The time we spend on the earth as humans is infinitesimally small compared to the time we’re not here. If you think about it – compared to the time that came before our lives, and the time that comes after, we aren’t around for very long. Our mortality should impart a sense of urgency on us as humans, individually and corporately: an urgency to do find what we are here to do, and to do it. If there is anything we are here for, that is.
The question of why we exist dances in and out of most of our minds every now and again – but nowhere near as often as you would expect for such a serious, universally pressing question. The answer defines who we are and how we spend our lives – why are we here.
Who am I, and why am I here? Sometimes the first question seems even harder then the second, but how can any of us find a purpose in life if we don’t know who we are? So that seems to be a fair starting place: who am I?
The most basic step towards answering that question is to prove that “I am.” “I think, therefore I am” is a pretty solid argument here, where my consciousness is the evidence, and, while I could never hope to convince any of you beyond a doubt that I exist (who is to say you are not dreaming of me), we can each know individually that we exist in some form. We may not be what we think we are; but we think, so we are (or at least I am).
Great, so I exist. Where does that get me? For all I know, everything else could be an illusion, a figment of my own fantastic imagination. Who is to say that I don’t have all of the knowledge and truth the world has to offer somewhere within me – that I am a beginning and an end in myself?
Well, it’s a starting point. I have something I can believe in without any faith at all. There is no stretch of logic for me to believe in myself, and that’s important because truth is what this paper is supposed to be about. So, at least I have something (even if I can’t take the credit from Descartes): I am.
Since “I am” and all, the next obvious question would be “where did I come from?” but I’ll shy away from that for now, and stick to firmer ground. Maybe starting at the other end of the think/am equation would be easier: “I think.”
There is a reason that Descartes choose to use thought to prove his existence, because even as you question it, you perform it. So I think. I have thoughts. What do my thoughts say about who I am?
That question indicates that I am conscious – I know I am. And I know that I know that I am, and so on. I am self-aware at least to the point that I know I have a self to be aware of.
These may seem like baby steps, but let’s retrace them briefly to see what we’ve found. We have showed that there is truth (I am), and also falsehood (I am not). Finally, we have showed that we can know the truth (by asking if I am, I prove my own existence).
Question: “Who am I?”
Answer: “I can know the truth.”
That’s as far as I’ve gotten with the “who am I?” question. The next post will explore the question of “Where did I come from?”