Defining yourself

A few years ago, I was eating lunch with a friend of mine who is a Zen priest and teacher. A group of us sat around after the meal, which had been eaten in silence in the Zen tradition, discussing essence and definition, while drinking cooled green tea (which is very healthy and refreshing).

My friend challenged us to define the tea pot without calling it a tea pot, and without saying what it did.  There were various attempts to describe its shape and function, all without success. I said nothing, being fascinated by the various solutions.

My friend looked at me and said: “Stephen, how would you define this tea pot?” In a sudden flash of insight, I realised what the answer must be …

… and poured myself another cup of tea.

This was, of course, the answer he was looking for: I defined the tea pot, and its function, without a word.

Now I have a challenge for you: define yourself.

Who are you?

I want you to define yourself without describing how you look, what you do (privately, socially or at work), or your relationships.

It’s an interesting task, much more difficult than defining a tea pot. See how far you can get.

I’ve no idea what the right answer is, either. It’s something each of us must answer for him or herself. If you find an answer, write a comment, so that the rest of us can learn.

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3 Responses to “Defining yourself”

  1. […] Time and Eternity Defining yourself […]

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  3. I can’t think of teapots without thinking of this piece by Bertram Russell
    “If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.”
    ? Bertrand Russell

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