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  • Please Tell Who I Am!

    Those of us of a certain age will remember The Logical Song by Supertramp with its striking lyrics:


    When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful,
    A miracle, oh, it was beautiful, magical.
    And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily,
    Joyfully, playfully watching me.
    But then they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible,
    Logical, responsible, practical.
    And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable,
    Clinical, intellectual, cynical.

    There are times when all the world’s asleep,
    The questions run too deep
    For such a simple man.
    Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned
    I know it sounds absurd…
    Please tell me who I am.

    Now watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical,
    Liberal, fanatical, criminal.
    Won’t you sign up your name, we’d like to feel you’re
    Acceptable, respectable, presentable — a vegetable!

    At night, when all the worlds asleep,
    The questions run so deep
    For such a simple man.
    Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned
    I know it sounds absurd…
    Please tell me who I am.

    It seems to me that this song resonates with me more in my middle-aged life than it did when I was young.  We do indeed go to school, and we get socialized in such a way that we learn everything that we need to learn to grow up to become responsible, productive citizens, good spouses, good parents, good providers.  That was my experience at least.  But around about mid-life, or sometimes even before, we begin to get the sense that something is missing.

    In the course of our lives, we make choices, and we go down one road at the fork, leaving the other road with all its possibilities unexplored.  But the thing is, those possibilities don’t go away, no matter how logical or responsible we try to be.  And at some point or other, as I know well from my own experience, all those other possibilities come calling.  It is not about returning to childhood, but it is about returning to the sense of life that children often have, of being vibrantly full of awareness in the midst of this miracle that is the world and the self.

    In the course of the song, the singer pleads with his teachers, “Please tell me what we’ve learned… Please tell me who I am.”  This is not at all an absurd question, but it is the one thing that the teachers cannot give him.  They may teach all kinds of fine knowledge and skills, and they may teach how to be responsible, how to be a good citizen, even how to be ethical. 

    But no teacher can tell you who you most fundamentally are.  They can test your aptitudes, make suggestions about career — any number of things.  However, the secret of your real identity is something that is locked inside you, and inside me.  We can “stand for” this or that, but that is not identity.  The whole complete, complex reality of who we are only comes from encountering all the many complex people we are, and the huge range of feelings thoughts and attitudes that we have, deep inside of us.  And as Carl Jung tells us, “Only that which is truly oneself heals”.  What we are is a reality beyond logic, and beyond conventional wisdom.  Only as I journey into my own interior, do I encounter the incredible reality of the person who is there waiting to meet me — my own Self.

    My own journey has taught me that this isn’t an easy road to walk.  Sometimes I have flinched from it, and sometimes I have outright run from it.  However, I’ve come to believe that it is the single most important journey that anyone can go upon…beyond the conventional image of myself and into the mystery and indescribable fullness of who I really am.



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