Sally: What do you mean by asking “Who am I?” Don’t you know? You haven’t had a knock on the head or something and got amnesia? You are John. The bloke who works at the bank and plays rugby on Sunday mornings, who keeps coming round my place to borrow things. What more do you want to be? An astronaut or something?
John: No, it’s just that there are so many people in the world and I’m only one of them. It’s as if I don’t matter in the greater scheme of things. I feel that suddenly I am here and I don’t know who I really am or where I am going. So I ask “Who am I?”
Margaret: Better to be unsure of your identity than to know yourself too well for that would mean no room for change. I reckon life is about personal growth if it as about anything. I feel I have to be a bit brave when I ask “Who am I?” and where I might be going.
Ranjid: Have you ever considered that how we see ourselves is a bit of an illusion. I’m more than my body, more than the job I do, more than how I seem to friends.
John: Okay, I can recognise some of my false selves I show to the world. But I’m not sure which one is the real me. My ‘up and at them’ on the sports field, my shyness at parties, or my ‘know it all’ manner at work. Or simply the private person I am when I am alone reflecting on things.
Ranjid: I would say that none of them are who you really are. Finding one’s true Self is a long term project.
Chris: We at church say, that no matter how you view yourself, we are all basically bad inside and we need to be saved from this state.
Margaret: Chris thinks he has an immortal soul. I do too. But his is a bad one corrupted by the original sins of his ancestors. Whereas I am not so down on myself. I feel I can’t be blamed for the bad things done in the distant past. I’m an individual all right. I have a sense of what is right and wrong and that gives me an appreciation of what personal choices to make and what path in life to follow.
Sally: Ideals are a wonderful thing if you can afford them.
Margaret: I realise I need to be down to earth in what I do but knowing what is right for me is a great head start. Knowing what course to study at university. Knowing the values I’m looking for in a future husband. I believe in inspiration from some greater power beyond myself. It gives me energy and throws light into my head when my thinking gets confused.
Chris: If we are going to talk about the future I should say that after we die we will each be resurrected and continue to individually exist either being punished or rewarded according to how we lived our lives.
Ranjid: My people do believe in survival after death, reincarnated in another body.
Sally: But when you’re dead, you’re dead.
Ranjid: Also we think that we eventually lose our individuality becoming part of the Self — the divine reality which pervades everything.
Sally: Whilst alive we each have our own body. My own is unique. I should hope no one else inhabits it. We also each have our separate thoughts, feelings, memories and imagination which belong to no one else. In fact everybody’s brain is different.
John: I would love to be so clear about things as everybody here. But you can’t all be right. Do I live on after death? Will it be back on earth? Will I be judged? Is my destiny to lose my individuality?
Margaret: I suppose we will have to just wait and see to know for certain. But when I ask “Who am I?” I am drawn to the vision of an afterlife of people in spirit bodies living in a non-material realm similar in appearance to this one. In my view we will each either be deeply contented or discontented depending on our level of personal growth.
Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems