What I Am

Fri 03/11/16 at 10:27 am

As evidenced by earlier Walking Raven entries, I have long struggled to formulate satisfactory answers to the fundamental questions, “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” Indeed, whenever I stop mid-step because I realize I’ve forgotten what it was I’m intending to do, my automatic response is to ask aloud, I “Who am I, and Why am I here.”

A few years ago I read a book entitled Why God Won’t Go Away by Andrew Newberg, et al. It provided me with an explanation for question number one, “Who am I?” According to the authors, somewhere in the evolutionary process, the human brain developed a highly specialized bundle of neurons which enables us to differentiate between ourselves and the rest of our surroundings. Essentially, these neurons create two orientation areas. The “left orientation area creates the brain’s spatial sense of self while the right side creates the physical space in which that self can exist.” I still remember this idea of separateness led me to stand up, and, without touching anything or being touched, I closed my eyes and tried to feel my physical self apart from the rest of the world. I felt nothing but was keenly aware of my mind floating “out there” at about eye level. That night, as I settled into bed, I experienced the sensation of my physical self as a dark blob also suspended in space. With closed eyes, I also saw, in my mind’s eye, the blob that was me silhouetted against a somewhat less dark background.

According to Why God Won’t Go Away, “there seems to be, within the human head, an inner, personal awareness, a free-standing, observant itself.” I have long imagined I have a “mini-me” who stands like a Captain on the bridge situated in the center of my forehead. From there, she filters the surrounding incoherent din of the universe into understandable thoughts.

Why God Won’t Go Away offers the following explanation for this vision:

 We have come to think of this self, with all its emotions, sensations, and cognitions, as the phenomenon of mind.  Neurology cannot completely explain how such a thing can happen — how a somehow nonmaterial mind can rise from mere biological function; how the flesh and blood machinery of the brain can suddenly become “aware. ” Science and philosophy, in fact, have struggled with this question for centuries, but no definitive answers have been found, and none is clearly on the horizon.

I paused from my reading and tried to locate my mind. I fully expected to find it somewhere in my brain. Instead, I sensed what I now identify as The Mind which acts as an objective force of static energy that interacts with my brain causing my synapses to fire, thereby creating thoughts. The Mind is where everything exists in its cosmic form.

The Mind also has a subjective component, as illustrated by my favorite New Yorker cartoon ever:


I believe each of us is tapped into the Collective Unconscious. Jung coined the term and explained that it consists of structures of the unconscious mind which are shared among beings of the same species. I envision a broader scope of structures where homo homo (sic) sapiens are concerned. I think there’s a cultural element involved that is further shaped by one’s individual experiences. In other words, a combination of nature and nurture works to customize an individual’s unconscious. This customization factor accounts for how we perceive our reality and why certain innate aspects of a culture (or subculture) makes it on some level impossible for an individual to appreciate fully the nuances of a culture different from their own.

For instance, individuals who convert to Catholicism in later life will never quite be Catholic. In a broader sense, much has been made about the differences between Western and Eastern “Thought.” As I was researching  my [at-present suspended] novel, The First Voice, I came across the Japanese term ma. In Japanese, ma, is a word for space that suggests interval. It is best described as a consciousness of place, not in the sense of an enclosed three-dimensional entity, but rather the simultaneous awareness of form and non-form deriving from an intensification of vision. The West has no comparable word or concept.

Perhaps nothing underscores cultural differences better than difficulties often encountered with translation from one language to another. Some time ago, I downloaded a Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon onto my Kindle. This volume has 1344 pages of entries denoting important philosophical, literary, and political terms and concepts that defy easy–or any–translation from one language and culture to another.

In the days following my lung transplant, the meds I received led meto  imagine I had somehow managed to slip through a small opening in the veil separating this plane of existence from my Collective Unconscious. I beheld a seemingly infinite interior subterranean space with a jumble of avatars, totems, and archetypes floating in the darkness. I was unable to detect the light source that illuminated them but it was coming from above.  I reached this place by locating what seemed to be a portal in my brain. I opened the portal and fell into blackness, much, I suspect, like Alice’s descent into the rabbit hole.

Thus far, I think the above speaks more to what I am rather than who I am, hence the title. As Alice can attest, answering the Caterpillar’s question is no mean feat. Even so, in the next entry, I will endeavor to identify certain constants I find worth considering as to my/our whoness.


next post: From I be to I am
previous post: Tink’s Encyclical f/k/a The November Encyclical: First Attempt (Fail)

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