Posted by: balladofyoko | January 10, 2009

Who Am I?

According to convention, I am not simply what I am doing now. I am also what I have done, and my conventionally edited version of my past is made to seem almost more the real “me” than what I am at this moment. For what I am seems so fleeting and intangible, but what I was is fixed and final. It is the firm basis for predictions of what I will be in the future, and so it comes about that I am more closely identified with what no longer exists than with what actually is!

~Alan Watts, The Way of Zen

Something I’ve been turning over and over in mind lately: someone had mentioned that aikido is part of my identity. I was startled by this pronouncement. Aikido is something I do, something that I have been doing. I have never thought to consider it a part of who I am.

Am I the sum total of the things I do?



  1. Devoid of our actions, I wonder if we are anything at all.

  2. How about thoughts? words? feelings? being?

  3. I consider words to be actions.

    Unexpressed thoughts and feelings are potential aspects of who we could be, but have yet to make us anything.

    Being is doing.

  4. Being is being.

  5. It’s pleasant for me to think that’s true, a tempting proposition indeed, but from my admittedly mundane perspective, other people appear as nothing but the sum of their actions, so find myself forced to judge my own being by the same rules as I apply to others.

  6. So if I do more, am I being more? If I do less, am I being less? If I do nothing, am I nothing?

  7. Yes, yes, and, sadly, yes.

    I confess that it is a cruel way of looking at things.

  8. A tough question, and an eternal one. After all, people inner thoughts, the ones not “acted” upon, are all very individual in nature and quality. Are we to dismiss something so individual and unique as irrelevant to defining who individuals are? And thoughts not directly “acted upon” still affect aspects of our “actions”–the intensity, the process, the nuances, the justifications, etc. for our physical actions.

    Is thinking not an act? Are you not “doing” when you are thinking? What about perception? What about the act of deciding? Is that not an action because it is not visible to others? The brain shows activity and participates in metabolism when we think and process and perceive. Much of this is “conscious”, perhaps even “voluntary”. How different should this be considered, in this age when we’re gradually unraveling the mysteries of the brain, from movement of muscles?

    Also, when you sleep, are you doing nothing? When you dream are you doing nothing? Do your dreams not have anything to do with who you are? Are they nothing?


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