The quest for self discovery never ends. In my youth I lacked the courage to leave my world in order to find myself in India, Marakech or on Route 66. Now, in mid-life the thought of such adventure seems too ‘new-age’, too irresponsible and too late. The thought of flying off for adventure is pre-empted by the prospect of deep vein thrombosis in economy class, tedious passport controls, long queues and anal anti-smoking regulations in airports where it takes half an hour to navigate through slow walkers, zombie consumers and just too many people in one place. Less is more. If i’m going to find myself, right here will do. Geography should not alter the state of the soul. I have adopted Picasso’s axiom-‘the world will come to my doorstep.’ So far I’ve only had those spiritual conquistadors, the Jehova’s Witness, but I am an optimist.
I will share a composite representation of the last few weeks.
I sit outside in the morning sun intent on discovering who this “i ” is.
1. I feel the warmth of the sun on my face; but I am not my face.
2. I see light catch the glass table and reflect a prism of colour onto the floor; but I am not my eyes.
3. I hear cars pass, a crow, a dog bark, a teaspoon stir in a cup; but I am not my ears.
4. I smell the aroma of my coffee and the delicate fragrance of Frangipani; but I am not my nose.
5. I taste the bitter-sweet coffee; but I am not my tongue.
My body experiences the world, my brain records the experience, but where am I?
My keyboard reacts to my finger tips which in turn are processed by the hard drive and traces of me appear on the screen. I have a keyboard, a laptop and I call the hard drive ‘mine’; but none of them is me.
Asking who or what is behind the sensory experience of the world only seems to cloud my mind. I dismiss thinking. I do not entertain thoughts. I allow them to pass, the way the driver of a car allows pedestrians to cross at a zebra crossing. I ease into the sensory experience. I feel very much at ease. I have a sense of contentment, of needing nothing more than just this. The moment I ask why I feel at ease, the feeling slips away.
I will call the experience a space and say that I entered the space by transcending words. I will reveal that the feeling of peace and contentment was tangible, in a non-physical way at least? And yet here I sit; grafting words onto something that defies vocabulary. Is this me trying to write myself? I attempt to trace here the process of my experience on my patio, to document the dance between intellect and this elusive shadow. It seems absurd that I am so far from myself? How can it be that, that which is me, is a mystery? I hear Marcel Duchamp applaud in my mind, whatever that is?
We come to the world through biology and words. We extract meaning from experience by placing recollection alongside reason with the hope that afterwards there is some residue of understanding. Hah!
I begin to grasp that iconic philosophical crossroad, the ‘linguistic turn’ where the manner of searching diverged. On the one hand those who reasoned that language and it’s rules of grammar are innate, and on the other those who maintained that language is random and derives meaning only when words are placed in a context with other words. Words …
Perhaps trying to find the “I”, the “self” is like trying to understand electricity by contemplating a light bulb?
No, it’s like trying to bottle mist!
Mist often hangs low above the earth. It is attracted to earthy things.
How to bottle mist
1. Select a misty day.
2. Remove stones from jar.
3. Keep jar open, ensuring that the lid is close at hand.
4. Hold jar high above head and walk rapidly through mist.
5. Quickly insert stones which will encourage the mist to remain in the jar.
6. Seal with lid of jar.
7. Now you are able to enjoy your jar of mist, even on sunny days.
8. In sunshine you may notice condensation in the bottle, this is evidence that you have mist in your jar.