm a husband and father and writer and martial artist and ...
No, no, that's what you do. Who are you?
I thought the question was disingenuous at the time, and to a large degree, I still do. Actions speak louder than words -- you can say this or that; what you do demonstrates the truth.
But I got the shrink's point: Look deeper. You are more than what you do. There is, at the core of things, past the monkey brain and the twitches and hormones and all, an essence. The spirit, if you will; the soul, the ghost in the machine. It's jacketed and constrained and munged up with fuzzy terminology that doesn't hit the mark -- id, ego, super-ego, animas, animus, persona -- the list goes on -- but it is not those.
When you aren't doing any of the things that define you outside the shell, then who is it at home?
Hard to pin it down, but this knowledge is the focus for religions and navel-gazing and self-help books, and is one of the the Big Three Questions:
Who am I? Why am I here? What does it all mean?
Three real bitches to answer, but some believe that if you get one, you get them all -- at least well enough to keep on truckin'.
Most people who feel that they know these answers have them from an established system of belief, and they accept the answers found within as valid. Nothing wrong with that -- faith comes from a lot of places, and whatever works for you? More power to you, and amen.
The happiest people I have ever met are those who have gone inward, seen what is at their cores, and come to terms with it, whatever their guides were to get there. And, as I pointed out in a post about George Emery not long ago, there follows then the quote: "When you know who you are, you know what to do."
I believe this is the heart of revelation, of epiphany: When you know yourself, you know the universe. You know God.
If you are blessed with good luck, you might find this knowledge in your lifetime.
And maybe Popeye the Sailor nailed it: I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam ...