Picture your funeral. What is the scene? Who is there? The chances are, you won’t exist anymore, in any form whatsoever. So, you are dead. Your life is over, forever. The question is this: what will you have wanted to achieve before this somewhat haunting event? Some people go the grave having created magnificent works of art, some have changed the lives of others, some have made the world a better place. But, for all the achievements, other things enter the graves with people, and those things are unfulfilled potential, achievements that were easily attainable if only a little more effort was put in, actions that could have been just, or calm, or rational, yet turned out to be unjust, angry, and impulsive. We should, it seems, at times ask ourselves, ‘What do I want to enter the grave with?’ Do you want to die knowing that you have squeezed every drop out of your one life, or do you want to die regretting that you didn’t put in that extra effort, that kind word, that tiny fragment of concentration? We must keep the end of our life in mind when acting now, otherwise what will we be using as our motive for choosing what we do with our lives? Perhaps if we recall to ourselves daily that one day, perhaps much sooner than we think, our funeral will occur, where we will not be present, and that people will be there who will remember us for who we were and what we did, then maybe we can act in accordance with what we truly desire, yet this, again, requires us to know ourselves, and this takes reflection, questioning, and time. We can, if we so desire, form what people will remember us for. What is it that you want to be remembered for, and what is it that you want to achieve before you die?
What makes me, me? Who am I? These are questions we all ask ourselves, though the answer may be difficult to get at, if at all possible. Perhaps we think that our unique qualities makes us who we are, or just our conscious subjectivity. But are we really all that unique? Are we different, or is the ego and the self just an illusion?
Although we tend to refer to ourselves as ‘I’, and to say things such as ‘me’ or ‘mine’, does this mean that there is such a thing as ‘I’? If there is one self, what is it made up of? It seems that we are not one self, but many selves. This has been made clearer since the introduction of social media. There is no doubt that the ‘I’ on social media is different from the ‘I’ alone in my bedroom or the ‘I’ with my family. Some people may be vaguely similar to the people they call themselves on social media, while some are vastly different. But is this also the case in our whole lives? Is the person I meet my friends different to the person writing this post? Do ‘I’, in this sense, even exist? Perhaps we must ask ourselves whether it is our appearance that makes us seem different. Maybe even our self-consciousness may convince us that we are different. Maybe we are unique, but then again, maybe we aren’t.
The self may or not be an illusion, but one thing is certain-that we cannot help being individual. We cannot not take our lives seriously, as Thomas Nagel puts it, and so perhaps this is irrelevant. It could be true that the ‘self’ doesn’t really exist, but it is not possible for us to live without the concept of a self. Maybe there is a genuine way to live without a self, but if there is, then ‘I’ have not been able to do so. Whether there be a self or not, what seems most reasonable is to act in a way that will make us free.