This is a maxim that is so simple that at first it’s deceiving. And trite. How many times has an advertising campaign suggested that you ‘be yourself’ by purchasing their shirt/deodorant/car/beer/etc? And yet, even the ‘alternative’ people can seem fairly homogenous. You want to be unique? Well you’d better be an anarchist-liberal, with tattoos, piercings, practice polyamory (because monogamy is so repressive) and read (and genuinely like) Bukowski.
So just what does it mean to Be Yourself?
I think this is the work of a lifetime. It involves knowing what you have learned and perceiving what you have heard* (there’s that listening thing again). We have to listen to our hearts -yes, another trite saying- but our hearts get confused with our wants: junk food, extensive naps which cover up issues to be dealt with, more of this or that.
What do our souls need? Finding that out can involve a lot of navel gazing and meditating. The answers don’t have to be things like ‘I need to quit my job and move to Nepal for the next 10 years’ – although, it might, in which case, go you. But it might be as simple as: I need more good food in my life, I need to sing with others regularly, I need to get outside every day, I need do less and rest more, I need to prioritize meditation again and sharpen my ability to hear. All examples from my own life. All ways to figure out who this Self of Me really is and to get comfortable in my own skin.Do the maxims build on one another? I don’t know as I haven’t read ahead! But the last three seem to. We stand in what we know, we learn to perceive what we have heard, and we figure out how to be ourselves.
*I skipped the previous maxim: ‘perceive what you have heard,’ which seems to me to be much like ‘know what you have learned.’ It implies that we reflect on what we have heard, aiming for understanding, not just merely hearing.