Who Are You? Really? Why?

There is a new post over at Atolemdro blog which asks us to consider the past and how we became who we are. There is no better time of year than the solstice to consider such things. So here is a challenge. Read the post enclosed in quotes and answer in the comments on both sites if you can.

“the past is all that makes the present coherent…”

12/24/12 — , , , , , , , ,

I think that the past is all that makes the present coherent and further, that the past will remain horrible for exactly as long as we refuse to assess it honestly.

in this passage from his collected essays, james baldwin stresses the importance of looking back.  as he says, the past helps one make more sense of the present.  taking the time to piece together the fragments lost/left in the past, regardless of how scary/painful that process might seem, creates a clearer picture of what someone/something is today which in turn creates a better foundation for the future.

baldwin added to this idea earlier in the same passage (which is worth a full read):

any writer, looking back over even so short a span of time as I am here forced to assess, finds that the things which hurt him and the things which helped him cannot be divorced from each other; he could be helped in a certain way only because he was hurt in a certain way; and his help is simply to be enabled to move from one conundrum to the next–one is tempted to say that he moves from one disaster to the next. When one begins looking for influences one finds them by the score. I haven’t thought much about my own, not enough anyway; I hazard that the King James Bible, the rhetoric of the store-front church, something ironic and violent and perpetually understated in Negro speech–and something of Dickens’ love for bravura–have something to do with me today; but I wouldn’t stake my life on it. Likewise, innumerable people have helped me in many ways; but finally, I suppose, the most difficult (and most rewarding) thing in my life has been the fact that I was born a Negro and was forced, therefore, to effect some kind of truce with this reality. (Truce, by the way, is the best one can hope for.)

so if you were to take some time to think about it, what would be the top 5 influences (people/experiences/things ranging from horrible to wonderful) behind the person you are today?  share in the comments.

My Answers

  1. My grandparents and parents – they taught me how to be good and to be curious, seeking answers for myself, relying on no other. Each of these humans has their own story in my life, but I group them here because they had more or less equal influence, just different aspects.
  2. Travelling the world – There is no education that will give you the understanding you get from walking in other people’s shoes. Travelling is pretty close to that if you let it be.
  3. Military service – There is nothing as informative as being responsible to others with consequences and being responsible for others… with consequences.
  4. Searching earnestly for answers to the big questions – There is no answer so true as the answer that you find on your own. That stove is hot means nothing till you touch it. Then you understand what they meant. Nothing will teach you the other person’s point of view till you research and try it.
  5. Becoming cynical – What Samuel Clemons and P.T. Barnum can teach you is appreciated more once you learn it the hard way, but the lessons remain significant from both of these men. They offered the lessons for free but their value is uncountable. Cynics don’t watch the shopping channel etc.

The past does not make coherence of the present or future. Understanding the past makes the present coherent, and interpreting the stream of events that lead to now is useful for understanding possible futures. I have learned to expect so little of the rest of the world that it rarely disappoints me now. In this, I have learned the true value of the human species, and to appreciate with greater fervor the few sparks of brilliance in it.

What then are the five biggest influences that brought you to be who you are today?

  1. You were brought up as an evangelical (? – I think that’s what you told me) but you did not mention this about your past? How did you get from growing up evangelical to being atheist?

    What brought me to who I am today.

    1 – My parents were philosophers who believed that searching for the answers to life was where it was at. Even now that I’m christian, I’m still searching for the deeper and deeper inward parts of living on this planet.

    2 – Begin born with certain physical issues. Severe alcoholism and bipolar disorder. These brought me to my knees – as I ran out of answers.

    3 – Having a twin sister. I’ve never been alone – even in the womb.

    4 – After accepting Jesus into my sphere – having God teach me how to live (and not be suicidal anymore)

    5 – Making a decision to get sober – and staying sober since 1980.

    • When I went looking for real answers to the deep questions, religion did not have them and in fact the real answers are antithetical to religion. If you wish to find answers you have to be willing to accept them when they are found even if this means rejecting all you were previously taught. If you are not willing to do this then you don’t really want the answers in the first place. That is how I got to atheism. Note that I am more than an atheist. Atheism is nothing more than the lack of belief in gods and the supernatural.

      • “If you wish to find answers you have to be willing to accept them when they are found even if this means rejecting all you were previously taught.”

        This is exactly what happened to me! Only we seem to be opposites!

        Growing up, I was taught to depend entirely on my own self. I was taught that: “You’re born; you suffer; you die”. That was all there was to life. When I made the decision (and it was a very difficult and arduous decision) to TRY Jesus, I had to go up against everything I was taught. It was very, very difficult transition, let me tell you. I was not only trained as a child in this type of “you’re on your own” thinking – I was thoroughly brain-washed in it. My parents wanted us to continue in their “discoveries”, so they indoctrinated us into them. We were trained – like dogs! I had to go against EVERYTHING I was trained to believe in; EVERYTHING I was indoctrinated into – to believe in Christ. For me to be a Christian?? Well it’s just bizarre!

  2. (I’m cheating – I had one more past experience that deeply affected me)

    6 – Having experienced contact with an exceedingly evil individual, who came very close to ending my life. I believe I am only still alive because God protected me from him.

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