A Conversation

Several days ago I saw this ad for a year-long on-line writing course, which advertised “A year of self-discovery.” Yeah? Self discovery, eh? Ha! I got your “self-discovery” right here, pal! Actually, I was tempted, for maybe a nano second, to sign up for it. Then it occurred to me, why? Why would I take that course when it could be so much easier (and fun!) to simply write my own course?

Okay, but am I qualified to offer a course of study for anything? Oh, absolutely, people do it every day. As long as it’s not a requirement, as long as people can ignore it, laugh at it, not take it. And for me, a short course in self-discovery through writing is right down my alley, as it’s what I spend the bulk of my time doing these days. While practice seldom, if ever, makes perfect, still a lot of practice in a single discipline can give one a unique perspective on that discipline, and occasionally a leg up, as it were.

And so it is here. I’ve written several conversations with myself over the years, usually in the attempt to try to figure out who the f… I really am. Having finally come to understand the yin and yang of myself, I have moved into the realm of writing self conversations for fun, amusement, and in this next case, a view into how one person (me) views himself, in the hope that the reader might invent a little question and answer game for herself. It’s fun, really, and I’ve found it can be accidentally enlightening. I had a great time doing this one, and actually learned a few things along the way. Part of the magic (if there is any) of this exercise is asking oneself questions that no one ever asked them.

Here’s what you do: first imagine some network news nerd is asking the questions. Then think of any question you wish someone at a cocktail party would ask you, a question that you would love to answer and have a great answer for. Once that wheel gets rolling, the questions become easier, and sometimes harder to answer. Keep your answers honest, and your true self slowly begins to emerge. See? A short class in “self-discovery!”

I broke my answers for this one into two parts, my ego and my inner Buddha, as I continually find myself answering questions in one way or the other, depending upon my mood. This particular conversation dodges the mood thing and gets right to the heart of it all. Hope you enjoy, try it yourself!


Question: “Let’s start with a few simple questions. Who’s your favorite jazz pianist?”

Steve’s ego: “Probably Kenny Barron.” (Bet you never heard of him, right?)

Steve”s Inner Buddha: “Steve Hulse”

Question: “Steve Hulse! Why?? You’re no Kenny Barron, for god’s sake…”

Steve’s ego: “Oh, I know! My Inner Buddha is crazy. I’d much rather be a dozen great players other than myself.”

Steve”s Inner Buddha:: “Being a somewhat mediocre performer, still I offer a unique perception of jazz music that no other player can, or wants to duplicate. ‘Unique’ comes in many sizes and shapes. And, there is value in that. Effort is always rewarded.”

Question: “Who would you most like to look like?”

Steve’s ego: “Sean Connery.”

Steve”s Inner Buddha: “Steve Hulse.”

Question: “Again, why?”

Steve’s ego: “Actually, I remember wanting to look like Clint Eastwood when he played Rowdy Yates on the old TV show, “Rawhide.”

Steve”s Inner Buddha: “When we wish to be someone else, it indicates we are unhappy with ourselves to one degree or another, and to accept the challenge of fixing that is an honorable endeavor, and always rewarded. It leads to happiness and personal satisfaction.”

Question: “What was your greatest accomplishment?”

Steve’s ego: “That had to be playing those Henry Mancini concerts. Quite honestly, I like to talk about it to anyone who’ll listen.”

Steve”s Inner Buddha: “My CD, The Natural Sounds Of Georgia. It was the only music that would put a grandmother’s grandkids to sleep in Australia. She emailed me and thanked me. That was huge!”

Question: “You sound like a minimalist of some sort… are you?”

Steve’s ego: “God no, quite the contrary. I’m very proud of who I am, what I’ve become. Minimalist?! When I was younger I loved to have tons of stuff, and sometimes held on to it for unreasonable amounts of time, usually for some misplaced sentimental reason. I have, however, begun to learn how to let many of my sentimental things go.”

My Montana Garage in 2011

A few of my toys back then. Sold them all when I left Montana

Steve”s Inner Buddha: “Not at all. It’s just that I feel that gross volume, or bragging about something, goes against my understanding of humility and simplicity. And as Americans, our culture has taught us to value possessions. I struggle with it constantly. What I do strive for is simplicity, as it brings peace and happiness.”

Question: “Your answers are suggesting you might be harboring a split personality…”

Steve’s ego: “Yeah, it probably seems like that sometimes, but it’s not true. I mean, if you’ve lived an active life, and I have, you have to be somewhat versatile, and I guess sometimes that might translate into a split personality. Life can be that challenging, you know. I’ve had to be a different person from time to time just to survive! But I know myself now and am the same person every day, for whatever that’s worth.”

Steve’s Inner Buddha: “No, not really. I have what is a fairly common problem for many of us… that is, to have to deal with the ability to change, and our natural tendency to hold onto our time-tested belief systems. My desire to change and improve seems to have come fairly late in life, and my feelings on life and who I was were fairly hard-wired. Bad habits and wrong thinking are often hard to break. That conflict of ‘what we think we know’ with new, different information, often manifests itself as a split personality, but it isn’t. It’s usually just the visible sign of a struggle with change on a very basic level.”

Question: “Which of you has the upper hand in all this?”

Steve’s ego: “I do, of course! Right now I’ve just bought a little sports car. Right in your grill, Inner Buddha! Case closed.”

Steve”s Inner Buddha: “It’s a day-to-day tug of war. I’ve been trying for years to cut myself free of wanting and needing worldly possessions. It’s one of the hardest tasks I’ve ever dealt with, right up there with trying to diffuse my ego.”

Question: “Are you satisfied with the way your life turned out?”

Steve’s ego: “Pretty much. I worked hard, made a decent living, for a musician. I would have done some things differently, but I sure like the way it all worked out, and where I ended up.”

Steve’s Inner Buddha: “My life has been a fascinating adventure of successes and failures, just as many people’s lives are. It’s humorous to me, and a little ironic, that the qualities and peculiarities that helped me through life are the same ones that would trip me up, time after time. I have probably ended up in a far better place than I deserve. For that, I’m very grateful.”

Question: “At your age, do you have anything left to contribute to the world?”

Steve’s ego: “No, I don’t think so. I feel fairly fried, burnt out. At this point in time the world, especially the art world, has left me far behind. It’s okay, but sometimes I feel a little sad.”

Steve’s Inner Buddha: “Absolutely! And probably now more than ever. I’ve finally come to understand what is really of value in one’s life, and I’m better prepared than ever to share those values with my loved ones and friends.”

Question: “Do each of you understand how diverse your answers to these questions are, how totally differently you each see life, and yourself?”

Steve’s ego: “Well, I damn sure do! I fight with that little voice all the time. I know who I am and how I got here, and I know it took more than those fluffy little sensitive thoughts to get me where I am today. I’m still a Montana guy in my heart, a guy who wasn’t afraid to try shit, to experiment, to fail.”

Steve’s Inner Buddha: “Sure. On many occasions my instincts, my actions and reactions often bubble up and manifest before I can test them, control them or edit them. That comes from so many years of reacting instinctively, much like a defensive animal. You live that way for 45 years and you have formed very deep habits that are so hard to break. It has taken me years, one day, one word, one thought at a time to learn to control those deep-seated knee jerk thoughts and responses, and  to see things with a clearer view. Just when I think I’m in control, I get surprised by something, and I slip back into the old me, the old ego. It’s hard, as my ego and new self are always right there at hand. The one reacts instinctively, the other has to be constantly accessed with mindfulness. It can be frustrating, but it’s understandable.”

Question: “Will we have an eventual winner?”

Steve’s ego: “Yeah, probably. I feel I’m slowly losing it here. Old age is mellowing me, that’s for sure. My new understanding of the history of mankind and the human condition in general has softened me quite a bit. I have a small but beautiful circle of friends who constantly help me to be the best I can be. But probably my new perception of what is really important is gonna be the kicker. These days I seem to simply want to love and be loved. My selfish self is definitely withering away. And in hindsight, I guess that’s probably okay.”

Steve’s Inner Buddha: “No. No winner, no loser. Just harmony. Both the ego and the higher mind can work together, in me, in all of us. Both bring positive aspects to my daily life. The idea here is to release all negativity, regardless of where it comes from. Now, to be a light, and a rock for others… that is the valuable pursuit, and my ultimate goal… no matter what my “cowboy” says.”

Steve Hulse

Leave a reply, always happy to hear from you

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

© 2011 - 2020 Steve Hulse, All Rights Reserved