Will Shakespeare’s age-honored words, spoken by Polonius to his son Laertes in Act I of Hamlet, stand on their own – seemingly not needing any explanation whatsoever:
“This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”
Michael Singer, author of the book, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself, begs to differ.
If Laertes were to be totally honest with himself, he would realize that his father may as well have told him to catch the wind. After all, to which ‘self’ are we to be true? Is it the one that shows up when we’re in a bad mood, or the one that is present when we feel humbled by our mistakes? Is it the one who speaks from the dark recesses of the heart when we’re depressed or upset, or the one that appears during those fleeting moments when life seems so fanciful and light?
Mr. Singer’s statement really gave me pause because so often, my “authentic self” is hidden away. By that I don’t mean that I’m being fake – I try as hard as I can to present an accurate image of who I am – but let’s face it, some days we’re out of wack and what comes forward on any given day, in any given hour, is just one aspect of the split personalities of our being.
I think all in all I’m a pretty decent person, and on my best days I’m far more thoughtful towards others than I am towards myself, but I am an imperfect being who has lived on this earth for 59 years so I’m quite sure that I’ve missed the mark more often than I would have wanted to. But as I reflected in my article, “The complexities and joys of feeling deeply,” I am VERY hard on myself and I tend to be less hard on others.
But not always – and therein lies the dilemma. If I go out of my way for 100 people in a single day – a virtual Mother Teresa wannabe – and get infuriated at a driver on the road who I have perceived as inciting a road rage anger that I pretend not to have, I have not been true to the person I was during the earlier part of my day. In this particular example, I would have been hearing a voice to which I submitted with feelings of anger and personal affront, instead of asking myself whether or not the voice is giving me good advice. Is that voice helpful? Probably not. There could have been higher/better ways to deal with that perceived slight. I can make a choice to be reactive – which is what the mind does – or lean way from the emotion – which is what the spirit and/or soul does.
With the imperfection that I embody, I will try to do the latter.