I am one of those hideously chirpy morning people.
During my childhood, while everybody I knew slept in late on weekends and holidays, I was that kid who was up at sunrise. I don’t know why. I was awake, slept out, and well, let the day begin, even if it’s only dawn and the sun has yet to peek its head over the horizon.
I soon realised the magic to be found in this hour where normal people are groggy and grumpy and do not want to be disturbed. The silence. The slow stretch of the world — okay, the time zone — waking up. The mystical quality of the light. Especially during seaside holidays, being on the beach at first light surrounded by nothing but sea breeze and a few corporate alpha-male assholes pretentiously jogging shirtless. I was envious of the surfers catching a wave before they do whatever they do after morning has broken. The Hawaiians saw surfing as sacred. I’ve never surfed, but my imagination tells me the Hawaiians may be right.
I live several hundred miles inland, and it has been years since I’ve seen the ocean. And I’m not a child anymore, my half-century mark creeping up on me with disheartening pace. I’m not quite as easy as I was at first light, but I still am — generally — up and awake when the sky turns from night to kaleidoscope. My body aches (Lordy, especially in wintertime!) and I feel a lot more bunged up both in sinus and thought process as I did a decade ago, but I’m still up.
And then I come and sit at my computer because that’s what I do. My desk faces a window. I look up and look out, my view from my window a glorious illusion of solitude. I see the sky, blue-grey with a hint of gold, framed by the silhouettes of trees gaining colour at the first light of day. Nothing man made in my line of sight, and I can bullshit myself that I’m not in a crowded townhouse complex surrounded by people, walls, cars.
This is the most magical time of the day, and when, if I put my mind to it, the best writing happens. Soon enough, my fellow humans would join me, and then it would be phones, emails, chores, a trip to the shops, a conference call with that guy in Ghana with the raucous laugh I work with but never met. But for now, it’s the most wonderful time of the day, quiet time, and I can allow my fingers to find the words on my keyboard, and hopefully somebody may even read it.
And if you noticed, gentle reader, how many times I used the word “I” in the above 400 words? I, I, I, always fucking I. Oh, and ‘me’. Pretty self-centred, self-referential, if not selfish.
This is sadly a quirk of language. What do you mean when you say I? What do I mean? I’ve always been a seeker. “Searching for answers refusing to be found” to misquote Nick Cave. Since Andrea died, that journey has become only deeper, wider, broader. I’ve not found the answers, and I’m making peace with the fact they probably don’t exist. But in my journeys I found a few treasures—or as my pals call them, ‘moon rocks’—worth examining.
And the I is worth examining. Not me, Gerry, but the concept of “I”.
This human life, the only thing we can ever be sure of, is by definition a solitary one. We can share, love, surround ourselves with friends, children, elders, families, peers, but every journey is solitary. Two people can eat the same curry and experience the same tummy cramps, but they both have to deal with the consequences themselves. They cannot share in each other’s pain. Two people can sit next to each other at the world cup final, and have two different exact same experiences.
And thanks to language, the only way to share experiences is through the word “I”. But the moon rock of “I” is a worthy one. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: the pinnacle is ‘self-actualisation’. Cool. Whatever, man, as my surfer dude would say.
But what about self-transcendence? To move beyond the “I”. To realise there is more to “I”, and I do not mean “we” or “you”—because you are just another “I”.
We’re living in an era where “identity” is big. So big, it even became an adjective: identity politics. “I identify as”… well, cool. I am a seeker. I’m a surfer. I’m a joker, I’m a smoker, I’m a midnight toker. I’m the pompatus of love. (Laugh, dammit, that was funny!). Nope, I’m none of those things. I’m not a smoker or a toker, let alone a midnight one. But most of all because the moon rock on the shelf reminds me there isn’t even an “I”.
I’ve discovered there is more to me than me. More to we than we. More to you than you. There is more to any of us than mere ‘identity’. Self-actualisation? Cool, whatever. Step up: self-awareness. Step up: self-transcendence.
Then I realise that the trees outside are standing out in full colour as the sun is fully up and blasting the world with photons and I’ve got a metric fuckton of work to do for the guy with the raucous laugh up in Ghana.
At the end of the day — or, at the start of it — I’m still a human on this planet for an indeterminate amount of time. I still need to work, pay my rent, eat that curry, watch that world cup final, nurse my aching joints, figure out what ‘pompatus’ means, play my music in the sun, and maybe, just maybe, learn to surf.
Because I, we, you, are human. And experiencing human-ness through the mantle of “I” is what it’s all about.
Or, I’m probably just fulla shit.
Photo by Jess Loiterton: https://www.pexels.com/photo/silhouette-of-people-surfing-on-the-sea-during-sunset-4322476/