I was thinking about my Self today. Not myself like what I look like or what I was feeling at the time or what I should do when I get rich and famous, but my Self; the philosophical concept, the Ego, the conscious agent we associate with our physical body in the narrative our mind strings together through perception and interpretation of external stimuli.
Most people have a rudimentary understanding of what the Self is, and will engage in whimsical conversations that range from eastern mysticism through western materialism to sheer disinterest, but the conversations tend to peter out fairly quickly. And I don’t blame anyone, the concept of Self is something we are allowed to take for granted, there are no immediately obvious benefits to be gained from scrutinizing it, and you’d be forgiven for thinking someone a fool for rejecting it. I have had some very interesting conversations about the Self in the past, but I most often get a strange look when I pursue the topic with people who aren’t as odd as I am.
I happen to believe that any and every belief I hold can only ever become more refined, stronger, more robust, and more in line with reality, through the process of scrutiny and earnest investigation. I know some people, quite a few in fact, who strongly disagree; they may profess assent, aiming to uphold the outward appearance of reasonableness or simply misunderstanding the nature of their deeply-held beliefs, but when it really comes down to it they’ll shy away from facts and arguments that aren’t already in-line with their current beliefs and retreat to the comfort-zone they’ve crafted deep down at the core of their souls. I’m not here to attack anybody’s beliefs or to push my own, but to talk about the importance of being aware of where the line between Knowledge and Belief lies and to be open to learning new things. The concept of Self falls into the category of deeply-held beliefs, more than anything else that I can think of in fact. All of our beliefs are contingent upon the Self that holds them, a worldview without a locus of agency, of cause and effect, perception and cogitation, would be incoherent. Chairs don’t have, can’t have, beliefs, they aren’t in the category of things that have Selfs.
Some people think that we have a singular Self somewhere inside our mind, whether through divine providence or mundane materials and phenomena, it really doesn’t make much of a difference, the consequence is the same – Agency and Free Will. Other people think the universe is deterministic and that Self and Agency and WIll are nothing more than illusions, fictions that we have no choice but to accept simply because we are experiencing them rather than enacting them, and again, this view can easily comport with either a theistic or non-theistic worldview. Yet others believe that our minds amount to a type of antenna or receiver and that the Self we each experience is but one facet of a multitudinous being, essentially that we are channeling our consciousness from somewhere else in the cosmos rather than producing in house, or in mind.
I don’t know what the Self, my Self, is. I know that I experience it, and that through it I am able to interpret and understand and affect the world around me. I know that I have learned how to step back at times, when I am facing a particularly difficult situation in life I can reduce my own suffering and anguish by dissociating from the problem and how it effects me individually. I know that I have been thinking increasingly more about identity, in this day and age of emphatic identitarianism and radical individualism, and that the Self and the personal identity are inextricably intertwined, and that maybe through a better understanding of the Self we can gain a better understanding of how to cope with differing identities. I know that I love to get lost in thought at that there are few topics better suited to this than the very nature of the Self, the soul, the external world and how it all interacts.
Whether you believe the Self is something immutable gifted to us from on high, something transitive and immaterial, something quantifiable in the physical substrate of the brain, some mix of these things or something else entirely, the thing we know for sure is that we all have a concept of Self and that we all have the dignity and the rights and responsibilities all that entails. Do yourself a favor and go get lost in thought!
The three photos I chose are all representations of my Self. The first two are literal translations, number one being fairly straightforward and the second showing you a little bit more of how I view myself and the world. The third is rather abstract, but it conveys something I couldn’t put into words.
As I said, I’ve been thinking a lot about identity lately, how it influences our beliefs and behaviors, and the larger effect that has on the world around us. I intend to do some more reading, and of course some more thinking, and have something substantive to share with you all soon.
Thanks for stopping in, I really appreciate your time and attention, and I hope you’re all having a great day. Go out and be the best you that you can be!