We all have to live with ourselves. We will only ever be one self, that is if the self truly exists. My ‘self’ will never be any other collection of memories or cognitive processes and will be some other individuals objective experience. That is, never will I be any of those things separate from the developing brain/mind/body biological machine that I am housed in. But it could be debated whether my self is ever the same or is something different from moment to moment, as I experience outer reality, my brain/body is in constantly shifting states that are never chemically and biologically identical to the ones previous. It is not that I go from one self to another self to another self from second to second. It is more like an ice cube or a candle. When they melt into a differing state are they the same object as they were before? While I do not melt or re-solidify, the analogy can be crudely applied. You could say that I change even more than a candle or ice cube as they do not have a continuous intake of nutrients that is changing the very constitution of my physical properties day to day. Muscles, fats, bones, cells, etc. Even while this occurs, however, it cannot be denied that there is some constant perception of one self. That I am still the same “person” (being a loose and abstract concept) from day to day.
Whether I like this idea or not, some days yes and other days no, the fact is inescapable. I am responsible for this self aware gathering of organic materials and its accompanying actions. I answer for it as it is my power that manages this entities properties. There is endless philosophical debate as to the level of responsibility we truly have. Or are we just subject to whims, moods, and mind states that come like the tides, weather, and the shifting earth. This illustration does not suffice for the intricate nature of conscious beings. A planet is subject to gravity, solar winds, and tectonic processes, but has no thought of these things actually happening. We, as well as other organic lifeforms, have organs which regulate, compute, and subconsciously operate the whole of our body. And while this happens, we have the capacity to stop and recognize the process. The sensations inherent with it. Consciousness is nothing but the interruption of life’s automatic processes, an awareness of this happening in an actual time and place. For many other creatures, the instincts of a regulating body is so automatic that they merely survive and multiply, little else defining their existence. For us there comes the complication of knowing and being aware of the instant that these biological processes are taking place.
Consciousness and the subsequent contemplation of our existence likely develops slowly and therefore does not have a definitive moment where we go “here is me”. A moment of self identification. But, maybe there was a time, when after consciousness developed and at first was such an automatic phenomenon that no thought was given to the act of thinking, that we stopped and realized the power we possessed. Was this when I was an infant, a toddler. When I asked myself what I am and why I was here? When I had the thought of me being something that could choose my actions and behaviors. And paradoxically could choose not to act, that the forward motion of regulating my bodily components and surviving could be interrupted by merely thinking, and furthermore by action or inaction this existence could be ended. Likely, I was too crude a thinking animal to really understand that my life could be ended by me. I was probably only aware of the fascinating fact that I could, as a choice, stick my hands in my mouth, blink my eyes, turn my head, moan and pout, grab a toy.
Early on in our development we are told certain things that alleviate the anxiety of existential angst that inevitably we all end up facing. But we put it off. Families, cultures, and societies raise their children with ideas of purpose and answers to why we do all the things we do. Why we continue surviving. Should we be shielded from such questions in our early years? This would be something interesting to discuss, indeed. Philosophy, self reflection, skepticism, these are things we do not teach before reading, and math. Even in our science classes, we learn more of the physical elements of the universe and their interactions. The scientific method is taught in more depth with time, but only later do we develop a framework of questioning and gaining objective knowledge. Most times our belief system and general ideas about reality have been firmly entrenched in our psyche and then spill over into the various areas of our lives. The big questions creep up at times, the why’s and the how’s, but we often have stock responses and easy explanations that quell any dissonance.
But inevitably we will see our very naked selves, having stripped away the elements of our personality that are merely functions of social interaction and maintaining appearances. Eventually a self is recognized free of words and physical appearances. This being the very core of consciousness, a chemical and electric soup that has achieved a certain constancy that this neurological process recognizes itself as me. We wonder who we are and why we move on, why we care. For some this process is slow, for some it happens all at once. No question it is necessary to reevaluate these questions often following the inception of their paramount importance in our lives. Unfortunately for many these questions are never asked, the layers of false selves and portrayals of their personality never peeled away. Often these types develop into very mentally unstable or very self absorbed shallow individuals. Narcissists, borderline personalities, the low in self esteem, and many other examples. We can feel sorrow, we can feel a measure of sadness for those who deny that naked core of being who is free of accepting any other drive to exist other than its own. As we explore this center, these fundamental parts of who we are, we come to know what our desires truly are. What we value, what our emotions are really telling us, and we cast away the false and irrational thoughts and beliefs that were our reasons for being so long. This is not something discovered like buried artifacts, but rather something that is developed with time.
If someone chooses to be a father, they now do so because they wish to share new life coming into the world with someone they respect as equally as themselves and they wish to help develop a new being into someone who will be afforded the freedom of self that said father never had. If someone chooses to be a writer or teacher, they do so because they feel serenity in the expression and sharing of words and wish to have their words be a source of inspiration, knowledge, and artistic creativity as well as be a catalyst for and component of the common good.
No matter the place we are at in exploring our selves and our motivations, we cannot deny that we are here. The die has been cast, the cards dealt, and I exist in a day and age where the roots and very physical properties of my consciousness may some day be explored. Technology and modern lifestyle contradicts so much of what I seemingly was wired for in the evolutionary sense. No choice was given me in this matter, but I am here, have questioned why, and continue interacting through behavior and thought with the outside world for the time being. I have very little say in how the world operates and how societies direct their course. I am an observer.
And I have to live with myself. Back to the original statement that I can only be this one self. I was given and developed other elements of personality that to a large degree were beyond my control. Nothing can change most of my predispositions, I wrestle with the natural tendency for selfishness, laziness, and distraction. The world has largely made up its mind on what we as humans should be, we unknowingly raise our young to be consumers and workers. Moral conscious weighs on our mind and through guilt, fear, and expectation we half-heartedly and out of obligation pay our taxes, go to college, get the job, pay the bills. After which, very little time is left for leisure. Sure we have yachts, four-wheelers, convertibles, swimming pools. All physical representations of what we hope and assume are our hobbies and the things we enjoy. Are we completely fooled? Are we all on this one-track existence and have set the controls to a steady auto pilot pace through until death? Have we lived with a self that never was given the chance to do the things it desired, or even develop desires, likes, dislikes, and appetites that came of freedom and not coercion? Is this the plight of the average individual? To live the life expected of us while repeating mantra’s that reinforce in us a want to achieve some unknown entities ends and dreams, achieving such for the social validation it provides which soothes and quiets any dissonance, subdues and dissent. I can see nods of approval while I can also hear groans of disagreement and disgust that I could even suggest that most of us have the wool pulled over our eyes.
This self I have been given has many flaws. He is incompatible with many of the norms and expectations surrounding him. He does not like many of the tendencies which road block his path to “success” and “security”. I live with someone I intensely dislike as well as passionately care for. I am my biggest critic, I cringe at my past mistakes while realistically no one else has taken a second thought. No matter how deeply flawed I am or unlikely my hopes seem to be at times, I can never escape into some other consciousness, one more s0und of character, ambition, and motivation. This is the brain/body I have and the only one I will ever have. To take part in frustration, despair, and disappointment over the abilities and drive I seemingly do not possess is fruitless. Ruminating over the missed opportunities is equally unproductive. Though it often seems that this is all I am capable of doing. This mind which never ceases to think. So obsessed with this concept of the self, endlessly preoccupied with authentic living that I am prone to inaction so that I do not act contrary to my core desires.
Herein lies a paradox. Are my wants fundamental to my makeup, or do they develop while interacting with the outside world? To know my authentic self must I first take a leap, make a guess as to what will fulfill me? The blank slate of the mind has been debated, and the concept has seemingly dissolved and reappeared as a much more intricate nature-nurture paradigm. There is no divide between nature and nurture, they are continually intertwined processes, or even the same process all together. It seems to be that my authentic self is not static, that it is not something to be discovered, but rather cultivated and developed. I cannot act contrary to my core wants and desires because there are infinite ways in which they can be satisfied. The self does not have wants it simply wants. We must recognize, however, that this wanting can be hijacked and misused by others. We can be trained to think that our wanting is fulfilled by the achievement of some other individual or entities ends. Often we know nothing else but the approval and validation of a mother and father, and furthermore our peers and society. This becomes a drug and an addiction. Do we turn to a the pill to alleviate our symptoms (the whispers of our wanting) or do we turn our thoughts inward, feel our naked self, and choose to develop our own path and method of satisfying the ever wanting of our self, the vibrations of instinct (what we inherently know and feel lying beneath conscious thought), appetite (what the physical body craves), lust (what the body/mind wants but does not require), hope (what the self sees as attainable) understanding (what the self accepts as realistic) and temperament (how the self chooses to portray itself to the world ). When these vibrations harmoniously hum, they are self sustaining and require little effort to satisfy. The experience of being becomes like the object in continuous motion. There is no force required to continue such motion, and life decisions and course corrections become elements of the object itself rather than exterior influences disruptive of its course. The course having no destination, the course being the object of action in and of itself.
I am eternally the same self, while ever changing in my physical constitution and shifting in my psychological temperament. What remains constant is the object by which all these things are identified. This object is very much abstract, like an emotion, having no other physical properties than that of the body it is housed in. So if one thing were to be the object of self, it would be the human body that I am. However, how can I remain constant if this body changes with time. That is why the self must remain an abstraction. An idea. Corporeal like love. We can say it and contemplate on it, but self cannot be tangible just as love could not be packaged in a box. There is a bioneurological process that creates the sense of self, but that implies that self begins and ends. Indeed it likely does, and self is merely a message being broadcast throughout bone, blood and sinew. And here we find the only adequate, albeit contrary, crude and insufficient analogy. Just as you cannot bottle up a message, you know the message still exists. The matter that makes it up is mere data, entirely useless when the value of its physical components are considered. A song has its audible representation, but Stairway to Heaven is not on display in some walk through museum. It remains an idea, and so similarly does the self.
The sound that is heard and interpreted to be a particular song can be replicated. This sound is a vibration, an excitation of particles which oscillate through matter in various ways. Could the same explanation for the occurrence of sound be comparable to how the idea of self is transmitted through my physical body? If the code that is disseminated through the neurons, synapses, and receptors could be isolated, could it be replicated? When we eventually make synthetic biological components, could my self be retransmitted throughout? Every copy of a song experiences some measure of deterioration. Thus, the replication would not be me. Only a copy. And still yet, the idea, the abstraction that was the original self remains free of time and space in the soup of my thoughts.
I live with myself, I experience reality in a completely subjective matter. One which no one else will ever experience the same as I do. This is the only self I will ever feel so I learn to be content with the sensation. I am wanting, and so I seek out that which will cull this unrest. But I become fulfilled in the process, calming the unrest because I learn to realize this unrest is fundamental to existing. This is the motion of the object. The journey becomes the destination. And any other number of cliche’s which apply.
End philosophical mumbo jumbo. I am an idea!