Where would you say is your “Self”. The “I” in “I think therefore…”
You can either argue that there IS no “Self”, even though subjectively there certainly feels like there’s some common, continuing basis for your thoughts, and greeds, and plans, and memories… Some sort of connection between past and future that gives you the sense of being “you” as opposed to a constant stream of conscious reactions .
The problem is, where IS it? If you take a meditative, introspective look at your self, all you can see is a continuous stream of conscious..well, NOISE. Thoughts, awarness, sensations, more thoughts, worries… All of these can be linked to individual cognitive processes, can be broken down into pieces… So what is it that gives you a sense of self?? When and how do you feel that you are simply ‘you’, not the emergent product of computation?
For me, I think I closest to my Self in the few moments when I’ve been completely in the present; most often when my mind has flipped into wolf-mode (some sort of mental toolkit perhaps?). Also when I’ve been lying next to someone I love and I can’t quite discern where I stop and they start. But there’s a problem with both of these – the purest version of ‘wolf-me’ HAS no sense of what self means, in the same way that she can’t see beyond present moments. And if I’ve merged slightly with another person, then how can that count as an indivdual, ego-orientated Self?
However, maybe, just maybe those things offer a clue to what self is. Perhaps the whole point of Self is that it’s not constrained by conventional boundries. Perhaps Self is the seed of you that runs through the perpetual sequence of present-moment, whilst still holding together the complex beauty of what is core to your being and mind.
Once again I’m struck by the metaphor of butterflies. (maybe because I was watching them as I wandered round the lake today)
Butterflies are beautiful, fragile things. Watch how they move.. Strange looping darting paths that make no sense and are impossible to predict. This makes them very hard to catch… And if you do then the chances are you might break their delicate wings in your clumsy hands. Watch how they dance their strangely intense, short lived dance when they come into contact with another butterfly. Finally notice how rare it is to catch a glimpse of one that’s still.. Sometimes they seem to stop just long enough to open their wings and give you a peek at the brilliant colours, individual patterns, and perfect symmetry…and then they’re gone.
Butterflies are linked to the soul in various religions, beliefs, and supersitions. Could it be that this sense of Self is the same thing? Would science ever be able to accept the concept of a soul? Hmm…