This is a very strange question to ask, considering that it seems that to most of us believe we have an inherent self. But how is this so? The question I like to ask, when it comes to questioning the self is, ‘if I am I because you are you and if you are you because I am I, then how can I be I and how can you be you?’ The idea that I is dependent on you in order to exist suggests that we don’t have an inherent self as it is dependent on others for us to realize the self. It is due to this question that we might begin to realize that self and other are just notions that are a part of one process. And yes, in the question I did use the word ‘if’ suggesting that my argument for our lack of self might not be possible; but the ‘if’ is used to acknowledge the idea that no-thing is absolute and that every-thing is conditional, much like the notion of the self being dependent on the other.
So, to go back to the original question, ‘why do we have a self?’, we’d have to question this persona, this character that we have created, especially since the self is liable to create unnecessary conflicts with the other, and in turn, find an explanation for why we’d create this character. But that is just it, that is why we’d create the self; because the self is an explanation of our being, giving life meaning and purpose and in turn, escaping the existential dread that we might feel if we didn’t play into these illusions that we’ve created for ourselves.
What does this all mean then? Well, at least to me, it means that we have the potential to shape our character. Because we’re not our so-called inherent self, we have the ability to shape the illusion that is our character, giving ourselves the ability to change our lives and shape our reality -- hopefully for the better, for ourselves and for others. It is only with the self being an illusion that we’d have this potential. If the self was inherited, then we wouldn’t be able to change our lives and shape our reality and be doomed to the self that we were born into. And as a bonus tip, where most of these changes begin are with an action that induces another action, that forms a habit, that over time shapes our character.
I believe that it is important for us to keep this notion in the back of our minds, and remember that we have the potential to change our lives and shape our character, no matter where we are in our lives, no matter what we’re going through and no matter how we feel. As long as we’re aware, we have this potential.
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