On a personal scale, we can categorize our identification, or scope, in three categories. In the first category, we have no scope whatsoever. Shortly after our birth as human beings, we were completely depedent upon our mother or someone very much like her. It was all we could do to shrivel our tiny fingers and toes, and blast out our lungs tearfully, our face turning red and not at all very attractive, whenever anything displeased us or our bodies needed nourishment, etc. We didn't think too much about either oneself or the other in this situation. It was just "need" or "displeasure". There probably was - even then - a stirring of the mental habit - discursive thought - but it was, no doubt, a vague babble, nothing we would want to call "me".

In the second stage, we begin to identify with certain aspects of our "reality". We began to experiment with our little fingers and toes, wiggling them around in space. We start to categorize things - what is me and what is mine; and what is something foreign. Then, in association with family members and school children, we began to "find our place." We don't have to think too much about it; we allow others to define who we are. Some children were "cool", some "not so cool," and then, in my school, we had categories like "nigger," "queer," and "nerds". I think modern lingo has expanded these into sub-categories like "dweeb" and "dork" and others I do not understand. And, being social beings, we took such names to indicate our true "self".

After this, we take on occupations and religions, neighborhoods and familial obligations. The content of one's "self" changes like a mix of various fluids, and we fuss and pose in various manners to convey to ourselves and those around us which fluids those are, changing them as conditions warrant. But it doesn't phase us how fluid this self really is. Most of us kind of settle into a mix that seems comfortable, that works for us in our situation at the time. And we may pass through life with some comfort and security this way, never really questioning what or who this self really is. Nonetheless, we are willing to kill and even die for it.

And so the third category of this process at which, by the way, few of us ever arrive, is the questioning and, finally, the very dissolution of self. This is so remote from our usual experience, that we call it religious - something for gods or buddhas or some other being much greater than my own meager mind. And there is some reason for this; because the qualities of such a realization is the very essence of virtue. What are these qualities? Compassion, love, generosity, patience, things like this - which most of us can only approximate in our better moments. These things only become possible once the illusion of self has dissolved to some extent. And this process begins only when we admit that what we think is not necessarily the way things are; and that what we identify with is not necessarily who we are.