Is the Tail Wagging the Dog??

I would like to propose the question
"Might there be a fundamental misunderstanding
of the nature of individuality?"

We somehow make the tacit assumption
that there exists a central individuality to us
that doesn't change

and that our feeling states,
accompanied by vision, hearing, smell, and taste
come from outside ourselves,
like the humours of the night
or caused by "tangible circumstance"
or from inside ourselves
as unbidden moods
held in secret
happening to that central individuality.

The "central individuality" is just the belief that there is a central individuality
added to all those other sensations.

Actually, all there are are those sensations, labelled, "me".

In reality, we have no way of ascertaining whence our memories of experience come,
since the emergence of memories trails events
unknown until they become recognizable -- only after the fact
-- by spontaneously comparing them to memories.

Continuity of self
is continuity of memory.
Change of memory
is change of self.
(Whatever doesn't change is persistent memory.)

HOWEVER, that doesn't address the question,
"Whence cometh those memories?"

For, from there,
also cometh individuality.

Do memories come "from the outside, in" to us?
Do they emerge unbidden from within ourselves as imaginings
or both, with imaginings coloring memories that come from outside?

And how can we be sure which is which?

Ay, there's the rub.

Perhaps our individuality
is all-pervading
all connected with everything else,
but because of the optical illusion of seeing, itself,
taken as our primary information source about reality
we take ourselves to be contained within the skin surface.
We take things to be separate and distinct.
Outer vision does that.

And so we profess that "my location,"
is where I am seen,
and is the perspective from which I see,
according to the location of "I" in the world.

But the sense of individuality is more than
the sense of seeing or being seen.

It is the agglomeration of memories
that we label as "I", myself.

Those memories may come from inside ourselves
(as surfacing imaginings and dreams)
or from outside ourselves
(as impinging circumstances, which happen before we know them for what they seem to be)
or both at the same time.

Without that answer,
we can't know the source of individuality
-- and in fact, to the degree that the memory-of-self
comes from outside
we have no individuality.

And yet,
we act as if we exist as individuals in control
(or out of control).

"Dog wagging the tail"
is "Our lives are controlled by something bigger than ourselves."
"Tail wagging the dog"
is "I am in control of my life,"
both very popular perspectives.

If we really pay attention,
we can't really tell if the dog is wagging the tail
or the tail is wagging the dog
whether our individuality is true, unitary, and independent,
or the changeable result of forces greater than ourselves
summarized as our memory of the belief in ourselves
and our impulses to "be something".



1 comment:

Michael Paone said...

Reminds me of Buddhist philosophy. I recently started a mantra practice in my meditation which goes:

I have pain. I am not my pain. I am I.
I have a thought. I am not my thought. I am I.
I have fears. I am not my fears. I am I.
I have nervousness about my finances. I am not my nervousness about my finances. I am I.

And so on. A very powerful practice to cultivate the inner-witness.

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