Are You The You That You Thought Was The You That You Thought You Were?

dbAnd you may ask yourself what is that beautiful house?

And you may ask yourself where does that highway go?

And you may ask yourself, “Am I right?  Am I wrong?”

And you may tell yourself, “MY GOD! WHAT HAVE I DONE??”

Same as it ever was…same as it ever was. – David Byrne 

Even I must admit to occasionally finding the seeming double-speak and redundancy of many brilliant philosophers tiring to the point that I just want to view it all as nonsense for a while.  So I put my Alan Watts books back on the shelf, neglect to meditate for a while, and watch a lot of mindless television (speaking of which, I highly recommend reruns of iCarly on Nickelodeon for the ultimate in entertaining stupidity; it’s a rather brilliant diversion).

But alas, my mind does not allow such disinterest  in the “big questions” for very long and returns shortly to its vexatious habit of overthinking.  But even this can be fun.  For this post, I’m going to limit my own commentary and pose some questions to the reader to ponder.  Some of these questions don’t necessarily have concrete answers…others may be entirely unanswerable.  That’s the point: I want to make you think about what you really are (or aren’t), with as little interference from Captain Philosophy here as possible.  So here goes:

  • What do you consider to be “you”? Is the thing that you call “I” or “me” your physical body that ends at your skin?  Is it your mind?  If so, what is a “mind”?  Is it your brain?  Is it a combination of your physical and mental characteristics?  And if you believe that it does end at the boundary of your skin, what about the billions of pores your skin contains?  How about respiration?  Are you not “taking in” and therefore integrating into yourself many elements of what you consider the outside world?  Oxygen, food, bacteria, heat, light?  Of course, without those things, you could not live.  So do you consider them a part of what you define as “you”?  Similarly, what about your body’s output?  Breath (CO2), sweat, excrement, speech/sound, etc.  Once you have released these things to the “outside”, are they no longer a part of you?
  • Seriously think about this one: does time exist, or is it just a convenient notion to utilize in navigating our day to day lives? What moment truly exists besides this one, right now?  You may well answer, “the next moment to come” but by the time that comes, it’s still the present moment.  You might also say, “I remember MANY past moments in my life”.  But at the time they occurred, they were the present moment, too, and now they are gone – non-existent.  Your memory of the past doesn’t necessarily prove that there ever WAS a past.  If you are ingeneous enough to construct a working time machine, even this marvel of science could only bring you to one place: the present moment.
  • All the choices you feel you’ve made in life – good, bad or neutral – were they really choices? If you are married, for instance, did you choose your spouse or did he or she simply materialize in the eternal present moment?  Did you really decide, “He/She is who I want to spend the rest of my life with” or even “He/She will do, I suppose.”?  Do you believe in “soulmates”?  If so, stop it.  Such a thing is statistically imposible.  Count yourself lucky if you’re with someone who met your particular criteria of “He/She will do, I suppose.”
  • This one is more a piece of advice than a question. The next time you have an opportunity, watch carefully the behavior, emotions and mannerisms of a baby, a toddler, a dog or a cat.  Untainted by notions of “who they are” and “right and wrong”, they simply live in the moment.  They do not regret the past or fear the future; in fact, they know nothing of such ideas.  They simply groove with whatever the present moment brings.  Learn from them.  Though you may deem them intellectually inferior, they are far wiser than us.

I wrote all of this simply because “Once In A Lifetime” by the Talking Heads was running through my head this morning and I find its lyrics to be amazingly thought-provoking.  Whatever life-changing event you may experience: marriage, divorce, new job, loss of job, new home, new car, birth of a child, death of a loved one, and even your own death, it’s all “Same as it ever was”.  And ever will be.  And always is.

Paul Loughman

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