Inside and Outside

the real difference ...


For quite sometime now I have been a bit obsessed with the concepts of inside and outside. I find myself constantly thinking of things as being inside of me or outside of me.

Before you write me off as a hopeless neurotic, let me elaborate.

We all do this, think of certain things as outside of us (and inside), but I take it a step further and apply it to all sorts of stuff, like just about everything else in the universe.

But let's begin with ourselves, since that is what we can best relate to.

As I said, we all have things going on inside ourselves, from thoughts to physical sensations.  By contrast, we are also aware of things that are going on outside of ourselves, like the rest of the whole freaking world.

But it can get a little funky if we take a closer look at it. For example, there is a way in which I am inside your head right now.  You are reading some of my thoughts that I am putting into writing.

You, however, are not currently inside of my head, except perhaps as a vague impression that I may have of you as a visitor to my website. But this would only be my impression, just another thing that is inside of me.

It is possible of course for you to get inside my head (should you wish to) by sending me an email.  While reading your email, you (your thoughts) would at that moment be inside my head.

The same sort of thing happens while reading a book or watching a movie (or listening to music).  When we are involved with a book, we are inside the mind of the author who wrote it.  When we are caught up in a movie,we are inside the minds of several people, like the producer, writer and director.

I have heard it said that, at such times of immersion (in a book or a movie or some music), we are literally hypnotized, that we are in a different state of consciousness, that we are virtually outside of ourselves!  

And the fact that we engage in these activities so much is surely an indication that we do not very much like ourselves.  Our own minds are so drab and boring that we would just as soon leave them (i.e., get outside of them) and explore someone else's.

But I digress.

One of the most fundamental things I would like for you to consider in relation to this whole inside/outside business is your own existence, specifically its beginning.

Start by considering a simple question: How did you get here?

There are only two possible answers to this question.  Either you made yourself or someone (or something) else made you.  

I would refer to the making of yourself (by yourself) as an inside job, which means that the making of yourself by someone else would be an outside job.

It doesn't take the brain of a rocket scientist to see that it is logically impossible for you to make yourself. You would have to exist before you existed in order to be able to make yourself, an obvious logical absurdity.  

We cannot even begin to imagine a universe in which something like this could be possible.  You are, therefore, an outside job, which means that you came from a source that exists outside of you.

But when I say outside of you, I do not refer to something as simple as your parents.  What I am saying of you applies to everyone, so that whatever outside factors caused you also caused me and everyone else.

What couples do in the process of making a child is a behavior that is very much guided (and goaded) by primal forces, urges that are most definitely beyond our control, which is just another way of saying that they are going on outside of us.

Now this (I am well aware) does not sound right, because it most definitely feels as if the urges are going on inside us. A nigh irresistible force acting deep inside of us drives us to procreate. 

The proper way to express what I am getting at is with the use of the word volition. The primal urges are acting outside of our volition, or will, outside of our ability to stop them, outside of our control.

There are indeed many things going on within us (inside) that we have very little control over. The stuff is going on inside, to be sure, but somehow (because it is beyond our control) it feels as if it is outside.

Think about thinking.  We can feel the thinking going on inside our heads.  We can experience it even when we sleep, in the form of that very special thinking that we call dreaming.

But thinking is also something that is happening outside of our volition.  The only way that we could stop ourselves from thinking would be to destroy ourselves.  We would have to commit suicide to stop our thinking process.

As I said at the very beginning, I am fascinated by all this inside/outside stuff that is happening all around us (and within us).

One of the things that fascinates me most is the idea that the stuff that we so easily call ours (because it is going on inside us) may not be ours at all.

How could it?  How could my thinking be mine? I am not making it happen, and short of suicide I can't stop it from happening.  I repeat the question: how is it mine?

This of course applies to the primal urges as well.  I have personally experienced the fundamental urge to reproduce.  But although I experienced it firsthand, I cannot honestly say that the urge was mine.  

It is something that happened to me in the same way that my thinking (and dreaming) happens to me. I did not make the reproductive urge appear.  (I did not cause it.) I do not make my thinking continue. Both took place inside of me, but they somehow feel at the same time as if they are outside of me.

They happened (and continue to happen) inside of my physical manifestation (body and brain), but outside of my volition.  What could this mean?

Is it possible that my will is not mine, in the same way that my thinking isn't?

Can you see where I'm going with this? It appears that nothing is mine. I did not make any of the stuff that feels like me (or is somehow connected to me). 

The logic is perfectly sound (if not irrefutable).  I could not possibly have made myself, which means that (with the force of the same irresistible logic) I also did not make that which seems to be so inextricably connected to myself, like my thinking and my will (not to mention my desires).

So, is anything mine? I honestly cannot think of a thing (not a single thing) that is mine. 

In fact, the more I think on this, the stronger it feels as if there is no such thing as me. The more deeply I consider it, the closer I come to the unassailable reality that there is no me.  There is only an IT.

IT is doing the thinking, the creating.  Everything. The feeling of I or me is an illusion, a pure illusion, one caused by the dynamic of language.  "I" (or "me") is after all only a word.

Yes, it's true.  The single letter, I, is just a word, a sound.  We have been conditioned, with the help of a very complex system of words (a language), to believe that it is something more, much more.  But it isn't.  It is only a word.

But where is this word?  Is it inside or outside?  I say that it is unequivocally inside the commerce of human language. The word I is something that we did make.  How?  Because we pre-existed the word and were therefore in a position to create it.

(We are not born with an I, but we are most definitely born with primal urges and dreams and thoughts. We have to be told that there is an I. But does anyone have to tell us to be hungry or to eliminate waste from our body?)

The word I does not make us.  We make it! It exists only on the inside—of our heads. It has no existence in the greater universe. It is not a natural phenomenon outside of us in the way that the universe is.

The I idea is inside of us, along with our urges, desires and thoughts. But it does not quite have the same power over our will.  Why?  Because the I idea is not primal. It is social, purely social. It is created by the dynamic of society.

Thoughts, desires and urges are all primally driven, but socially controlled.  The I is a purely social contrivance and as such is more carefully guarded and nurtured by that same society.

Because society is responsible for the creation of our I, it is understandably more interested in it than it is in our thoughts, urges and desires (and will).  Society, in other words, cares about nurturing its own creation (the I), but only about controlling the primal urges that it had nothing to do with.

December 15, 2009




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