I want to sing like the birds sing, not worrying about who hears or what they think.
Too often, we allow ourselves to be seduced by societal norms and laws which circumscribe the ways in which we define ourselves.
I am a doctor, engineer, professor….I am the mother/ wife/ daughter / friend of…..mostly someone who is famous or wealthy. Our position in society defines us. We often use our possessions to gain status among friends. The house/properties we own, the car we drive, or the places we go for vacations give us a certain cache among relatives and friends, which mostly is guaranteed to arouse jealousy which in turn, makes us feel important.
If you were to hear, “I am a beggar. I am homeless.“, what might be your reaction to this? It is not jealousy, surely.
The beggar and the homeless have no status except that of being ignored. Circumstances have driven them to that place. The essence of that homeless man or the bag- lady is hidden. They do not lack intelligence. Yet we see them through the lens colored by our perceptions of the terms “ homeless” and “ beggar”. Those preconceived notions blind us to the fact that they too, but for the tides of fortune, might be like us. Yet , if tomorrow, the homeless man won a fortune, dressed in Saville Row suits, bought a big house, drove an expensive car, how might our perceptions of him change?
My point is that we are so tied to what others think of us and the ways in which others perceive us based on material things that we give no thought to who we really are. The outward appurtenances of possessions is the face we show to society.. The public image we manage to project is formed on externals and so, these become the things that define us. How much of the inner core of ourselves gets to see the light of day?
What happens if we were to lose our jobs, or our possessions? If these are our truths, it stands to reason that we are in danger of becoming non- entities like the beggar and the homeless. If we cease that frenetic search for material things which are erroneously thought to add gloss to that image we have built up for ourselves, we can begin to be who we essentially are. There is no harm in having these material possessions if that is what you want. The danger comes when we allow them to define who we are , when they become a backdrop for our self portrait.
I would like to think that who I am is not tied to possessions. I have very few of those anyhow. I would also like to think that my image is not tied to my family connections, or a position I hold in some company or to a common currency tied to social norms.
Let my image be of how I think, what my philosophy of life is. The extent to which I subscribe to humanity or the the uplift of the human condition but of these things, I must never boast or allow the world to see because they must not be for the consumption of others.
How often we hear conversations in which participants preface each sentence with ”I”? This ego that must be visible or we sink into anonymity. This is the great fear holding us to ransom.
I favor conversations in which the currency of communication is intelligence, in which no one forces the unpleasant ego on others.
To this, I give you Rumi.
“You think of your self
as a citizen of the universe
you think you belong
to this world of dust and matter.
Out of this dust
You have created a personal image,
and have forgotten the essence
of your true origin.”
In Shakespeare’s play HAMLET, Polonius gives advice to his son, Laertes
“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
Act 1 : Sc 3
Do not be afraid to be who you are if you desire to do so. Put wealth and poverty aside and say to the world, “This is who I am. I am proud of it.”
Be at peace with yourself. Be true to yourself. Be you. Find your place in the world and mark it with honesty, hard work, honor, integrity, wisdom and intelligence. Stand tall and above the common herd in the society in which you live. Of course you will be spoken of and maybe mocked. But you will be celebrating YOU, acknowledging YOU. defining YOU. You will be free.
When you allow others to define you, who you are and how you must act, you become a slave , bound hand and foot, and forever forced to act in ways that confine , ways that are contrary to the real YOU. Why do you want to be forced to be who you are not.? Do not poison yourself by laying this burden on your soul.
I want to sing like the birds sing, not worrying about who hears or what they think. Rumi
Rumi asks us to remember who we were born to be., certainly not an image created out of the dust and the matter of this world. but blessed with the original essence of an individual human soul.
This resonates for me. Especially after a year of literally being face to face with nobody but myself, of staring at the volume of shoes and clothes that I have and wondering why. I feel the urge to declutter my surroundings, mind and soul, because in the end, it’s just me, and possessions are heavy, and the pursuit of them is tiring. Im saving this essay to help me whenever the world seeks to intrude and tell me that I am defined by things.
Dance if and when you want to. Put red ribbons in your hair when you dance.
Run in the rain and sing to its glory if you want to.
You are hurting no one and only freeing your soul.
An elegant and powerful piece of writing.
I don’t know if I’m right about this but perhaps our ideas of self grow as we get older and evolve into something with less ego, less avarice. Perhaps that’s why as we get older, we tend to purge ourselves of ‘things’.
Maybe, for younger people, it’s hard to know how to be at peace with themselves. It’s not something that comes naturally. (Maybe except for young people who are old souls 🙂 And after all, there is no guide book telling us at any age just “how” to do these things. :))
An elegant and powerful piece of writing.
I don’t know if I’m right about this but perhaps our ideas of self grow as we do and evolve into something with less ego, less avarice. I think for younger people, it’s hard to know how to be at peace faith themselves. It’s not something that comes naturally. (Maybe except for young people who are old souls)
First in youth, you are seduced by the world.
Later on, that seduction loses its value and then the things that enrich the soul become the seducer… the search for knowledge, the quietude of seclusion to feed thoughts, search for wisdom, desire to grow spiritually and help others, time spent only with loved ones, time when frienships ripen.
And to Joan Fox – WORD my sister!! word!!
There are some aspects of your post that I don’t agree with. Over the years, because of my job, I have dealt with a lot of homeless people. There are a lot of them who like the freedom of being homeless, and who don’t want help. Of course the whole concept of the homeless delves into mental health disease and substance abuse as well, which is a complex topic.
I also believe that our position in society defines us because we live in a society and we have a responsibility to contribute to that society, and how we contribute to that society, be that as a nurse, teacher, doctor, waitress, research scientist, or electrician does and should define us, by the ways we contribute to the society.
I mostly agree with your comment:
“My point is that we are so tied to what others think of us and the ways in which others perceive us based on material things that we give no thought to who we really are. “.
I agree that a lot of people are very much affected by how others think about them, I can be guilty of this at times. However I disagree that most people base that on material things. I would say there are a lot of people who define themselves my material values, but I wouldn’t say most people do. However, I take your very important point of needing balance in our lives, and not defining ourselves in such a one dimensional manner.
My most, most, most favorite line was your quote.
“When you allow others to define you, who you are and how you must act, you become a slave , bound hand and foot, and forever forced to act in ways that confine , ways that are contrary to the real YOU. ”
Thank you, I shall keep that quote in my collection, to reflect upon regularly.
Remember I said about the homeless..
“ The tides of fortune have brought them to that place…”
Who knows what those tides may have contained in them? Abuse, broken homes, loss, poverty……or maynap just a case of personal choice.
Thanks for sharing Rumi’s philosophy and your thoughts. Feels like my soul enjoyed immense calmness as I read this piece. This is powerful and I will certainly be thinking about it for a while. Amen!
Thank you Miss Channie for sharing and expounding on Rumi’s wisdom on defining oneself. I feel richly human after reading your thoughts. Please continue to nourish our minds.