Searching in my big hall closet, I pulled out a notebook I kept when I was about 19 or 20. I was a young monk, barely two or three years into what would turn out to be a twenty year sojourn. Paging through it, I first of all noticed the radical change in my handwriting. Back then it was almost calligraphic. Now it takes an effort of will to keep it legible...mostly, I suspect, from lack of practice due to decades' long attachment to computer keyboards. Writing by hand is slow and my fingers now want to leap ahead with the pen, resulting in a kind of gash with ornaments. My signature, once controlled, legible and careful, has been for many years now a hooked stroke with a dot. One Asian checkout girl at Home Depot said it was the Chinese character for gate!*
I read a few paragraphs in the notebook. And there I was. On the one hand, the life-setting is entirely different and a part of me felt galactically distant from that writer. The Buddhists have a point, I thought; a solid and continuous self is an illusion. Who was he? But there on the page, the ways of thinking, the attitudes, the cast of mind...forty years later, all too recognizable.
Character is real.
*Interestingly, the pronunciation for this character closely matches part of my name.