who-am-I paradox

I find it hard to talk about myself. I’m always tripped up by the eternal who am I? paradox. Sure, no one knows as much pure data about me as me. But when I talk about myself, all sorts of other factors–values, standards, my own limitations as an observer–make me, the narrator, select and eliminate things about me, the narratee. I’ve always been disturbed by the thought that I’m not painting a very objective picture of myself.

This kind of thing doesn’t seem to bother most people. Given the chance, people are surprisingly frank when they talk about themselves. “I’m honest and open to a ridiculous degree,” they’ll say, or “I’m thin-skinned and not the type who gets along easily in the world.” Or “I am very good at sensing others’ true feelings.” But any number of times I’ve seen people who say they’ve easily hurt other people for no apparent reason. Self-styled honest and open people, without realizing what they’re doing, blithely use some self-serving excuse to get what they want. And those “good at sensing others’ true feelings” are duped by the most transparent flattery. It’s enough to make me ask the question: How well do we really know ourselves?

The more I think about it, the more I’d like to take a rain check on the topic of me. What I’d like to know more about is the objective reality of things outside myself. How important the world outside is to me, how I maintain a sense of equilibrium by coming to terms with it. That’s how I’d grasp a clearer sense of who I am.

– Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart

Just wanted to post this because I find this fascinating and beautifully written by Murakami. Even though ‘know thyself‘ is one of the oldest sayings, we’re still having a hard time to do that. Until recently, I keep meeting people who are pissed off with me because I said some things that doesn’t comply with their concept of who they think they really are. By the way, this is like what Phoebe on Friends said: I’m not judging you, that’s just who you are.

Joking aside, we need other people to get a better clarity of who we really are, even though it won’t be as pleasant as saying good things to ourselves all the time or surrounding ourselves with blanket-friends who keeps giving positive assurance but none the reality.


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