Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Sunday 23 October 2016



There was no hole in my youth
for "the real me" to crawl out,
only flaws to put pressure on
and finally rip apart.

I sometimes still sleep
in the empty shell at night.

19 August 1989

Getting to know the real you, being in touch with your true self, just be yourself, be the best you you can be—God, I hate expressions like that. If I’m not me who am I? Good question. Identity’s a complex thing. Here’s a new word for you—if it’s not take a gold star and stop looking so smug—eudaimonia. It’s a word that would love to be itself but people keep redefining it. According to one source eudaimonia refers to a state of well-being and full functioning that derives from a sense of living in accordance with one's deeply held values—in other words, from a sense of authenticity. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone described as authentic. Real, yes: he was the realest person I’ve ever met; get real, man. 

Am I, to use Maslow’s expression, a self-actualised individual? What does that even mean? The Wikipedia article on ‘Self-actualisation’ contains the following sentence: “Self-actualisation can be seen as similar to words and concepts such as self-discovery, self-reflection, self-realisation and self-exploration.” Every one of them’s a can of worms. When did I realise who I was? Not in 1989 I can tell you that. Or does it mean realise as in fulfil? Well I wasn’t that either. 

Actually in later years Maslow explored a further dimension of needs, while criticizing his own vision on self-actualisation and added another level to his famous Hierarchy of Needs: self-transcendence. The only expression I can think of to go with that is: this is bigger than you or me. I’m a fixed container 5' 7" tall and a little over 13st. That is the totality of my parts. I am what I eat—one of my mother’s favourite expressions—or at least I’ve become what I’ve eaten. I don’t want to make too much of myself but I’d also like to think that I’m more than the sum of my constituent parts. Something was yet to emerge, something was going to crawl from the wreckage that my life was about to become (well, we’re still a few years off and a good few poems bridge the gap) but I’m not sure if he was any more real than the guy who wrote this poem. He was different though.

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