Who was I? and other inappropriate attentions.

Lately I have been posting stories on Wattpad about events and adventures in my past.  These stories focus on what happened, people I met, how I felt, and what they meant then and sometimes now. As readers of this blog know, the entries here reflect on life, living and the people I meet through reading, listening or watching books, TV, movies, and concerts.

While reading my old journals to refresh my memory for the Wattpad stories, I have come upon a number of entries that do the same kind of reflecting as I’m doing here. The writer and the writing don’t sound the same, however. Some of their sentiments strike me as odd now, but in some I can see myself today beginning to emerge, just as the self I will be in ten years will look back at this entry and see how I’m changing yet again.

The Buddha cautions us against such unwise or inappropriate attention to who we were and who we might become.

This is how he attends inappropriately: ‘Was I in the past? Was I not in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what was I in the past? Shall I be in the future? Shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? Having been what, what shall I be in the future?’ Or else he is inwardly perplexed about the immediate present: ‘Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? Where has this being come from? Where is it bound?’  http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.002.than.html

In the Australian novelist Peter Temple’s Identity Theory, the protagonist John Anselm has lost memories of much of his life following the trauma of being held hostage in Beirut. As he reflects on why he can remember the first time he went to Beirut, but not ever going to Bogata, Anselm comments:

You didn’t know what you remembered until you thought about it. … Why were so many things coming back? Was everything going to be restored? An unbroken thread? A complete chronology? Would he remember his life again as one piece? Would he be whole again, remember people now unknown to him—people he had loved, people he had slept with? … The thoughts made him uneasy. Perhaps it was better to be without the memories. What did it matter? What did holes, gaps, matter? Life didn’t make any sense, it wasn’t a story, it wasn’t a journey. It was just short films by different directors. The only link was you. You were in all of them.

The posts that will be added to this section of drivingwithnohands will consist primarily of monologues that the directors of these old films wrote in my journals, which I still happen to have. Whether “I” was in all these films and the relation between today’s blogger and these old directors is a central question for the posts under Laura’s dying statement, “Whoever you are, I love you.” Here I’m just presenting voices from the past, with occasional notes to explain references that are obscure today.

2 Comments

  1. Your reading is correct. I’m just applying the passage to caution against making too much of personal evolution, against looking for the same “me” 50 years ago, or even yesterday.

  2. I always related the quoted passage from MN 2 being about metaphysical debates regarding “self” – never read it has a meditation on personal evolution.

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