A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Playing Many Parts: Tentative Notes Towards An Impossible Resolution

This is what I believe: That I am I. That my soul is a dark forest. That my known self will never be more than a little clearing in the forest. That gods, strange gods, come forth from the forest into the clearing of my known self, and then go back. That I must have the courage to let them come and go. That I will never let mankind put anything over me, but that I will try always to recognize and submit to the gods in me and the gods in other men and women. There is my creed. DH LAWRENCE

Who am I?

Social man: son, brother, husband, father, friend, acquaintance, colleague. Ducking and diving between these roles, and the expectations inherent in these roles, like a perch trying to outwit a pike.

Walking man: solo pedestrian, pilgrim, ambler, rambler. Gambling on good boots, true maps and fair weather. Risking the lurking terror, the dead-end-street of moribund, lonely thoughts. Oh, that way madness lies. Freedom in solitariness. But 'in solitary' means 'in prison'.

Talking man: sell, sell, sell. Don't see the problem, see the opportunity. Ten per cent inspiration, ninety per cent perspiration. Offer the sweetener, close the deal. Cost, quality, time. Motorway mania. Speed, speed, speed. Eighty, ninety, one hundred miles an hour. Crash and breakdown. (Now can we talk about something more interesting like beechwoods, God or rainbows?)

Working man: employer, employee, self-employed, unemployed, usefully employed, uselessly employed, working for money, working for pleasure, work for work's sake, digging with spade or pen. What is work, anyhow?

Cultural, philosophical, spiritual man: that highbrow, potentially pretentious triumvirate of the aesthetic, the pathetic and the ascetic. Who are these tricksters?

Child-man: the rattle may have been thrown out of the pram, but the baby was not thrown out with the bathwater. To play like a bear cub, a dolphin, or a kitten. Mindless, mindful play.

Sensual man: The profoundest of all sensualities is the sense of truth and the next deepest sensual experience is the sense of justice. DH LAWRENCE

Silent man: Ohhhh ... hhhh ... blissful silence ...

I am or have been all these and many more personae. Yet, mysteriously, none of these. Or perhaps myriad aspects of each.

Who am I?
What am I?
Where am I?
Why am I?  


Raph G. Neckmann said...

I get confused if I think too much about who I am, so I just enjoy the sun on my face and the sound of the breeze. Like Ratty and Mole.

Love the way you've phrased all this!

George said...

Jumping back in after several weeks away from the blogosphere, I could not resist the title of this piece that appeared on my screen. Playing many parts, making tentative notes, seeking a resolution that seems so remote, so impossible. That is much of what I have been feeling lately, disturbed by the fact that I cannot achieve more unity within my own soul. Or maybe there is unity in my soul, but the soul itself is forced to compete daily with all of those roles you list, roles that we must all have, some chosen and others thrust upon us by culture and the need to survive is a world that sometimes seems alien to the soul.

Thanks so much for this post, Robert. Its raw honesty is reassuring to those of us who travel with the same questions.

Ruth said...

Jumping in, and I am so happy to see George back. And smiling at Raph.

I liked reading all of these words about your personae, Robert. I especially liked getting to the silent, sensual and child-man, where you come most alive, I think, from what I know of you. If we can find ourselves in the silent time, there is hope that we can keep making sense of these selves we juggle. The older I get, the more profoundly and powerfully I see how different we are, how quirky, and how society wants to homogenize us. May the solitary walks and ponderings prevent that!

Tramp said...

Such a powerful quote and such provoking thoughts. I can't write more, this has sent me deep into thought.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thinking too much can be a dangerous thing, Raph! I think you have the right idea.

George - welcome back to a fellow spiritual traveller! I know you've been having a challenging time of late, but I'm sure that that unity, that wholeness has not gone away, but is just waiting to be rediscovered and reforged.

I'm glad you enjoyed this more experimental and fragmentary post, Ruth. I think this kind of semi-spontaneous, stream-of-consciousness riff suits blogging well. Sometimes it's difficult to balance the demands of family and society with the need for solitude, isn't it?

And Tramp - thanks for your comment, and I trust you've got one of those meditation-inducing coffees you wrote about on the go?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this Robert - I have been busy man and tired man a bit too much recently. Hoping for resolution soon! Good to be fed by your posts


Dan Gurney said...

This calls to mind the slightly arresting Buddhist concept of non-self: the idea that there is no independent, discrete, enduring soul, self, or personal essence (call it what you wish). That any "self" is illusory, a composite of many partial and temporary small selves that we mistakenly and rather compulsively give permanence and substance that's simply not there.

Your post tellingly lists the elements of an ever-changing impermanent composite illusion of self.

The Solitary Walker said...

Resolution, revolution - it's all in the air, Andy! Hope you can take some rest soon.

Yes, Dan, indeed. I've been intrigued by that Buddhist concept of the illusory, the dissolving self, for decades - and have been convinced of the truth of it since I first read Krishnamurti. I suppose some might find the idea disconcerting, if not a little frightening; I, on the other hand, find it strangely comforting.

More Than Meets the I said...

I like the idea of personae, of layers till you reach the clearing of the forest that is the soul...

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes - personae like different leaves covering the different trees around the clearing, some clinging on till the autumn, others scattering quickly in the wind ...