The SELF – application – identify

TUESDAY, 18 MAY 2004


“What is a home, the place where you feel you belong, other than a place where you know who you are?”

That was last night. Today I ask, what does it mean to “know who you are”? It means that you know your place among other people with whom you share a particular environment at a particular time. It means that you are aware of your own value in this environment. You also have a rough idea how you are viewed by others in the vicinity.

Interesting for the above definition of “home” is that I did not know five years ago who I was in context (having only recently arrived in Taiwan). I can continue and say that it has taken me about five years to know who I am in context (particularly among “others like me”, namely other South Africans in Taiwan); also that I wanted to go “home” shortly after I had developed more certainty about who I am in context. It can also be argued that I can also know who I am in context in a different place, although it will again take time.

In one word, what defines who you are? I would say, more than anything, relationships with other people.

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Incidentally, Nietzsche did not believe that there is a fixed self that can be “discovered”. He wrote, “WILL a self and thou shalt BECOME a self.” [Own emphasis]

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Is there such a thing as a core self that can be discovered, upon which the person who you want to be, develops? Can this core self in its earliest form be seen as pure and undefiled, something that is then corrupted by exposure to the environment outside the womb? Or is the core self something that may already be compromised in the root because of genetic composition, something that may then be damaged and corrupted even further by early experiences, years before it is “discovered” by the person?

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Nietzsche, therefore, reckons that the self cannot be found but that it should be defined and then become. (What would he say about the idea of a core self that can be discovered?)

It almost seems as if I am back at the beginning: Who am I and where do I belong? Interesting thing is that Nietzsche’s view almost compels one to ask, instead: Who do I want to be? And, where do I want to belong?

How does one define the “self” (who you are/who you want to be)? And how do you define “your place” (your home/where you belong)?

(I have to remove myself from the rest of humanity and their sometimes tragic lives, and only become selectively involved.)

If the environment is such a critical factor in knowledge about the SELF (to know who you are, or what it means to be “you”), is it possible to have a universal “I”? If “I, in Fengshan City, Taiwan” am not quite the same as “I” in some industrial town in South Africa, who am “I” then? And if it changes, then it is impossible to know a universal “I”, or to be one! Then to be a functioning, particular “I” in the environment in which you find yourself at the present moment, and to be a similar person to a degree in any other environment, is the best you could ever hope for!

It follows that self-knowledge is relative to your environment. What you do have if you radically change location (Fengshan, Taiwan to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia), or if your situation undergoes radical change, are reference points. You know how you acted in the other environment, or when your situation was different, or you can imagine how you would have acted. This knowledge then provides you with a frame of reference within which you can work out how you should act in the new environment or changed circumstance to remain roughly “the same person” – if it is appropriate at all that there should be consistency.

Can you ever fully know yourself? And considering the vital role that the environment plays in the “knowledge” of who you are, WHO ARE YOU REALLY?


Application of a theory/The SELF and environment

So I don’t want to leave this place because I know who I am here. Which also means if I leave to go live in a place like Pretoria or Bronkhorstspruit and I define who I am there, I would also eventually be reluctant to leave there, for the same reason.

You won’t want to leave a place unless you are unsatisfied with who you are in that place. Dissatisfaction of this nature will result in you continuing to leave places until you find a place where you will not only know who you want to be, but where you can be who you want to be.

[The principle: If you know who you are in a particular place and you are satisfied with who you are in that place, if economic and other factors in that place are furthermore of such a nature that your chances of survival are better than in another place where you can also establish yourself in theory, it is understandable and reasonable that you will want to stay right where you are.]

TUESDAY, 25 MAY 2004

Identify your SELF – and how it is identified to you

The SELF – how the person identifies his own SELF to him- or herself, and how the person identifies his or her SELF to the community. The latter is not a one-way conversation – the language in which the individual identifies his or her SELF to the community was not invented by the individual, but is used with compliments of the community, as it were, of which the individual is a member. (Examples of language concepts that are used include “husband”, “wife”, “strong”, “smart”, “leader”, “author”, “rich”, “poor”, “intellectual”, “atheist” and “Christian”, to name a few.)

In my case, a community that consisted mainly of white Afrikaans-speakers identified my SELF to me. Currently I identify myself as an adult to another community – Asian, Chinese – using a language that I am still mastering and through other data that I have become aware of through personal experience.