What does it mean to be a person? It’s a complex concept involving a unique conception of self, often distorted by the ego’s tendency to confuse our desired self with our true self. The intricacies of personhood stem from our unique self-conception, and the dichotomy of human nature is explored in poetry by Jane Hirshfield. The journey of self-discovery and understanding personhood is a continuous endeavor.
What does it mean to be a person?
Being a person is a complex concept involving a unique conception of self, as suggested by philosopher Amélie Rorty. It involves interpreting and modifying our behavior based on self-perception. However, it’s often distorted by the ego’s tendency to confuse our desired self with our true self. Poet Jane Hirshfield describes being a person as an untenable proposition, highlighting the inherent dichotomy of human nature. Ultimately, the journey of self-discovery and comprehension of personhood is a continuous endeavor.
Exploring the Intricacies of Personhood
“A human being is a living constellation of contradictions, mostly opaque to itself,” is a profound statement that hints at the complexities of what it means to be a person. Iris Murdoch, a renowned author and philosopher, once referred to humans as “inward secret creatures.” This sentiment highlights the multitude of unknown factors that govern our existence, most of which remain undiscovered within our own consciousness.
These intricacies of personhood stem from our unique conception of self, as pointed out by philosopher Amélie Rorty. According to her, humans are organisms that interpret and modify their agency based on their self-conception. This concept is a testament to our remarkable evolutionary path, which has led us from simple bacteria to the ability to construct the Benedictus, a sophisticated work of music, in what seems like a fleeting moment in the grand timeline of the cosmos.
The Dichotomy of Human Nature
However, this self-conception is often distorted. This distortion lies in our ego’s tendency to confuse who we wish we were with who we truly are. The only redemption lies in our courage to acknowledge and understand ourselves for what we are – neither devils nor divines, as Maya Angelou beautifully captures in her poem, “A Brave and Starling Truth.”
This inherent dichotomy of human nature is further explored in Jane Hirshfield’s poem, “To be a Person,” from her collection The Asking: New and Selected Poems. Hirshfield delves into what it truly means to be a person, aptly describing it as an untenable proposition.
TO BE A PERSON by Jane Hirshfield
To be a person is an untenable proposition. Odd of proportion, upright, unbalanced of body, feeling, and mind. Two predator’s eyes face forward, yet seem always to be trying to look back. Unhooved, untaloned fingers seem to grasp mostly grief and pain. To create, too often, mostly grief and pain. Some take, in witnessed suffering, pleasure. Some make, of witnessed suffering, beauty. On the other side — a creature capable of blushing, who chooses to spin until dizzy, likes what is shiny, demands to stay awake even when sleepy. Learns what is basic, what acid, what are stomata, nuclei, jokes, which birds are flightless. Learns to play four-handed piano. To play, when it is needed, one-handed piano. Hums. Feeds strays. Says, “All together now, on three.” To be a person may be possible then, after all. Or the question may be considered still at least open — an unused drawer, a pair of waiting workboots.
The Continuing Journey of Self-Discovery
In addition to Hirshfield’s poetry, consider complementing your understanding of personhood with insights from Sylvia Plath and Rebecca Goldstein1. Plath ponders on the pillars of personhood, while Goldstein explores what makes you and your childhood self the same person despite a lifetime of physiological and psychological change. Other works by Jane Hirshfield, including her poems “Optimism,” “The Weighing,” and “For What Binds Us,” and her prose meditation on how poetry transforms us, can also deepen your perspective.
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The post is discussing the concept of being a person and what it means. It explains that being a person involves having a unique understanding of oneself, but this understanding can be distorted by our egos. The complexities of personhood come from our individual self-conception, and this is explored in poetry by Jane Hirshfield. The post also mentions that the journey of self-discovery and understanding personhood is continuous and ongoing.