At some point while asking ‘who are you’ many may find enough ground to laugh and ridicule the human condition, which is why the other ridiculous questions hover around ‘who are you’. It is definitely an important, but sometimes ridiculous question considering the tragedies and comedies that accompany humanity.
Who an individual is, or the capacity of being who they truly wish to be, starts by understanding the nature of the world around them. Just like you will never understand what a fish is, if you have no idea what water is, similarly the earth, represents the expanse of the human home. Any home has issues and gaining an outsider’s perspective can be helpful. Similarly, to understand the issues of the human home, one has to perceive how it would be like to step outside of it.
The opportunity to gain this privileged perception is limited to astronauts, who are physically able to reflect upon the planet. The cognitive stretch in awareness that occurs when you look back at the earth from space, is known as the ‘overview effect’. It unites you with the idea that humanity is one community. It is what Astronaut Chris Hadfield describes as ‘the world had become us for me.’
Which raises the question, if we are one with the world, why do aches of the human condition paralyse us? Albert Camus identifies this as our need to be “cured” that was present in Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher could always find an almost equal number of stumbling blocks, and hassles in any either of any two situations – may that be choosing marriage, or not, committing to a the purpose of living, or not. So he retired to a life of celibacy and devout Christianity. Within religion he found the answers to the questions of what he identified himself as.
This path has been undertaken by most of our ancestors until the current modern times. However, many today do not rest on the assumption of religion to identify who they are. There is an increasing focus on logic and larger cognitive self-awareness, on what can be used to define us. A new secular lens may choose to define itself based on feelings, experiences, and backgrounds that form our pillars of belief.
But when it comes to asking ‘who are you?’ it may not be the best idea to entirely trust our feelings. Jiddu Krishnamurti, one of India’s greatest modern philosophers, writes
“Right thinking comes with self-knowledge. Without understanding yourself, you have no basis for thought; without self-knowledge, what you think is not true”Book: The First and Last Freedom