We are verbs. It is no coincidence that this is my first post. In fact, it’s quite fitting. After all, I have been talking (mainly to myself as any crazed person often does) about building this site for… well, years. During that time I have been, on some on level, fancying myself as some type of deep thinker, pursuing purpose, and pondering life’s greatest mysteries.
It’s not that I was actually doing anything like that, it’s just that I planned on doing it – some day. I had done it once, quite deeply over an extended period of time, so that period – now decades ago – gave me the grounding from which I could justify, on a subconscious level if nothing else, thinking of myself as a genuine pursuer of life and meaning.
The Fallacy of Thoughts Defining Us
I have been guilty of the same thing many others are – defining myself by my thoughts. More accurately, defining myself by selective thoughts, the thoughts that my ego is happy identifying with.
Somehow, some way, without actual, deliberate, rational thinking on the matter, I associated myself with the thoughts drifting through my mind. I thought about thinking on philosophy, sociology, and astronomy. So, if I think about being a deep thinker, I must consequently be a deep thinker. Right?
Thinking about thinking on deep matters does not make one a deep thinker. It is the easy way to self-identifying as someone that my ego is comfortable being. The idea that I am actually not a deep thinker, because I spend so little time actually doing it, was immediately disregarded before it reached conscious thought. I fell victim to the fallacy of thinking my thoughts define me.
Quotes from Stephen Fry and Oscar Wilde
If I only talk about chasing sanity, finding meaning in a mad world, I am not actually doing it. That in itself is an obvious statement, consistent with the “talk is cheap” notion whereby it is easy to say something, quite another to actually do it. How many people are guilty of this same thing?
This realization is not a new idea. It is not an original idea. Oscare Wilde once said…
If you want to be a grocer, or a general, or a politician, or a judge, you will invariably become it; that is your punishment. If you never know what you want to be, if you live what some might call the dynamic life — but what I will call the artistic life — if each day you are unsure of who you are and what you know you will never become anything, and that is your reward.– Oscar Wilde
Wilde’s quote is not directly on subject, but it is runs the same vein. “We are verbs” is about living life. More importantly, Wilde’s quote is the basis for actor Stephen Fry’s quote…
Oscar Wilde said that if you know what you want to be, then you inevitably become it – that is your punishment, but if you never know, then you can be anything. There is a truth to that. We are not nouns, we are verbs. I am not a thing – an actor, a writer – I am a person who does things – I write, I act – and I never know what I am going to do next. I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun.– Stephen Fry
It’s Fry’s last line that is the most important takeaway. I have imprisoned myself by thinking of myself as a noun.
Hiking as an Example
Another area I have been guilty of this, for illustrative purposes, is with hiking. Hiking brings me joy. It slows me down. I become immersed in nature. I relax. I reflect. I feel more… whole.
I went through a period in my life, before kids and adulthood, where I hiked extensively. It shaped who I am today. I think often about hiking to this day and, even though I only hike a few times a year, I still fancy myself a hiker (noun). But, does hiking (verb) a few times a year constitute being a hiker? I would say no.
Yet there I am, in my head, thinking about going hiking at some point, because if I didn’t think about hiking, I’d have to stop thinking of myself as a hiker. My ego, accustomed to years of identifying as a hiker, would not accept the idea that if I’m not hiking regularly, I’m not really a hiker. A hiker (noun) hikes (verb). I am what I do, not what I associated as.
The Ego is the Enemy
It’s the ego here that is trapping me (and anyone else guilty of this). It’s the ego that is, as Fry said, imprisoning me into thinking I am a noun. I have spent years curating an image of myself that may or may not be based in real action. The ego is looking for the path of least resistance to maintain its self-identified status. Thinking is easier than doing.
If I talk about hiking I am not a hiker. I am a talker. If I actually hike, THAT is when I become a hiker. The difference is in the action, the verb.
Chasing Sanity as the Impetus of Change
It is my hope that ChasingSanity.com will help lead me out of the world of nouns and into the world of verbs. It is my hope that it will help me to slowly re-train and control my ego, so that – when I am on my deathbed – I am not in the position of thinking, “I wish I had…”
Of course, reading is a verb, so it is also my hope that if you are reading this, Chasing Sanity could help lead you toward action as well.