I’ll begin this article the way my mother forbade me from ever giving a talk—with a definition.

Koan: a paradoxical anecdote or riddle, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and to provoke enlightenment.

The question, “who am I?” is a koan. It forces me to define myself, and the further I trace my definitions, the bigger my concept of I becomes.

The entity known as Me, is a program of the brain, which evolved to fulfill the various functions of this present form. This program is called the ego.

The ego is the veil that stands between the persona known as Me and who I really am. This sleight-of-hand trick by the brain creates artificial boundaries between My Body and Not My Body, but the barrier drawn between Me and Not Me is an illusion, because who I really am is all of it.

You cannot pull my threads out without unweaving the entire tapestry. And for that I say, I am Me, but I am also not Me. My true name cannot be named. I simply am that I am.

Me is a mathematical point with no size or thickness. Me is an approximate location in the great nest of being, an intersection of countless creative vectors that wind through the air Me breathes, the plants Me eats, the water that cycles through Me, the sun that lights my vision, the darkness that gives birth to that light, the vital bacteria that lives in and on Me, and the DNA Me inherited from untold generations of human, animal, plant, and fungal life.
All these lives have made my life a collection of stories, both true and untrue, pretending to be a single cohesive narrative. Many of my stories are told in American English (the depth of whose influences I can’t begin to plumb), though their mythical origins predate both english and the small mouth noises of primates. 
Me is a flow of proteins carbohydrates, lipids, and nucleic acids that gather for only a short moment before moving on to assemble in other forms.
Me is a sculpture. I am both the clay and the one who sculpts it.
Me is the molecules and atoms flung here from the stars. I was not conceived in a bedroom but in a big bang at the beginning of time, and even before then.
The more we break apart what it means to be Me, the more the concept of Me completely crumbles. The very search for Me as an isolated figure is impossible because there is no Me outside the environment that is making Me, therefore everything around and in me becomes an integral part of what it means to be Me.
So if Me can’t be understood without what is Not Me, then we see that both are two sides of one thing—a being that is both Me and Not Me. I am “Not Me” experiencing being Me, and Me is the experience of I not being Not Me. There is no end to what Me is not and what I am.
And for that I say,  I am Me, and I am also not Me. My true name cannot be named. I simply am that I am.

Tanner Gilliland is a writer, artist, and jazz hands enthusiast based in Salt Lake City, UT. Check out his art on Instagram: @tanner_gilliland, his jokes on Twitter: @tgilliland789, and his poverty on Venmo: Tanner-Gilliland

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