In response to our earlier exchange:
Thanks to your post, I was inspired to watch “The Talented Mr. Ripley” again. I was like him in so many ways, minus the serial killing. I was 20 years old when, like Tom, I realized that I appeared to be missing something other people around me seemed to have and take for granted: a firm belief in their sense of self. Unlike Tom Ripley, I didn’t lock in on one particular person who would embody everything I thought I could/should be (i.e. Dickie Greenleaf). I became your classic seeker. I looked for that missing self in a variety of places. My manhunt involved reading a slew of books about philosophy, religion and psychology as well as joining several groups, including the military. I was almost always loved and prized in these groups. I never had a problem getting people to open their homes and their hearts to me. You’d think that would be enough but it wasn’t because I knew. I knew that what the others loved wasn’t real. But I thought that surely some belief system, some moral philosophy, some religion, some group somewhere held the key that would unlock the vault that held the “real me”. It would take years of searching and struggle before I finally reached the place Tom Ripley did at the end of the movie when he realizes that his quest to be a “fake somebody” as opposed to a “real nobody” would never succeed. And like Tom, I was despondent about that. Then I got over it. My inability to fool myself about my self forever cuts me off from the rest of humanity’s common experience. So what. That doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy my life. Besides, without a rock hard sense of self for the brain to constantly recreate, project and defend, I’d be free to pursue my goals without the emotional baggage other people think of as normal.
And just as I’m coming to grips with all of this, I stumble upon your blog. If I believed in a magical universe, I’d call it destiny.
Enough rambling. Thank you for responding to my email. It was very well put. I think that your comments were spot on. And yes, you should definitely publish this exchange, especially your answer. Imagine if I’d gotten these answers when I was 20…