Am I what I accumulate?

Contribution by Isabel Hernández Negrín, Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain.

I have no doubt that this question may sound a bit strange.  However, I suggest that you ask yourself about what you consider to be yours.  I am not talking just about material possessions: house, family, money, books, gadgets, etc.  We also have other valued possessions that we may treasure.  Which?  Can we perhaps hoard immaterial things?  How does it sound to you if I say that we accumulate memories, opinions, information, emotions, principles, ideas about ourselves, acknowledgements, etc.?  Are we not what we are because of what we have learnt and absorbed?  Are we not the result of what we have experienced?  We are like a repository in which experiences are stored that, together with our particular way of interpreting them, give rise to our perceptionthat we are the sum total of what we have accumulated.  I am like this: I think like this, I believe certain things, I have certain values, I behave in a certain manner; I even dress and do my hair in one particular style and not another, I like certain things, etc. 

And I ask myself, have I consciously chosen all of these things that characterise me and what do I say I am?  How is it that I identify with everything that I have “accumulated” by chance?

It is very difficult for us to do without all of these “things” we consider to be prized “mental possessions.”

We all have them, but when we do not question them, what happens?  We consider them to be true and we cling to them because they provide us with security. 

So I believe I know what is appropriate and what is not, what is acceptable and what is not, what I am, and what I am not.  And we like that.  What consequences may this have?  What happens to us when someone opposes one of our values, opinions, beliefs or behaviour?  I defend what I consider to be mine and what is more: as I identify myself completely with it, I am the one that I am defending.   I conflate myself and my beliefs, experiences, etc. but does it necessarily have to be that way?

Imagine that you were born on the other side of the world, in a different family, in different circumstances, with a different upbringing, different beliefs and values.  Imagine it.  Which of these two people would be wrong?  Which would be right?  What would you stand up for?  Is it not by chance that we accumulatethe things we have and identify with and sometimes defend aggressively?  If I have never questioned the importance of my “mental possessions” I will defend them with passion and conviction.  But if you question them seriously and reach the conclusion that they are through chance, something that you have not chosen consciously, maybe you will start to feel more connected to other people, more open to differences, more ready to explore and discuss instead of arguing and defending.  It depends on you whether you pay attention and observe your “mental possessions” and question them.  It is said that you will be happy when you cease to express an opinion and simply try to listen and understand, because all of us, in our ignorance, believe that we are right.