Who are we? Who are we really?
It’s been debated for centuries, millennia, as long as there have been minds to think about it and voices to talk about it.
What are we?
Are we each some individual essence, programmed with vices and values, strengths and desires? Are we a conglomerate of the things that happen to us? Are we human beings or human doings?
Personally, I put a lot of stock in the things I do. If I accomplish something I wanted to accomplish, I am a success. If I don’t, I am a failure.
Sometimes, though, whatever the case may be about our identity, I think we need to let go of the things we do.
There are a couple of fascinating examples in Star Trek of people who were too rooted in what they did. Their identities were inextricably linked with past events- both good and bad- eventually leading to their demise.
In “The Doomsday Machine”, there is Commodore Decker, a man so wrapped up in a horrible and deadly event- the destruction of his crew- that he allows himself to become an instrument of horror and destruction. First, he endangers the lives of everyone on the Enterprise by his reckless quest to destroy the titular weapon. Then, he destroys his own life in the final, tragic act of the crisis. He is absorbed into the tragedy that he allowed to define him.
Then, on the other hand, there is Dr. Daystrom, of “The Ultimate Computer”. His is so infatuated with his greatest success- the invention of the M-5 computer- that he becomes just as dangerous as Decker, endangering the whole crew, this time because he can’t see his success as anything but a success. Any mistake by his invention would reflect poorly on him-literally, as he imprinted his own neural pathways onto the computer’s circuits.
There is a time to move on, I think, even from the most important things we have done. You know, those things that keep you up late at night, coursing through your brain, making you sick to your stomach? Because sometimes, when we dwell on those things too long, we become those things, and drag the people around us into those things.
There is a time to let go.
If the things we do are not our identity, then we can learn from them, and move forward into what we really are.
If those things are what makes us, then maybe, we need at times to set our old selves behind, and become something new.