Lasting Questions and Fading Answers

I learned I could only begin to know myself by reading what I had written. Only by absorbing the words I had chosen—to paint my thoughts in language—could I understand how my wisdom about myself changed from week to week or month to month or year to year. This knowledge, which began to come to me late, as I neared my sixty-fifth birthday, was both freeing—as if I had cast off shackles that bound me to ideas unworthy of worship—and dangerous—forcing me to wade on tiptoes over a high ridge across valleys filled with wolves on one side and sharks on the other. Ultimately, attempting to understand myself—to the extent that one can know who one is—has generated more gratitude and more regret than a person deserves. And it has raised more questions about who I am. A question it answered is this: Will I ever know who I really am? The simple answer? No. Another question, one I’ve often posed to myself in the deepest hours of the darkest nights: Will I ever give up the quest? The answer? No matter how much I might want to surrender, that answer, too, is I will not…unless the quest becomes more than a man of my constitution can bear. Only when I come to understand how strong, or how fragile, I am, will I learn how to find the answer that always has been buried beneath the layers of illusions inside me.


The journey begins today. Whether I write about it will depend on what I find as I allow my mind to wander. Time will tell.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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