THE SEARCH FOR, AND STRUGGLE TO FIND, OR CREATE IDENTITY
Examining my life and studying the endeavors of the young and old, I find this energy or push to find one’s calling, one’s “authentic” or real self, one of primary motivators in life. If we are thoughtful and blessed this should tell us something, as does the fact that our life goes through stages, is of short duration, and seems to be always threatened by non-existence. Behind everything is a message and lesson to learn. We can learn to listen or dull this urge through the endless distractions that are offered by modern society.
If we were a body we would be happy just to exist and live, yet we find that no one can just live without this search for identity, or someway to designate themselves. We can't just be zero. If we are simple minded we won’t spend too much time or energy on this. We’ll just identify with our body, village, culture, religion, and follow our parents’ or peer’s ideas. If we more sophisticated or have some spiritual bend of mind, we’ll make the time to stop and contemplate the existential questions of the ages and sages.
We may search out guidance from the world’s religious or spiritual literature and those who live it by them. Then we may discover that our search for worldly identity hints at the true quest of life, self-realization to uncover our soul, or animating principle of life, the real “I” or “me,” spiritual identity, who is part of something much greater, our Source. This could be seen as the all-pervading undifferentiated “Brahman” or “Clear (or White) Light,” or as the Supreme Being, God, the originator of all energies and spiritual aspects and conceptions, who we are part of and meant to serve. For some, matter seems all there is, and birth and death ends in nothingness.
Since our body and mind cover our spiritual nature, we aren’t just satisfied to be in the world, we must act in some way to search for that illusive happiness or fulfillment, that seems "out there," when in truth it is within, in our soul. We have this built in dissatisfaction or incompleteness which we endeavor to fulfill materially by identifying with our body and its proclivities and desires, then with our family, gender, race, ethnicity, religion.
We endeavor to find some occupation from which we can be happy and fulfilled through work and money by supporting ourselves and our desires for home and relationships. Just think of every pursuit people are endeavoring for. We are all attempting to find meaning and purpose—even those who say there is none may go on a campaign to teach this, the no purpose, purpose of life.
At some point, some persons feel the world is empty, unsatisfying, or foreign to whom they feel they are, beyond what the world appears to offer. If we have no spiritual guidance we may not understand the real cause of our anxiety and become depressed and end up on medication or in secular counseling to learn how to be able to accept the world on material terms--to just get a grip that death is the end.
Personally, after a year of college, my life turned topsy-turvy, as I felt--surprisingly and unexpectedly (compared to my life up to that point)--compelled to embark on the pilgrim’s journey or quest to find the purpose of life, fueled by an existential crisis that took over my life and wouldn’t be satisfied till I found answers. My story is the general story of most devotees (Vaishnavas) or spiritual aspirants, though of course with different details. The underlying aspect of all our stories is the search for a lasting, fulfilling identity, which fits in with the true meaning and purpose of being alive and conscious and searching for love.
Ideally this search, whatever life situation it begins in, would sustain us and we would need to do nothing else. However, most people, even after discovering their spiritual purpose, still need to understand themselves materially, work on life issues, develop an occupation, and find someone they can share their material and spiritual lives with.
For me, this has been a continual struggle through many stages and ups and downs for about 35 years. It is only now, in the last stage of my life, by facing my death, that all I have been through and learned has combined together in a cogent unified whole that I am attempting to share by writing and speaking. While learning is a lifelong process, I will never be completely ready for this work of sharing by knowing everything. Thus, ready or not, here I come.