“Who am I?”

This question was posed to me as part of a MOOC I am taking through edX on Dante’s Divine Comedy, which I encourage you to check out if interested.  The prompt was simple — “Who am I?” (what could be simpler?) — and to be answered in 350 words or less (it’s okay to chuckle).  Written in about 60 seconds, I think it may provide a reflexive, yet accurate, overview of my contradictions.  If you feel the urge to share your own experiences or an answer to the prompt, please do so!  I think the pressure of wanting it all and wanting it now is a common one.

I am a dreamer and a romantic. Inclined towards prophetic visions of both death and glory, I am attempting to canalize these opposites into creative passion and also reign them in for the sake of my sanity. I have yet to find a balance that works — yet, in true romantic tradition, I maintain faith that such a balance exists and that I am capable of it.

I am lazier than I’d like to be, and don’t read or write as much as I should — but perhaps I simply put too much pressure on myself. I find myself in a hurry almost always, and then burnt out without much progress being made (I am reminded here of the Billy Joel tune, “Vienna”).  I have a million books I want to read, and poems to memorize, and arguments to be had. It is easy under this sometimes burden, sometimes freedom, to forget that human feet walk one step at a time, and that I am only human (all-too-human).

While I do not believe that life is a “race”, I find the parable of the rabbit and the tortoise comforting regardless; similar to the Friedrich Nietzsche quote on the 31-year-old being a mere child in terms of high culture [1]. If high culture is my aim — and it is — then I must admit I am less than a child. Not walking, barely crawling, always drooling; occasionally I arrange the colored blocks in the living room in some intuitive, aesthetic fashion, and sit back and marvel at my potential. Alas, there are yet bigger blocks to move.

I am 24, so there is much time left… right? I ask because I do not know. “Who I am”, then, is a young man stuck between delusions of grandeur and feelings of hopelessness. A sort of manic depressive riding a constant pendulum. But reading and writing help the pendulum stand still — as does the always-difficult task of staying sober — and the tortoise inches forward. I would prefer to live my life this way if I can. Slowly, but building momentum, and with eyes unblinking on eternity.

[1] Twilight of the Idols, section: What the Germans Lack. “And everywhere an indecent haste prevails, as if something would be lost if the young man of twenty-three were not yet “finished,” or if he did not yet know the answer to the “main question”: which calling?  A higher kind of human being, if I may say so, does not like “callings,” precisely because he knows himself to be called.  He has time, he takes time, he does not even think of “finishing”: at thirty one is, in the sense of high culture, a beginner, a child.”

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