I remember vividly the first lecture for my Romantic poetry class. A professor whose reputation for brilliance preceded him walked in and introduced himself. We waited patiently for him to open a book and begin reading the first assigned poem. Instead, he asked us to pack our books and sit back and relax. A little surprised the entire class decided to comply not knowing what was going on in this lecture.
He asked us to close our eyes and said, “Please reflect on one basic question. Who Am I?” The entire class was puzzled. The question seemed very simple, very elementary, yet no one had a response. Someone said, “I am Kunal, from Delhi. I am nineteen years old”. It seemed like an apt response, Kunal had briefly summarized who he was and now we could go on grappling with the complexities of Wordworth’s verses.”
The professor said, “I didn’t mean what’s your name, your age, your gender, or where you were born. I don’t want details. Think beyond any of these certainties. You are not a name, a gender or from a religion or region. Your grades, the school you attended, your family background are also irrelevant. You are much more than any of these definitions.”
“In that case sir I am a soul “, muttered someone confidently. We waited curiously thinking this fellow has hit the nail on the head. By mentioning a soul he had taken this discussion to a philosophical plane, which the Professor would appreciate.
“Are you sure you are a soul? Maybe you are just a body. And maybe you are a combination of both body and soul. What is the absolutely certain answer as to who you are?”
A blank pause filled the classroom. Without going into details about body and soul and true self, it was evident that no one knew who they were. My takeaway beyond any philosophical considerations was that perhaps we needed to reflect more within ourselves after removing every external facet. Beyond every aspect of our identities that we are familiar with there is something else. It could be essence, soul, and heart but quite possibly it is not quantifiable like our name or religion. But what is necessary is to aspire to continue to search for who we truly are.