That Other Self

I went out for a jog yesterday afternoon like I have done so many times in my life.    In fact, it has been decades now.  It is so much part of me, I can’t imagine not doing it.  And yet I know someday for whatever reasons, my running/jogging days will be finished.  I certainly don’t look forward to that, but it is part of being human.  Everyone understands this about life.

So my day was unusual in no way.  But as I loped along, sometimes slowing to walk for a minute or so, I had a dawning awareness of something.  It was not novel, but it captured my attention and, then, I began to pay attention.

I know I am not a runner anymore.  I am either getting too old, have lost sufficient will to push myself, or whatever, but at best I am a jogger.  And I am ok with that.  In fact, as I indicated already about yesterday’s jog, periodically I slow to a walk before resuming the jog.  It was in such an interlude between jog and walk that something dawned on me.

I realized that I had started out to jog with little intention of interrupting the jog with a walk.  But at some point in the jog, something entered my mind that planted the seed, “Walking would not be as difficult!”  It was as if that other self in me had woken up and spoken up.  And before I knew it, I had slowed to a walk.  Why had I begun to do what I had not intended to do?

Who is or was that other self anyway?  I began to realize I differentiate my real self (the “I” or “me”) from that other self.  In my mind that other self is not as real.  But it certainly is real enough that I opted for the suggestion the other self-made that I begin walking.  It as almost as if I had to look around and wonder, “why did I just begin walking…I came out here for a jog!”

If I am honest, I know I have met that other self countless times.  Probably he has been with me most of my life.  But I always seem surprised when he shows up, suggests things, and I wantonly follow his lead.  I find myself doing things I had not intended to do. 

I am sure psychologists have dealt with this in many different ways.  I know about Carl Jung’s idea of the shadow self.  Theologians such as Thomas Merton talk about the false self.  These are explanations…nice terms to explain that other self.  I think I will go with the other self.  Whoever he is, he is internally strong enough that what he wants is what I do.  And I don’t think for a minute he is bad and the real “me” is good.

Actually, I think they both (and maybe more!) are aspects of me.  And I want to heed both.  I want to look at them in the best light.  Perhaps, they are options of my will(s).  They can be useful when I move through routine or, especially, face new things in my life.  I do not assume one is reasonable and the other more emotional and less reasonable.  They are just different.

Let me suggest they represent various desires in me.  In the example of my jog/walk, I am not surprised I went into that with both the desire to jog and desire to walk.  Both are good and both are legit.  I could have wanted to jog and to smoke.  That would have been a good desire and a less good desire! 

As I focus on desire, I think of desire as one step before my will.  What I desire leads to what I will.  It seems I was taught (or somehow learned) that humans just have one will.  I don’t think that anymore.  In many instances I do have a dominant desire that seems like I will just one thing.  But in multiple instances, I realize I have more than one desire.  Sometimes the complement each other; other times, they seem to be competing.

I do not think one desire is essentially spiritual and the other(s) is not.  Instead, these desires represent the complexity of being human.  That other self is usually not far away from the “me” who seems to be in charge.  That’s good, for I think that gives God at least two possibilities to lead me not into temptation and to deliver me from evil!  That I desire singly: to do God’s will.

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