The concept of ‘I’
The concept of ‘I’ (part 1)
Who am I? Who are you? When asked to describe yourself, what do you say?
A writer? A hairdresser? A teacher? No… that’s what you do.
An ambitious person with an impulsive nature? Perhaps… but that’s really just how you express yourself.
Who are you really?
“I, a stranger and afraid in a world I never made.” ALFRED HOUSMAN
In the West at least, we aren’t a body. Rather we have a body. It’s “my body”, “my head” “my toes”. This body belongs to me, but it is not me.
So perhaps we are located somewhere in the brain? Sat behind the eyes seeing, feeling, experiencing the world through the vehicle of the body. Trapped inside a clumsy bag of skin and bone that seems to simultaneously allow us to connect with the world and hold us back from it. The little man in our heads acting on the information fed to us by the senses, more or less controlling the body, restricted only by the involuntary actions that it performs itself and the inevitable limit to it’s physical capabilities.
A soul imprisoned inside a body, I look out upon a world that is foreign to me. Foreign because of course what is outside me, is not me.
Although this is a very common Western view of ‘I’, it all too easily lends itself to creating a feeling of ones isolation. A hostility towards what is ‘out there’. If you don’t believe me… let me try to explain.
“then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” GENESIS 2:7
Until recently our culture grasped tightly to the ancient myth that we were ‘made’ in the same way that the mountains were made, and the birds and the bees and the flowers. Made by the Lord God himself. Made in the same way that a carpenter carves a figurine, or a potter forms a clay pot; made from the outside in. Then came the dramatic evolution of science and the rise of the mechanical view of the universe. Many people today, unable to accept that a single omniscient being is responsible for creation, stick firmly to the belief that the Universe is simply the result of a series of coincidences. That it is nothing more than a chaos of irrational forces, energy and particles and it is only by shear fluke that human beings became intelligent, feeling and rational beings.
But I believe both of these views are flawed because they imply the human being as separate from the rest of the world. A single intelligent race in a dumb world. A world that is nothing more than physics, biology and geology. And so, unable to relate to the world, we try to control it. Breaking it down into smaller and smaller pieces in an attempt to discover Gods building blocks so that we can reform it to suit our needs.
It is often said that we ‘came into this world’, but really when you think about it, that’s completely ridiculous; we actually ‘came out of it’. To quote the great Alan Watt’s “in much the same way that a tree ‘apples’; the earth ‘peoples’”. We are, quite logically, symptoms of the state of the universe as a whole; we grew out of the earth in the same way that a flower grows out of the ground. We are at one with the earth, not separate from it.
“You will know them by their fruit. Grapes aren’t gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles, are they?” MATTHEW 7:16
Try to describe the behaviour of any living organism accurately without describing the behaviour of it’s environment and you will realise that it is impossible. How can you explain that a person is walking unless you mention the environment in which they are walking? How could you see an object if it has no background or space around it? If it has no ‘outside’?
You see; this is the key. Every inside has an outside, and every outside has an inside. And you don’t find one without the other. Your behaviour cannot be separated from the behaviour of the world around you. You are something that the whole world is doing.
“The Ego, however, is not who you really are. The ego is your self-image; it is your social mask; it is the role you are playing. Your social mask thrives on approval. It wants control, and it is sustained by power, because it lives in fear.” DEEPAK CHOPRA
But you are too focused on your immediate conscious thoughts and actions to realise. Fixated on your own ego, with your sights fixed on your next goal. Taught by society from an early age that what you have, what you are, is never good enough and you must strive for more. And so we rush through life, full speed ahead, tunnel visioned; our eyes and ears closed to the world around us. We are so terrified of how short our time is on this planet that we feel we must get as many things done as possible. To ‘make our mark’ on this world. And as a result we disregard the environment, destroy landscapes, flatten forests, break apart atoms, pollute our atmosphere with toxic chemicals. Because the world doesn’t matter. What matters is me. My thoughts, my ambitions, my goals.
What people don’t realise is that you and the world are one. Like the bee to the flower. With no flower, there is no bee. Without the bee, there is no flower. And so it is with human beings.
You are not a stranger on this earth; the external world is merely an extension of your own body. You are, quite simply, a beautiful expression of the universe in it’s current state.