🎧 Bedtime Story Podcast #45
Amnesia Of The Self
A man woke up in the middle of a dirt road. Half of his face had brown dirt covering it, and his hair was a mess. His shirt was ragged, and he had lost a shoe. His vision was all blurry, and he was squinting in the sunlight, struggling to make use of his eyes. He could see a few hazy trees in the distance, beyond the expanse of dry yellow land and grass. He had been in an accident. He had fallen from his buggy, banged his head, and had forgotten everything about himself. He had woken up with absolutely no memory of anything whatsoever. He knew he should have some memories, but he could locate none. He became very afraid. Who was he? How had he got here?
As his vision continued to adjust to his surroundings, he saw a pile of papers on the ground, and a little red booklet resting on the top of them, just a few meters from where he was. He had not noticed, however, that a few meters to the left of this pile of information, was a lion.
The lion walked gently in front of the papers, creating a barrier between them and the man. Then the lion sat down on his hindquarters, and looked at the man in the eyes.
The man did not move. He was well aware that it was a lion now.
“I saw what happened,” said the lion, seeing that the man had no idea.
“You were driving too fast in that thing,” the lion nodded towards the buggy further down the dirt road, which was tipped over on its side, “and you fell out. These papers have all your information on them, your name, address – all of your details.”
The man felt like he was frozen to the warm earth beneath him.
“Oh, and don’t worry,” added the lion, forgetting how things may have appeared to the man “…I’m not particularly hungry.”
“May I have the papers?” asked the man, wishing to get away with his details as quickly as possible.
“Yes, of course,” said the lion, standing up and ready to remove the blockade he had created.
“Oh, thank you,” said the man, relieved, “I don’t even remember who I am!”
At this the lion stopped. He sat back down. This was too good to spoil. A man who had no ideas about himself? No psychological baggage at all? No identity to speak of? Oh, how wonderful…
“Ah, amnesia of the self,” said the lion, feeling refreshed. “Beautiful.”
“What do you mean beautiful?” asked the man impatiently, “I need my identity back! I mean…who am I? I know nothing of my past, not even my own name! Please!” he begged, “The papers!”
“Listen to yourself panicking like this,” the lion chuckled. “This is quite silly.”
“But I have absolutely no identity!” cried out the man, pleading for this lion to give him some information about himself.
“I will give you these papers,” said the lion, “but I want you to look at something. At the moment you know nothing about yourself, but you do not deny your own existence. You are begging me to give you your name and personal history, because without these stories you feel you are nothing, no one – that you don’t exist without your identity. But you are still here. Do not confuse your name, history and occupation with who you are. You exist, no matter what your story, what your name. If you were not so desperate for labels and definitions to create an identity for yourself, you would feel so free, so happy, so at one with this creation. Can you not just be comfortable having no definitions for a moment, and really be aware of what you truly are?
“This is a blessing in disguise,” added the lion.
This man felt he could not argue with the lion anymore, so he followed his orders. Who was he? This was what he was trying to find out through the information on those papers. But the lion was right, at the moment this man had no ideas about himself, yet somehow, his existence was being fully felt. His existence was present, but now it was no longer connected to any ideas. His existence was not limited to any particular form, it was everywhere, making up everything.
The lion was now standing, looking at the man, with dark, deep eyes. As the man looked back at the lion, he felt like whatever was looking out of the lion’s eyes, was not separate from what was looking out of his own.
“Now you can have the papers.” The lion pushed them with its paw towards the man, and they made a scraping noise on the ground. The man crouched down, picked them up, but now was not so eager to give himself a description. He figured these papers would be useful so he could find his house, get his bearings, but he didn’t need them to know who he was just yet. He placed them in his back pocket, and skipped off towards the hut he could now see in the distance, completely free of the ideas about himself he previously had.
Story written and read in English by Adam Oakley, Copyright © Adam Oakley