A Philosophical Question that Can Set You Free

Yasmeen El Gerbi
4 min readFeb 3, 2021
Photo by Marina Reich on Unsplash

I don’t identify as a philosopher nor I read any heavy complicated philosophical literature. Though I find myself traveling to philosophy land quite often. I’ve always been curious about humans, the nature of reality, and the beliefs that structure our lives.

I find people fascinating, but I never quite understand what makes people different, yet similar at the same time.

Our human emotions are universal, yet the way we feel them vary from one another. We may share many beliefs, yet we each have a unique perspective of the world. This is the magic of being human. We can connect with each other on intimate levels, yet be different enough to remain separate beings with separate feelings.

The idea that we are unique individuals despite our shared collective realities inspires me to contemplate this question: Do people determine who they are at an individual level, or is it that a complicated set of circumstances beyond anyone’s control, determines who people are?

I like to observe people, and then observe myself. The contrasts I continue to find between what I think defines “me” and “others” trigger this philosophical question. Although I find it fascinating that we are individually unique, I don’t quite understand how this process unfolds. How did I become me? How did others become who they are?

If we are truly in control of who we become, then we must have consciously chosen to be a specific way. I must have reached a certain age and decided to develop an interest in philosophical questions, but no, that never happened. I never decided to be who I am today. I just naturally grew into my present self.

I never stopped and said, oh, I’d like to be an introvert, and I became one. I never said, oh, I’d like to enjoy writing, and magically did. I never said, oh, I’d like to be interested in intellectual thoughts, so I began exploring them. I gravitated towards all of the above, like magnet.

I can’t quite explain what motivates me to write, or read, or think about philosophical questions. It’s like a subtle intense pull. They make me feel full, as if my soul is a unique puzzle piece that can only be complete when its matched with specific things in the world.

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Yasmeen El Gerbi

I like exploring the complexity underlying our ideas, emotions, stories, norms, and lives.