The Philosopher's Cornered
Will the Real Dan Wolaver Please
by Dan Wolaver
I once overheard a part of a conversation. "Dan Wolaver
is...," and my ears pricked up, expecting to hear some comment
about me. The person continued "...spelled with a single 'o,'
like in 'wolf'." So I realized they weren't talking about me,
but my name. I tend to identify with my name—it stands for me
and what I am, but it's not me. In Biblical times names were so
important that someone would change his name when his character changed
(Jacob to Israel, Saul to Paul). Today names are less important in
defining who we are. We still like to hear our name, as salesmen
know—"We have the perfect product for you, Dan. Is it all
right if I call you 'Dan'?" But my name is obviously not the
real Dan Wolaver.
It would come a little closer if I heard someone say, "Dan Wolaver is over six feet tall." Now they're talking about my body, which is more closely associated with the real me. It's the means through which you get to know me—through which I communicate, be creative, and be helpful. My body reflects me to the extent that it's nicely-dressed, casual, sloppy, or neatly-shaved. But my body is obviously not the real Dan Wolaver.
"Dan Wolaver is a singer." Now we're getting somewhere! They're talking about my mind. Of course it's my body that does the singing, but it's my mind that's expressing itself. The things that I love to do, my kindness, my curiosity, my creativity—all these reflect my mind. So maybe my mind is the real Dan Wolaver.
But sometime I might hear, "Dan Wolaver is impatient." That's my mind too, but I don't want it to be. I don't want to be inconsiderate, proud, lazy, or any of the other negative qualities. The problem is that the human mind isn't perfectly good and probably can't be made to be so. It's been programmed through millennia of evolution to preserve itself, and that doesn't always lead to good behaviour. So I guess I don't want my human mind to be the real Dan Wolaver. As with my body, my mind represents me, and I want it to be orderly, unselfish, loving, and all the other good qualities. But if it only represents me, I still haven't gotten to the real me if I stop at the human mind.
There have been times when I feel a sense of peace, when I'm not concerned with myself but simply loving life and to be sharing it with others. The phrase "It doesn't get any better than this" has been devalued by overuse, but if feels something like that. In those moments, I believe, I'm glimpsing the real me. It feels right—the way things are supposed to be, and that real me is untouched by a limited and imperfect name, body, or human mind. But I'm trying, day by day, to have those things that represent me reflect more closely the real Dan Wolaver.
And that's my philosophy.