My name is Alex Simmons, but what does that really mean? Who am “I”? I am a Christian, a husband, the father of four lovely girls, a sociologist, a drummer, a UNLV graduate student, and a UNLV employee. These are roles and statuses, but is that all I am; the sum of roles and statuses? I was not always a UNLV graduate student, and I hopefully will not always be. As this status changes, will I cease to be me? Of course not. That’s silly.
Perhaps I am what you see. I am the physical body. Then again, what would happen if a part of me was removed? Our soldiers go overseas and wage war for us, but they often sacrifice their limbs. Does that mean that they return home and are no longer themselves? They may be damaged, but they are still them.
Perhaps I am not what you see on the outside, but I exist inside the body. The brain is the computer center of the central nervous system. It operates everything ranging to pain sensation to breathing regulation. However, there are times when the brain is physically damaged. Are football players who receive concussions no longer themselves? There are some of us that suffer from chemical imbalances in the brain. When an anti-depressant is prescribed, the patient becomes “the medicated self.” They need drugs to feel whole, but are they whole if they need a substance to make them that way? Moreover, the brain is made up of cells that are shed and leave the body when we sneeze. Does that mean that whenever I have a runny nose “I” leave the body? Absolutely not.
Rather than my roles and statuses or the physical self, I am the metaphysical mind? Closer, but no. Rene Descartes famously said, “Cogito ergo sum” – I think, therefore I am. Our thoughts manifest as ideas and memories and are expressed through creativity. However, cognitive impairments occur all the time. Mental illness takes part of our mind from us. Dementia also impairs cognitive function. If we are no longer able to recall memories, are we still our “self”?
Furthermore, the mind is not physical, but could “you” exist without a body? Photographs are representations of us, but they are not us. We put our souls on paper when we write. Our images and social media posts become “the digital self,” a term that postmodern researches use to describe a digital representation of the “self.” Yet our photographs, manuscripts, and social media posts can be deleted. If they are destroyed, or even hacked, do we also cease to exist? No.
Rather than roles, statuses, the physical or metaphysical representations of me, I believe that I am the triune self. I am comprised of a body, soul, and spirit – like the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Ghost). These three parts are all one, but I am not all in one. If a piece is cut off, I am still me. The digital self is still me. I can change roles and statuses and still be me. Before I was born into a physical body, I had no “self,” but the triune me exists now and forever. The triune self is eternal. My body dies, but soul and spirit live forever. The Bible shows us that we will get a new body in Heaven, thus reuniting the triune self.
Who am I? I am me. All of me, and I always will be.