Have you ever heard this asked before? Does the answer seem obvious? Even ridiculous? I thought so when I first stumbled upon this question. But is it…?
Who am I? I’m me. I’m this body and this mind. Duh.
OK, let’s try something. As you read these words right now and consider this question the “you” that’s reading and aware, that understands, that comprehends is what you think of as “I,” right? And that “I” is inside this body, or is this body, looking out and comprehending the world it occupies.
Now, forgetting all the medical ramifications just suppose I could cut off your arm but you could remain here considering this question. Your arm is now no longer a part of you. Are “you” still here considering this question? Yes, of course! That part of you that is the “I” that perceives a world and this question is not contained in the missing arm. So when the question is asked, “Who am I?” and you answer, “I am this body answering this question” we can now say that “you” may be in this body but “you” are not contained in the missing arm. Your arm is gone but you’re still here. I could continue with every part of your body and as each was removed “you” would still remain. Again, this is not a medical consideration. We’re just trying to establish where within this body “you” are located.
At this point you might be thinking, “Oh, OK, hold on. I misunderstood the question. That part of me that makes me me, which thinks, feels, senses and perceives is in my brain or in my heart.” Most people believe or feel that the brain or the heart is the center of who they are. OK, let’s look at that.
I was one who thought I existed in my brain so I’ll discuss this from that perspective, however this applies equally to both the brain and the heart. Imagine that we could divide your brain (or heart) horizontally into three even sections, bottom, middle and top. In which of those three sections are “you?” For me I had this sense that since I saw the world through my eyes I probably existed in the section behind my eyes. I chose the top section of the three.
OK, now divide this in half vertically. Are “you” on the right or the left? Now the question becomes ridiculous, right? There’s no logic I can use to determine if “I” exist on the right side or the left side. Brain science tells us that the left hemisphere of our brain controls things like logic, decision making and math while the right hemisphere controls creativity and emotions. These are aspects of personality but how can I possibly choose where in there “I” reside? I (you) can’t.
So wait a second, we’ve just tried to answer the question, “Who am I?” whose answer seemed so obvious at the start. Now we’ve looked for “I” inside this body where it seems so clearly to reside and yet can’t locate it. What the hell is going on here? Does this mean I don’t exist? Of course not, clearly I am here being, living, existing. Yet things have shifted. A perspective previously unknown now resides within us. Perhaps the self-evident assumptions of our existence are not so self-evident.