When I meet someone new, I like to ask, “Who are you?”
Most people provide their occupation as an answer, which is perfectly alright. Others share different aspects of their life that are important to their identity (e.g. if they are parents, their hobbies, something they are proud of). I especially enjoy those replies. However, a small number look at me in a weird, somewhat offended way, as if I have asked a deeply personal question on our first encounter.
I’ll phrase this week’s question somewhat differently. Either abstractly or in a real practical sense what makes you you?
Related questions: How important is the repetition in our lives? How much of our thoughts are our own? What are our responsibilities to others?
Life is complicated, with lots of moving parts. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming, so much is happening. But if you simplify things, strip away all the minutia of everyday living, some events or actions or people mean more than everything else.
In other words: What is important?
Related questions: Why do we spend time on things that are not important? How do you define success? How do we choose our priorities? How important is the repetition in our lives?
Everyone is unique. Their DNA and their experiences make them unlike anyone else.
But, on the other hand, we all share things in common, simply by the nature of being human beings. What are those things we all share, despite the color of our skin, despite the political party we belong to, despite the language we speak, despite our economic class, and despite whatever god or gods we do or don’t believe in?
What do we have in common?
Related questions: Why do we care what people think of us? What makes a personal bond? What are the advantages and disadvantages to being the same? Why do we feel the need to belong?
The only thoughts I’ll ever truly know are my own. And yet, that doesn’t stop me from wanting to not be alone.
People spend their lives trying to belong: to a spouse, to a family, to a tribe, to a cause, to a country. Where does this need to be more than an individual come from?
Why do we feel the need to belong?
Related questions: Why do we care what strangers think of us? What does it mean to belong to a country? What are our responsibilities to others?
Most people, I think, would say they try to be happy. They want to construct their lives in such a way as to maximize happiness (however they might define ‘happiness’).
But in reality, unhappiness abounds. Unrest radiates from nearly every news broadcast. Stress levels deprive us of sleep, lead to overeating, and generally make us unhealthy.
Where does this discontinuity between desire (happiness) and reality (unhappiness) come from? If someone wants to be happy, why aren’t they? Why do we put up with unhappiness?
Related questions: Is happiness the most important purpose in life? What motivates us? Why don’t we know what makes us happy?