Who and Where Am I?

Andrew Chamberlain
March 7, 2024

There has been a conversation in one of the podcasts I follow about what it means to be a person. This is a science fiction podcast, and many of the listeners are looking forward to the day when we humans can ‘upload’ our consciousnesses into space, a new body, or a different universe. But there are also plenty of people, including the moderator of the podcast, who are calling us to pause and reflect.

They recognize that when we ask the question ‘who am I?’ we can easily bypass any notion of physicality, of the body, and make the mistake of thinking that we could equally coexist as a brain in a jar or a mind in a brain. There is wisdom in recognizing that we are physical people, existing in a physical world. We cannot simply upload our consciousness or resleeve (transfer our consciousness into a new body) without missing a crucial aspect of who we are. When God knit us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139 v13-14) he made us to be physical people. Who we are matters, in all dimensions of our existence.

Equally important is the question: Where am I? With the physicality of ourselves comes an inextricable link to the place we are in. I am blessed to be able to work in the beautiful environment of the college grounds here at Ridley Hall. It is no accident that our college, like all the other great colleges founded in our city, has a respect for the importance of the physical context. There are trees, there are gardens, there is a generous swathe of green grass at the heart of our community. I have seen students come to us from places filled with bricks and concrete, and they have found that they are able to breathe again and be restored through the physical context of the college. Places matter, where you are matters.

The Nature of Humanity

It is in the nature of humanity to strive, to want to escape what we are. Sometimes that manifests well, in aspiring to something better for ourselves and others. But when these desires are cut off from God, they turn from the aspirational to the idolatrous, with disastrous consequences. It’s in our nature to want to be our own masters, and that can manifest as a desire to disconnect ourselves from the physical realm that sustains us, and make something of ourselves that we were never meant to be. The temptation is compelling, beguiling, but it leads to ruin.

Embracing God's Guidance

We will always ask ‘who am I?’ and then want to be someone else. We will ask ‘where am I?’ and want to be somewhere else. But to hear the voice of God in the answers to these questions is a beautiful and liberating discipline, He is the one who shows us how to be the people He wants us to be, in the places where we truly belong.

About the Author

Andrew Chamberlain is the Director of Development at Ridley Hall and also the founder of the British Christian Writer’s Conference, a national conference for writers of faith, held each year in September at the college.

Andrew Chamberlain
March 7, 2024

In a thought-provoking science fiction podcast, discussions revolve around the essence of identity and the significance of physical existence. Emphasizing the interconnectedness of our physicality and surroundings, the narrative urges reflection and spiritual guidance to discern our true selves and purpose in the world.

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