Who am I - Part 1 - The Quest for myself


Who am I - the Quest for myself - of - Die Dagboek van 'n Verdwaalde - Part 1 - by P.K.Odendaal 17 August 2011.
No, I have not forgotten my name and ID number nor my family and friends, but I wish to pursue a question each person on earth asks themselves from time to time and which I often ask myself.

I wish to pursue this on many levels, except the physical, and I will do excursions into the realms of philosophy, psychology, physics, meta-physics and religion on the levels of the mind, soul and spirit.

This is really a continuation of my quest for the stuff reality is made of, and which is presently unanswered. I admit that I also do not know the answer, but I will stay in supplication to God to listen and follow His guidance.

The setup for this article is easy and well known. Take my case as exactly the same for every person on this planet. When I was born, I did not know who I was, where I was, where I was going, where I came from, why I am here and what I should do. Neither was there anyone who could give me answers to these questions. So, I spent the rest of my life trying to find answers to these and mostly getting the wrong replies and mostly taking the wrong forks in the road. Well, that is as lost as any man can be. I cannot think of anyone who can get more lost (even physically) than that - and maybe that is we we regard ourselves in our natural form as lost souls. But, I will continue this search and follow this quest until I die, because the Bible says : Luk 11:10  For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Apart from my lifelong quest, I was also partly inspired by the book by Victor Hugo - Les Miserables. In short, the story unfolds of a man who spent twenty years in jail for stealing bread and escaping from jail in the second French Revolution. When he ultimately came out of jail with this stain on his name, he did three remarkable things.
Firstly he realised that he cannot go on alone in this life with that stain on his name, so he turns to God for help after being advised so by the Bishop. The words of the beautiful song where he does this (in the play) is as follows :

What have I done?
Sweet Jesus, what have I done?
Become a thief in the night,
Become a dog on the run
And have I fallen so far,
And is the hour so late
That nothing remains but the cry of my hate,
The cries in the dark that nobody hears,
Here where I stand at the turning of the years?

If there's another way to go
I missed it twenty long years ago
My life was a war that could never be won
They gave me a number and murdered Valjean
When they chained me and left me for dead
Just for stealing a mouthful of bread

Yet why did I allow that man
To touch my soul and teach me love?
He treated me like any other
He gave me his trust
He called me brother
My life he claims for God above
Can such things be?
For I had come to hate the world
This world that always hated me

Take an eye for an eye!
Turn your heart into stone!
This is all I have lived for!
This is all I have known!

One word from him and I'd be back
Beneath the lash, upon the rack
Instead he offers me my freedom
I feel my shame inside me like a knife
He told me that I have a soul,
How does he know?
What spirit comes to move my life?
Is there another way to go?

I am reaching, but I fall
And the night is closing in
And I stare into the void
To the whirlpool of my sin
I'll escape now from the world
From the world of Jean Valjean
Jean Valjean is nothing now
Another story must begin!
This is a song every one who have not turned to God should sing.

Valjean does a second remarkable thing, which was unfortunately wrong (as we all do) - he changes his name by taking on an alibi, and becomes another man who ultimately owns a factory and becomes mayor of his town - to escape persecution and capture by his arch enemy, Javert - see the last four lines of the previous song. We do it more subtly by taking wrong decisions and faking personality characteristics which are not really our own. We put up this false front to the world - a smokescreen of success and wealth and happiness.

Thirdly and ultimately Jean Valjean has to come back to himself and face the music, when another man is mistakenly taken as being Valjean and is brought into custody and court, to face and pay for the sins of Jean Valjean. He does this so dramatically in the following song :
He thinks that man is me
He knew him at a glance!
That stranger he has found
This man could be my chance!

Why should I save his hide?
Why should I right this wrong
When I have come so far
And struggled for so long?

If I speak, I am condemned.
If I stay silent, I am damned!

I am the master of hundreds of workers.
They all look to me.
How can I abandon them?
How would they live
If I am not free?

If I speak, I am condemned.
If I stay silent, I am damned!

Who am I?
Can I condemn this man to slavery
Pretend I do not feel his agony
This innocent who bears my face
Who goes to judgement in my place
Who am I?
Can I conceal myself for evermore?
Pretend I'm not the man I was before?
And must my name until I die
Be no more than an alibi?
Must I lie?
How can I ever face my fellow men?
How can I ever face myself again?
My soul belongs to God, I know
I made that bargain long ago
He gave me hope when hope was gone
He gave me strength to journey on

[He appears in front of the court]

Who am I? Who am I?
I am Jean Valjean!

This is then really the plight of all of us :
If I speak, I am condemned.
If I stay silent, I am damned! 

To return then to our subject.
How do I get the answers to the questions I posed in the beginning. Unfortunately it is a long and difficult road, and often we find oursleves at dead ends - as has happened to almost all the philosophers, but we will not go that way - we will go slowly and surely and with faith, and with hope and direction.

The start of the road is not too difficult and it is called learning. I first need to learn how the world and things and people on it works - and that takes us a lifetime - but let it go on - do not stop halfway.
The more difficult endeavour is to get to know ourselves - in fact so daunting, that few people try to venture on this Road Less Travelled. If you read my travel blogs you will know that I travel the world to find myself, in that I simultaneously let my mind, soul and spirit take the travel with me, but in another (virtual) vehicle and in different directions. I have found, that if I stay in my daily routine, my quest tends to get vague and uninteresting, but once I start to travel, it takes on new vigour as travel is so ... uh... well .... so inspiring (broadening is the conventional word).

It may be that under certain conditions during my travels I may get to a point where my uncertainty and concomitant circumstances work together to stir up emotions in me heretofore unexperienced - yes, this happens to me almost every time I travel.
Next time I look at the first aspect - Are we real and is our life and this planet (the only) reality?