My spiritual leader, Ajahn Brahm, once gave a speech where he compared people with onions. Just as there are layers in an onion, there are layers within you. You take one layer of, and then you find the next one. We are like onions! Those layers within us have nothing to do with who we really are. The layers contains of culture, gender, religion, physical health, mental health, laws, age, education, prejudices, the possibilities we are given or rejected, social legacy, genes, natural laws, physical laws… I could go on for ever.
If you look carefully you can see that people behave the way they do because they are conditioned to do so. Have you ever had an idea, a thought, a feeling or any kind of reaction that comes from you without ever having had to do with life on earth before? The person who created the wheel based his idea of other ideas that already existed – humanity already knew about the round form and movement. All we think and feel is just another layer within our conditioned onion-mind.
What would happen if you took all those layers of conditioning off? What would you find behind those layers? According to Brahm you would find nothing. All we are is the result of different kind of conditioning. Without conditioning there would be nothing left of us.
What Is a Human Being?
As the explorative author I am I really like Brahm´s theory. It challenges my own ideas of who I am, who the people surrounding me are, and on what grounds I´m creating characters in my stories. It´s a question of identity. Who am I? And in the end – what is a human being? I don´t have any answers, and if I would have any they wouldn´t be mine, would they? They would be an answer created by 36 years of conditioning. Is it true that we create our society, or does the society condition us? How do you start your character-making? Do you begin with your character placing them in an environment developed for them, or do you begin with the environment creating the characters in a way that adapts them to the environment? As I said, I don´t have any answers, but I think that asking these questions is utterly important. Especially for authors who pretend they´re God by creating human characters in the world they own.