Yesterday’s post did not feel like my finest hour; I am not keen on admitting to having emotional reactions to washing lines. It made me think, does writing reveal the self, or does it just reveal whatever flotsam and jetsam happens to be floating through the mind, the psyche, at any given moment?
I can obviously only speak for myself. And I think that some ideas, reactions, moods are ephemera; given time they pass on by. You can buy ‘ephemera’ on eBay you know. I put my own on Amazon. If I write about these temporal phenomena, they are released on their way downstream and the process of making them into words allow me to stand on the bank, watching as they disappear. Other things are less easily worked through, becoming trapped in the whirlpools and eddies of my head. Round and round they go as my head becomes the body of water itself. Writing is, I suppose, a way of constructing something to hang onto as I am dragged by the current. A way of being in the whirlpool, without going under.
If there is a true self, then it is a slippery customer. It can be a narrative, a construct: linear, rhizomatic, tragic or comic – depending on your taste. It can be the sum total of your thoughts, or it can sit outside those: you are not your thoughts as various esoteric teachings have it.
That last statement has proved troublesome for me. When I first engaged with that possibility I found it terrifying… I was not my thoughts? But I liked my thoughts. I liked them rather a lot. I put the book down. Life flowed on towards the sea and the notion drifted onto my shores once again.
I am not my thoughts? Well surely that’s a thought in itself? That gives me a semantic problem. Is it what Wittgenstein meant when he said that ‘the limits of my language are the limits of my world.’? On the other hand, it would be nice to separate out some version of self, from the person who tapped out a small-minded post about the neighbour’s washing line. I am not my thoughts, indeed.
How can we know self then if we are to go beyond language, as it seems we must if we are to buy into this logic? What good is turning the thoughts in my head into words through the keyboard, when the words are the limiting things themselves? I can only say this: I think I have had brief glimpses of understanding beyond words and if that is where a version of the self is to be found it may be the real and elusive self that we obfuscate under layers of history, culture and ego. I think that to get to it, it is not thinking that is required, but listening. And not listening with ears either, it is listening with hearts.
I accept this may read crazy to some, those who like logic and reason. I like logic and reason! But my experience is: they can only take you so far. Wittgenstein twigged this in the end, after a life of logic and reason, butting up against the limits of language, saying, ‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.’ So, we may as well return to the silence of the heart? Here’s some empirical evidence for those who aren’t convinced you can listen with it e.g. your heart has its own network of neurotransmitters and around 40,000 neurons…allowing it to sense, feel learn and remember. Perhaps, after all, there is some logic to a form of knowing that does not just involve theory of mind.
As for my excuse for continually tapping away on this contraption, perhaps in order to truly know I am not my thoughts I must firstly think them all, and categorise them in writing, before letting them flow out into an ocean of collective consciousness where they will become indistinguishable from all the rest.
Here’s someone else’s thought. I found it on the wall under a railway bridge last week. It reminded me of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus’s quote
“Everything changes and nothing remains still … and … you cannot step twice into the same stream”
Actually, that sea of thought I mentioned before, well, you’ll find it in ancient Greece. Read Greek philosophy and one might never suffer from the thought delusion again. Not only are you not your thoughts, your thoughts are not yours in the first place…
P.S. If you’ve got to the end of this particular log jam of thoughts and words, well done, it can’t have been easy.