“Thus, with a kiss, I die.”
The famous last words of Romeo, in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
It’s widely agreed that Shakespeare created the character of Romeo (relying rather heavily on Ovid and Painter).
And many actors have donned a costume, and stepped onto a stage, and delivered that line, as if they were Romeo. They’ve done their best to create the belief in the audience that Romeo stands before them, and Romeo dies.
The play rolls to its conclusion, the curtain comes down. The actor who plays Romeo leaps to his feet, grasps the hands of his fellow actors and runs forward to take his bow. The audience applauds.
We know Romeo died. We saw it play out. Who killed him? Shakespeare? The director? The actor? Romeo himself?
Trouble is, there’s no body. So, maybe rather than asking who killed Romeo, we could ask if Romeo ever was?
What was Romeo other than a temporary costume, some posturing, some actions and some words?
To move beyond the metaphor, what is there of the personal self, beyond a temporary collection of thoughts, feelings, perceptions and sensations?
This is where exploration points us. To the essence of the thinking, feeling, perceiving and sensing. To the essence of all appearances. And away from the belief that these appearances ever required a personal self.
Who killed the personal self? No one. It never was.
(If you are still reflecting on the metaphor: life isn’t Shakespeare. No script, no director. And, actually, no stage, no costume, no audience, no cast. Just one self-aware improv actor, breaking all rules of time and space to play every character simultaneously.)