Who are you? This is a question some people ask us…a question we also ask ourselves. Do we really know who we are? Some would respond with their profession: a doctor, a priest, a nurse, an engineer, an architect, an archeologist, a teacher, etc. But is it all we are? Some will respond by their nationality (e.g. Filipino, American, Japanese, Chinese, Taiwanese, etc.) . Some will respond with their ethnicity (e.g. Ibaloi, Cherokee, Armenian, Inuit, etc.). Some would identify with their faith (e.g. Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, etc.). Some might even respond with their family/relationship (e.g. father, mother, clan name, etc.) Or maybe some might think of some other label or affiliation.
How do we respond to this question? Who am I? I ponder on this after watching another espisode of Babylon 5’s 3rd Season DVD. In previous episodes, the recently resigned Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Stephen Franklin, was confronted by the Chief Security Officer, Michael Garibaldi, on the doctor’s addiction to stims (a chemical performance enhancer, similar in function to amphetamines). Dr. Franklin, after several bouts of denial, finally admitted to himself and Michael that he was indeed addicted to stims. Instead of confronting the issue, Stephen opted to resign his position and go on his “walkabout” around Babylon 5 space station in an effort to “find himself”.
After several weeks of aimless roaming, he chanced upon what appeared to him, a case of thugs preying on a helpless innocent bystander. Unknown to Stephen, the man being accosted was a dealer in illegal substances, who had been delinquent in meeting his “obligation” to the men “manhandling” him. In meddling with the three shady individuals, Stephen, was knifed in the stomach and left to bleed in the bowels of the station. Bleeding and in pain, Stephen drags himself along the empty corridors trying to find his way back to the more populated areas to get help. In his delirium, Stephen’s condition causes him to hallucinate and imagines confronting himself…facing all the times he ran away from difficult situations. He finally finds the strength and resolve to confront his weaknesses, and manages to haul himself to the populated areas and finally got medical attention.
During his recovery, Captain Sheridan drops in on Stephen to “see how he’s doing” and offers his old job back. In the course of their conversation, Stephen admits that his journey of “finding himself” began as just another episode of “running away” from the problem. And the epiphany Stephen reveals to Sheridan is something akin to what some of us has had:
I realized that I always define myself in terms of what I wasn’t.
I wasn’t a good soldier like my father. I wasn’t the job.
I wasn’t a good prospect for marriage or kids.
Always what I wasn’t, never what I was.
When you do that. you miss the moments.
And moments are all we’ve got.
When I thought I was going to die, even after everything that’s happened..I realized I didn’t want to let go.
I was willing to do it all over again. This time I could appreciate the moments.
I can’t go back, but I can appreciate what I have right now…
and I can define myself by what I am, instead of what I’m not.
“And what are you?”, Captain Sheridan asks.
Stephen replies, “Alive. Everything else is negotiable.”
An interesting epiphany: no labels…just being alive and appreciating everything he is and has…his experiences, his triumphs and his failures. Knowing that everything in the past can never be regained. Grabbing all the 2nd chances, 3rd chances, whatever. Living in the moment. Accepting what is and was…hoping for what will be. Take away all the labels and affiliations, aren’t we all the sum of all the moments we have had, and all that is still to come.