People, for the most part, live in the objective-immediate mode (discussed earlier). This means that they are totally absorbed in and identified with positive worldly interests and projects, of which there is an unending variety. That is to say, although they differ from one another in their individual natures, the contents of their respective positivities, they are all alike in being positive. Thus, although the fundamental relation between positives is conflict (on account of their individual differences), they apprehend one another as all being in the same boat of positivity and they think of men generally in terms of human solidarity and say 'we'.But the person who lives in the subjective-reflexive mode is absorbed in and identified with, not the positive world, but himself. The world, of course, remains 'there' but he regards it as accidental (Husserl says that he 'puts it in parentheses, between brackets') and this means that he dismisses whatever positive identification he may have as irrelevant. He is no longer 'a politician' or 'a fisherman', but 'a self'. But what we call a 'self', unless it receives positive identification from outside, remains a void, in other words a negative. A 'self', however, is positive in this respect—it seeks identification. So a person who identifies himself with himself finds that his positivity consists in negativity—not the confident 'I am this' or 'I am that' of the positive, but a puzzled, perplexed, or even anguished, 'What am I?'. (This is where we meet the full force of Kierkegaard's 'concern and unrest'.) Eternal repetition of this eternally unanswerable question is the beginning of wisdom (it is the beginning of philosophy); but the temptation to provide oneself with a definite answer is usually too strong and one falls into a wrong view of one kind or another. (It takes a Buddha to show the way out of this impossible situation. For the sotāpanna, who has understood the Buddha's essential Teaching, the question still arises, but he sees that it is unanswerable and is not worried; for the arahat the question no longer arises at all and this is final peace.)This person, then, who has his centre of gravity in himself instead of in the world (a situation that, though usually found as a congenital feature, can be acquired by practice), far from seeing himself with the clear solid objective definition with which other people can be seen, hardly sees himself as anything definite at all: for himself he is, at best, a ?'. It is precisely this lack of assured self-identity that is the secret strength of his position—for him the question-mark is the essential and his positive identity in the world is accidental and whatever happens to him in a positive sense the question-mark still remains, which is all he really cares about. He is distressed, certainly, when his familiar world begins to break up, as it inevitably does, but unlike the positive he is able to fall back on himself and avoid total despair. It is also this feature that worries the positives; for they naturally assume that everybody else is a positive and they are accustomed to grasp others by their positive content and when they happen to meet a negative they find nothing to take hold of.
Nanavira Thera