Who Am I?

Never in my life, was I, Maki Toshiro, pained to madness and disease by a question as simple as ‘Who am I?’ The question – or wrestling with that question – almost killed me a few times, and each time I survived, I begged for death and asked, ‘Why don’t you let me go?’ There was no answer, though I knew this experience was trying to teach me something.

In search of healing my body, I cluelessly studied certain areas of medicine, both traditional and modern; experimenting with many herbs and all kinds of regimens might have helped at times, but the damage was far greater; my sisters and close friends were often worried that one of those experiments would eventually kill me. It was all an attempt to escape sickness and pain that I myself may have created.

One day in a family party while everyone was enjoying my two year-old nephew’s dance, I was lost in thought as I tried to smile at that sight, and then something occurred to me that I hold dear: ‘Oh,’ was the thought, ‘it is easy to dance without pain, but to dance in pain is an art. This pain is trying to teach me to dance.’ But I failed to learn...

I was alone, rejected by all gods and demons, even by the ones that were my companions; in darkness I tried to speak to them, but there was only silence; I tried to connect, but there was no sign of their presence. In the mountains I searched, I asked, yet again I received no response, nor did the cold rivers of melting snow invite me to bathe in them, and when I tried, I only shivered – I was abandoned by my dearest friends.

Mountains speak, but you must be silent if you wish to hear. Several years ago in a trip to the Zagros mountains I was lucky to encounter silence, and thus were the words of the mountain: come... I have many wonders to show you, for I never end, yet you do. That message filled me with awe, joy, and never-ending tears that exhausted my friends. When we were back home I grew a moustache, because I felt that was suggested by Zagros, or one could say that I was influenced by men of that region all of whom had very serious moustache, but I believe they have encountered silence as I did.

This year I was offered another trip to Zagros which I accepted with the hope that I could receive guidance in silence, and such was the feeling this time: I have lived a thousand lives, and I shall live a thousand lives more. Surprisingly, I was not sick during the trip, but rather I felt lively and immortal. Sickness came back as I was back home; uneasy that I was, I tried to replicate the lifestyle during that trip: walking every day around the mountainous area of my home was one significant similarity that could be copied. But, who was I? ‘I am a programmer, I am a philosopher ...’ and such shallow descriptions or titles never satisfied me, yet pained me; the question, or the path, is one of losing and not gaining.

Here I shall reveal notes that were a result of walking, breathing, or attempting to walk with closed eyes in pavements and on roadsides.

28 Jul
Loneliness, pain, or death, neither of them frightens me, for I am lonely, in pain, and already dead; I fear nothing, for I am all that is frightening. I am a god without powers; I can never die, for I was never born. In absolute helplessness I cannot be harmed, for I do not exist.

30 Jul
... Nor can I harm.

11 Aug
Authenticity or deception, which one will grant me my desires? which one will feed my body and which one the soul? or I must ask, which one shall I feed and nurture? Both will soon return to whence they came; luckily, the body is not eternal, and the earth can cleanse all its impurities, but the soul is doomed by man’s desires, yet it is unclear who desires: the body or the soul? and if the desires are bodily, why is the soul the bearer of the consequences?

13 Aug
It is all a test, it is all part of a plan – a divine plan – that I am locked in a cage, armless, legless, blind, deaf and mute. And as I try to escape, the bars tighten my space, I cannot move, but I must cleanse all that is left of me or once was me – all that does not exist. Up in the clouds or at the bottom of the ocean I cleanse away this nothingness into nothing.

17 Sept
Several days ago I had an intense spasm and pain in my stomach due to – perhaps – a failed experiment; as a result, I was distressed enough that I had to spend the entire morning from 4 a.m. on a hospital bed. To this day, I do not know what that incident could teach me except the notion that any attempt to escape pain is useless; pain is simply inevitable.

14 Oct
Perhaps I wish to cultivate love as my culture, as a medicine, and as a reason. Love as a reason... Is there anything more divine as a reason? Without having a design for gains, love is the purest of all reasons.

And I wish to paint with the use of words, for no reason but love. To paint is to discard the pain, and the difference between pain and paint is a single ‘t.’

13 Dec
Why now – after all these painful years – must I learn about love and that I had selected abusive friends rather than kind ones? Is it not late to learn to love myself and all being? Is it not late to love? No! It is never late, and the pain was part of the lesson, and healing is one of the many gifts of passing the tests – the divine tests.

16 Dec
Who am I? I am a helpless boy and a loving father, I am a little girl and a loving mother; I am everything and nothing... I am noise and silence. I am matter, and I am the void.

Today, as my I-ness becomes that of water, I can sense the power within me that can give it any form or shape, and therefore, I am love and compassion, I am health, I am music, and I am the joyous dance of my little nephew.

Although this insight (or kenshō in Zen Buddhism) may not last, I am the tears and the laughter that a moment of egolessness offers.