di Avellini Alessandra (collaboratrice 4^E)
Writing about such a complicated matter as the question of personal identity is a real challenge, because it is an extremely vast topic and the more you think about it the more you start doubting about your ideas and get progressively confused. In fact, I am not quite sure about the things I am about to tell you, but I will try my best to express my ideas as clearly as possible.
During the current school year, with our teacher Mr. Grison, we have been studying a lot of different philosophers with all their ideas and ways of seeing the world and themselves. A couple of them, as fathers of empiricism, did not believe in the existence of a personal, spiritual essence. The most important ones, John Locke and David Hume, thought that our entire knowledge is based on the sense-experience and that we become aware of the existence of something or someone, and learn about it, exclusively through our five senses. As a consequence, they believed that we can only know about our thoughts and emotions, but that we could never get to know what lays underneath them, assuming that there is anything to be found. They could not believe in something they did not experience, and they stopped at the limits of human knowledge.
This being said, I can now explain where I disagree with them, even though I obviously respect their considerations.
Personally, I have been thinking a lot about my identity, especially in the past few years, and even if I have never been able to really explain or clearly describe the way it is, I am pretty sure I have one. Of course each and every one of us is unique because we are made of every little thing we have experienced since we were born, but I believe that, besides all that, there is something, something untouchable and secret that we hide deep inside of us and that we try to protect all life long. We hide it because it is the purest thing we own – a pure core of goodness – and it simply cannot match with the impurity of the world; so, since we are that pure thing and cannot alienate ourselves from it, but still we need to live in the world and experience its imperfection, we just hide it, and often forget about it. That is the reason why we are never really sure about our identity. We forget how it feels to be that pure thing we hid so deep in our soul, and we would have to make the greatest effort of our lives to find it out again. So most people don’t even bother to think about it and just get caught up in the whirl of the outside world.
We grow up becoming the things we see around us and the feelings we experience throughout our lives (in fact, seen from outside, people look alike and tend to desire and think almost always the same things), but sometimes, if we just stop living our ordinary life for one second, we close our eyes and feel our soul, we can perceive the existence of our pure thing, our ego. I believe that everyone has a different ego and the exceptional thing about them is that there is no good or bad ego, there is no better ego than another, they are just essence, beyond good or bad, time or space and whatsoever. It makes me move and it fills my heart with joy, to think that every person in the world is living with this unique pure thing inside him/herself, carrying it everywhere, keeping it safe, hidden like the most precious diamond in its treasure chest.
Thinking about it, the concept of “identity” could be easily mistaken for the concept of “memory”, but from my point of view they are two completely different things: I believe that all the things we experience in our lives, since we are influenced by the outside world, from birth onwards, make us the people we are now, but that is not our identity. That is just our memory. We became who we are now because of every little piece of our memory and that is the reason why we will keep changing all life long, because our memory will enrich every day more; but I believe that we have just one identity, one ego, the only thing of ours that will always stay the same and will remain uninfluenced by the outside world.
I believe in this, I believe in my ego, not only because it is beautiful to think about it, but because I feel it in my soul. If I try to imagine a world where there are no egos and every single person, deep inside, is the same as any other, I see a world in which there is no point in living, a world without love, because something so pure and perfect could only come from the pureness we keep in our heart and soul; a world where people are born all alike, so they don’t even have their own destiny or any purpose; a world in which you couldn’t learn anything from other people that would make yourself better as a person, because the two of you are basically the same thing.
In conclusion, I firmly believe that each and every one of us has his/her own identity, and we can get to know ours. I also think that we can feel the ones of the people that we really love, because we unconsciously share ours with them revealing it with every little gesture and detail that we live, and they do the same with us. Anyway, I find that our true identity, which, again, consists of our ego and not our memory, is the most precious thing we will ever own and be, and that it is the answer to the questions man has always asked himself about: “Why are we here? Alive? What is our purpose in all this?”.