Monday, July 18, 2005

Is There A Self?

Dear Internet Diary,

Francois and I were discussing the concept of the "Mind," and how many people are uncomfortable with the idea that it is not seperate from the brain. It made me think of how people speak of the soul, and especially how new agers speak of an "inner self" or a hidden potential.

I finally decided that there is no such thing as an objective Self: what I think of as "me," or the personality of me is a subjective perspective of "Who I Am." There are many other perspectives about me through the eyes of others. But since I have accepted the notion that an "inner me" or a special hidden potential, a soul, or an Alleee Life force doesn't exist, how then could I think there is such a thing as a solid, irreducible Alleee Self?

Sure, there's me. The flesh person, the genes, the dna. But when folks talk about the Self, or the personality, often they are talking about something else; that thing that people hope is "more than the sum of its parts."


We know, for instance, that there is no such thing as perfection. We know that idealism is nonsense as well. Idealism being this idea that the essence of material things lives in some other supernatural world, that essence being "more real" than the material. Well, people who believe in the soul sometimes talk about it this way: According to the bible, heaven is a place that does not accept imperfection or sin. That's why when you die, you leave your flesh and your body behind, and what goes to heaven is a soul that is somehow cleansed of sin by the blood of Jesus. Your soul, therefore, is an idealized you, stripped of everything bad that the world soils you with. Every bad decision, every bad act, every bad thought, all pain, and so on. This inner you that has no flesh.

But then, how could that be you? Isn't you, your personality, your identity, tied into your birth, all of your experiences that colour your perspective, and all of your thoughts?

Well, no, not totally. Some people explain it better by talking about "the place you are in in your life." A person doesn't drag everything that ever happened to them into everything they think and everything they do. Not all memories are fresh and apparent to the world. Not all thoughts are expressed at all times. We are also capable of learning that the facts of the world sometimes contradict our experiences. We are capable of learning from the mistakes of others, and we are capable of logical thought. We are not slaves of our culture. We are capable of dissent. Our selves are not the same selves as they were at 6, or 14, or 40.

Ever hear the Christian cliche, "Be patient: God isn't finished with me yet." When is God finished? Does that mean we have not reached our hidden potential until we reach the moment of death? Does it mean that we are not actualized selves until "God calls us home?" Shouldn't a child be considered a whole person?

This is what bothers me about Christian as well as "spiritual" idealism. It's too tantalizing for the Shy Person, like I used to be. When you're a Shy Person, and especially when you're young , you have this idea that there is, somewhere inside of you, the person you should be. The person you are is a shadow, an embryo, a shell. "What do you want to be when you grow up?" they ask kids. There is a picture of a person inside the minds of kids--the person that they are supposed to become. Who ever becomes that person? Why isn't a child the person they are "supposed" to be? Why isn't their world "the real world?"

Who you are right now is who you really are--right now. There is nothing sure about you except that you will not be the same next year. But that person doesn't exist, so why worry about it? There's nothing wrong with improving your skills, and trying to be what you think of as "better." It's just not a good idea to think that your only hope of being "the person you want to be" is in death. The Self exists only as an idea: not a ghost, not a little man in a theatre, and not a cloud in the world of ideals. It is your perspective on, well, your perspectives. Right now.

Maybe I should be a guru.

Thanks for listening, diary.


Aaron Kinney said...

Hey Alleee,

I think your template is messed up. I cannot see anything in the righthand sidebar :(

Hellbound Alleee said...

Did you try reloading? Blogger is weird sometimes.

Hellbound Alleee said...
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