Somewhere, the loss of things is not as important as the loss of people. I had covered this in Part 1 of this article below. ⤵︎
Yet, it was important to establish the relative importance we give to losses in our lives. We saw that we could replace or move on with things, yet we struggle to accept changed or transformed people in our lives.
The third loss,’ losing ourselves’ is the most important event of our lives. Because, by losing ourselves, we seek. When we seek, we find ourselves.
What happens when we lose us?
‘Us’ is the plural form of ‘I’. If I lose me, it means that I am losing my identity. My identity defines me.
Who are we?
Can we identity ourselves as an individual of a species? As in a human in a human species?
Or do we identify ourselves by relative roles? Am I a father or mother, son or daughter, uncle or aunt, nephew or niece, grandparent or grandchild?
Or do we identify us by what we do? I am a hunter, gatherer, farmer, industrialist, software maker?
Or do we identify ourselves based on the place we live – As in a resident of a town, city, or a country?
Or yet, do we identify ourselves as part of religion, race, caste, color or creed?
Finally, why should I have a name?
If we look at the above questions, we will have answers.
I was told once that once a person is named, he becomes a ‘legal entity’. A birth certificate is issued, and that is the start of the endless paper trails of identities and contracts. Yet our identity defines us. We are identified by a ‘name’ and then the other classifications come into play – I cannot change them, perhaps forever. These identities are contextual and have a limited purpose.
Our tax ID for example. Without quoting our tax ID, we cannot file returns, fill investment and insurance forms or do banking. With money being the core of our materialistic existence, tax ID is something we will carry to our graves. Not having a tax ID can be punitive.
Our passport – where we carry an ID defines us as a member of our country. Without that, we cannot travel across borders. But have we noticed that some passports are more powerful or privileged than the others?
My short point- any identifier is for a purpose. If that purpose is paramount, the identifier gains significance. If our life has such purposes – like traveling or making money, then we carry those identifiers with us. But let us step back a bit. Are we really these identities? A taxpayer and a traveler? Not yet. If I immigrate, these identities can change. But is there something beyond these contextual identifiers that can define us? Something more eternal, more universal?
Remember Shakespeare or Tolstoy. Remember Gandhi or Tagore. Remember Lincoln or Franklin. Remember Teresa or Edith Wharton. There are many more names – but we get the point.
First, their claim to identity is universal and eternal. Why? Somewhere, in the search for their own identity, they lost themselves. They lost themselves- that is the ‘I’. Their lives are testimonies of the struggles they went through to lose themselves.
There are billions of other men and women who were born and dead. Some are remembered, some are unfortunate not to be remembered because people did not know them. Yet, the point is that such people lost themselves in their lives.
What does losing oneself mean?
In searching for purpose that goes beyond us, we lose ourselves. The purpose has to be therefore bigger than our own needs; the purpose must not be self-serving. The purpose can be profitable, but that anything that is self-gaining must be a by-product.
Politics, sports, art, science, literature, technology, social work, philosophy, spirituality – all fields offer the opportunity to create purposes that are larger than ourselves. When the purpose is larger than us, the only way to seek that purpose, and therefore wear that new identity, is losing our existing identity which is self-serving.
To go after a purpose larger than us, we have to move. And to move, we cannot be weighed down by our own ego or identity. Nature illustrates this basic nature of life. Any bird or fish or fast-moving animal that has to live has to move and move as fast as it is designed to be. They cannot be bogged down by weight and if they are, their survival becomes a question.
As humans, we have a similar challenge. Can we move around to search our purpose? Can we move towards our purpose once we figure or discover it?
First, is to move. To move means to be nimble. We cannot be weighed down by own self-serving identities which can become the proverbial Achilles Heel in our quest to move to search and serve the purpose. Moving need not be a physical, it can also be mental. Reading, travel, and conversations are some of the means of movement – where one can lose their mind. Mind is the key element for this moment. The human mind can think and churn. In that churn is when we can lose ourselves.
Here we enter the metaphysical realm, separating the humans from the rest of the species. Even science, the bastion of rationality, crosses this realm. Scientists, those discoverers of materialistic truths – by postulating hypotheses and testing them for proofs, also go through the same journey as a spiritualistic seeker – for the human mind is no different when it comes to searching for answers to questions that are beyond the self.
So when we look for purpose beyond the self, we lose the ‘self’. One cannot drive a car by looking inside the car, but looking forward, behind, and around. Is this not contradictory? For most of us who are ‘enlightened’, we know the answer when we search for our purpose or our identity lies within. Does it mean do we look inside the car? Yes. That happens before the car starts – that is before we embark on such a journey. Of course, we have all the freedom to change course or stop. When we seek without, we get answers within.
How many times that a journey that we have started has ended in a different place? As the drivers of our cars, while we look forward, behind and around, we also think. Thinking is introspection and innate to human nature. But remember that thinking normally is tactical when done with the ‘driving’.
It pays to pause and reflect. When we reflect, we come to understand where we came from and where we are heading. This introspection is key for us to check in every now and then; that our journey is as interesting as the destination.
During this introspection, we realize that our purpose is to move forward and it is about figuring out the destination and the direction. Sometimes our destination or directions may lead to nowhere and that is when we claim we are ‘lost’.
‘Being lost’ is not an end itself. It is a means to an end. Humans always seek destination and directions, both for their physical and metaphysical journeys. When we lose ourselves in metaphysical terms, it is about an ongoing process of self-discovery.