The Road Not Taken: Finding America in the Poem Everyone Loves and Almost Everyone Gets Wrong by David Orr:
The difficulty is that if the self is something we make (like a business), it’s hard to see how it can also be something we can find (like a chest of doubloons). The metaphors are in considerable tension, if not contradictory. Do we take the less traveled road because doing so will reveal the glitter of the True Self? Or do we take that road because doing so somehow creates the True Self? What is interesting is that people seem generally happy to ignore this tension, shifting frictionlessly from one model of selfhood to the other, sometimes within the same sentence. If Wayne Dyer tells us that we are the sum of our choices, he is also perfectly willing to say that “letting the ego-illusion become your identity can prevent you from knowing your true self.” So we are the sum of our choices, but there is also some “true self” that remains hidden. By the same token, while one hates to pick on Eleanor Roosevelt, I should point out that when I quoted her earlier saying “we learn who we really are,” I could have added that she immediately followed that remark with “and then live with that decision.” So we find our essence by . . . deciding what it is? She also asserts that “we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die.” Can I “really” be something that I am also choosing? And if so, who (or what) is this “I” person?