Of course you don’t know me. I don’t even know myself. Here are some of the reasons why:
Philosopher Thomas Metzinger makes an interesting case in his book The Ego Tunnel that we really have no selves at all, in terms of a fixed immutable self. Instead, we are in the process of constructing our selves every moment of every day.
You could say that none of us know ourselves yet, since we haven’t finished constructing our “self du jour.” And tomorrow, it will be someone else.
Neurologists who treat stroke patients and prolific readers of Oliver Sacks‘ books, will have deeper insights into this concept. So will people who have gone through multiple life-transforming experiences, and retained their memories of the person they were before the transformations.
The phenomena of “color optical illusions” reveals a small part of the amazing fantasy that our brain generates for us every moment of every day — and we believe it is all real! We might even be willing to get into fights over entirely fabricated memories or concepts we have of ourselves. In fact, we probably have done so.
Most of us with knowledge of neuroscience and psychology may be willing to admit that our minds create the image of the world around us on a moment by moment basis. But are we just as willing to admit that we create the image of ourselves over the same time scale? And are we willing to comprehend the implications of our own instantaneous self-creation?
No, you don’t know me. But I can hardly blame you for that. Sometimes it seems to be a matter of “the more you learn, the less you know.”
If we can learn to accept the generative/regenerative nature of ourselves, perhaps we can make that feature of constant change work for us. The brain is changing all the time, and has a tremendous capacity for neuroplastic modification. There is constant jockeying for brain real estate between the various inputs and outputs. “Use it or lose it,” or “cells that fire together wire together.” Every second of every hour of every day.
Things change. We change. Before we even knew who we were, we were becoming something else.
Learn to ride the wave of change, and love it. In ourselves, and in the people we don’t really know, but love anyway.
It is a crazy world out there, no question. Some ways of dealing with it are better than others.
Resilience. Flexibility. Equanimity. And when it comes to dealing with other people, a lot of compassion and humility.
My current favorite version of the song:
Ray Charles is the greatest, but Diana Krall adds a certain je ne sais quoi.