Sunday, September 4, 2011


I have been contemplating the meaning of who am I ever since I can remember. What makes me the same person throughout my life, yet different than everyone else? And who cares, is it even important or simply a philosophical exercise in futility?

I have thought about this for many years and believe that many people have false beliefs about our own personal inner self and that of others. 

We have expectations, images of the manner in which we view ourselves and others. There are also a variety of beliefs that we extend onto how others should feel, act, or respond to the different experiences of life.

Some see the always present glass as half full, or half empty. Others seem to get very uncomfortable, even bent out of shape when people express feelings that don't coincide with the "way it should be". 

If one is too optimistic or pessimistic, you are to be either avoided, chastised to change yourself. If someone is too happy or too sad despite the accurate, honest response of their feelings to life situations, it is often viewed by others as something that needs to be somehow fixed, changed to fit a more acceptable self norm.

I believe that when we see for ourselves the truth, ugly, beautiful, or a combination of each, it demands that we honestly reflect that which our beliefs, and self identity have now become, regardless of what others deem "appropriate" for us to be.

Thus, the question of where do we as individuals, in my case Jerry Wolkoff begin, and where do I end in my self identity as me?

I am an insatiable people watcher, always have been, and ironically at the same time, I dislike most people. Being a Social Worker by profession I find it fascinating since I am very good at what I do, yet  I sometimes refer to myself as the anti social, Social Worker.

I suppose that professional paradox for me is part of the strong compassion within my self to help deserving human beings by using the skills that I possess. It comes in large part from the humbleness of my life, the street smarts experienced as part of my personal life and "liking" the client is not required, I help others because I identify with them, thus the anti social Social Worker. It makes me a good Social Worker because it's based on honest, direct, heartfelt feelings and not hidden behind some psych intellectual phony textbook theory.

Now, suppose a person were in a fatal car collision. Your body is fatally injured, your two identical triplet brothers who are in the car with you survive, but both of their brains are destroyed.

Your brain is divided into two equal halves, and into each brother one half of your brain is successfully transplanted. After the surgery, each of the two living brothers believes himself to be you, remembers the memories of your life, experiences you had, and acts like you personality wise.

This scenario is not that impossible. In the field of modern medical neurosurgery There have already been surgical divisions of living brains resulting in two separate streams of consciousness.

So what has now happened? You have physically died, but has your inner self, your soul, the part of you that feels, thinks, experiences, it's still there, albeit in two "other" people, but have you survived? If you have survived, then who are you, what became of "them", are you now one, or both of these people?

I think this creates a conundrum of answers that don't really sort this out with solid clarity. I know what has logically happened in the above situation, yet I am not sure on a human emotional level, who is who.

The self is not all or nothing, it is under normal circumstances in a constant 24/7/365 flux state of changes. In this hypothetical radically extreme circumstance above, the self becomes even more murky than usual.

When in the process of dementia, coma, or death does a human being's self cease to exist? Studies suggest that after death the self can still hear auditory and visual sensations. 

If you are a believer in religion, then perhaps you have gone to heaven or hell. Others believe you become reincarnated, deja vu, or simply rot away. But is there such a thing as a soul, a perpetual memory bank of your life? If so, where does it exist?

All of this brings me back to the beginning. What does moral truth mean to ones self? Do we follow our intuition as to the realities as viewed by us or do we consider into this mix the realities defined for us, and often demanded by society, even by those who we are close to in personal relationships.

I cannot ignore, no matter how hard I try, the terrible suffering of other victims, in particular my older son Steven Nathaniel Wolkoff, my Father, my Sister, yet there is a part of me that wants to be optimistic about the future, to believe that a soul lasts forever.

I think of the undeserved pain, suffering endured by my loved ones and other innocent victims in the world, it will upset and haunt me forever, even though it's in the past, it's over, but it never really ends. Either you understand that or you don't, it just is that way.

The sarcasm, anger, sadness, mistrust, negativity that I express is real for me, it is an extremely honest, accurate and sane response from my inner self. Yet there is also compassion, love, and kindness that tries to uneasily co-exist within who I am. This balance is constantly changing and it is what my self morphs into at any given moment in time.

Has it all been worth it? Silly question as if I had a choice over the way things have evolved, or as some would believe who have never tasted the horrors of life, that I can and should smile, see the glass as half full. But that wouldn't be who I am, it would be my becoming what others think is best for me.

Will the ultimate sum of my happiness, love, positive affect, productivity, healing of so many other lives outweigh the suffering I have seen and feel?

I don't truthfully know the answer to that but there are times I feel yes, the good has outweighed the bad. My self has made a difference in a positive way in spite of everything else.

I will never know the moral, "correct" answer to my question about life, whether the soul continues to exist in some form for eternity. While believers definitely are comforted by their certainty to this, there is that "Jerry Brooklyn" ever present doubt that it's just a scam, a fantasy, too good to be true.

Perhaps I will be judged when I am gone as to my worthiness, or lack of it, and then as others before me, forgotten eventually by the passage of time. I don't even know if it matters in the grand scheme of things.

Despite the fact that life has beaten the crap out of me, I am a survivor. For me, it is very important, yes even essential, that what does matter about my life, any ones life, is that I know for myself I have done the very best, most honest that I am capable of as a legacy to have made life easier, better for others that I love, and by doing that, also for myself.