—the way it looks, or the way it seems ...
By the strictest logic, we may conclude that, if perception is indeed everything,
as it is so widely claimed, then everything is also perception. (If A = B, then
B = A.) If we emphasize the word "everything" in this popular adage,
we are, as if by magic, offered a glimpse into the utter deceptiveness inherent
in the ubiquitous act of perception:
Everything is perception.
If this is true, then the world (and everything in it) may not be at all what it appears to be (what it appears to be is, after all, its perception).
And one of the most illusory perceptions of all is surely the one we have of our own selves. Yes, that which we so easily think of as “us” is also a perception. In the same way that that which we think of someone else is a perception, so is that which we think of our own self.
When we think about our selves, we merely sense the perception of our selves, not our actual selves.
We can never know our true selves. We can only know the perception of them.
The so-called true self is nothing more than an abstraction, fabricated out of nothing but words.
However tautological it may sound, it must nevertheless be stated:
There is a difference between the perception of an object and the object itself.
Here is an object (A), and here is my perception of the object (B).
A does not equal B.
A is A, and is whatever it is; likewise with B.
We may enjoy the amusement of placing B alongside of A, but that is all that we are doing, placing B alongside of A. We are performing or managing juxtaposition. We are not actually touching, (or affecting) A by placing B alongside it.
But .... here is an enigma:
Let us call the universe A.
What we say about the universe is B.
Does the universe somehow sense B?
Is it in any way affected by B?
If the universe is all that there is, then what is said about it (B) is also a universe action, an aspect of A.
What does this mean?
Is B even possible?
Could we really separate the universe from its actions?
And what about us? Are we not actions of the universe?
I do not know me; I only know my perception of me.
I misspeak to say that I know my self. I only know what I think about my self.
What I think about myself (B) is not my self (A).
My self is an object (or is it a subject?) of my thinking, or at least it tries to be such an object (or subject).
This sounds strange, to say the least.
It is not really the self that is trying to be an object of thought.
It is the thought itself that is seeking the self as an object of thought.
It may be an aspect of my self, something that my self is doing.
I think Watts is right; I cannot know my self any more than I can look at my own eyeballs without using a mirror, an object outside my self.
But even if I were to use a mirror to look at my eyeballs, I would not be seeing my actual eyeballs; I would be observing a reflection of them.
Is the perception of your self coming from your self?
Is it possible that the perception of your self is an action going on outside of you, in the same way that your thinking seems to be?
We have no control over our thinking, its process, a certainty that is proven by the fact that we think even while we are sleeping. We are not voluntarily thinking any more than we are voluntarily beating our own hearts. Thinking is happening to us, whether we want it to or not (short of suicide). The perception of our own self, therefore, may not be our perception in the same way that our thinking is not ours.
Why should I worry about the content of my mind? I didn’t make it.
It may feel as if I have the power to place certain ideas in my mind by reading or listening, but what about the impetus that compels me to take the action to indulge in such behavior in the first place?
I think about picking up a book and reading it. Why?
Is the prompt to do so actually mine?
Is the field of thinking that is going on constantly in the background mine? The field of thinking that provides the context for the notion to select a book?
What if the book is by an author I have read before, whose writing I like?
Why did I like the author? What formed the basis of my likes and dislikes, my tastes? Did I form such bases? When? How?
I don't remember putting my gene package together. Do you? We are born with whatever tendencies and tastes and predilections we are born with.
And we are born without choice. Life happens to us (in much the same way that thinking does). We don't go out and shop for it, or go on a hunting excursion in search of life. No, Life finds us.
Life brought us here - and will take us away. We belong to it; it does not belong to us. It puts us together on a mere whim. And just as capriciously (it seems) releases us.
We should constantly remind ourselves that we are not doing much of anything. The universe is in action doing us.
We worry about our health. Why? It is not our health There is no us. There is only the universe. There is only Life. Both are inexorable, beyond our control.
We are all greatly deluded, duped and deceived by our culture and the language that shapes it. It is the society around us that programs us to believe that we are a “who,” that enslaves us with that bugbear it calls “identity.”
Life brought me here without my choosing.
Life will take me away from here without my choosing (unless something really tragic happens that might prompt me to want to leave).
But there is no such thing as me.
There is only the universe acting as me. The universe is pretending to be me, although … it is not really an act of pretending. The action itself is very real. It is a real action, just like the action of a play. It too is very real action. The actors truly are acting. They are not acting as if they are acting. They are truly acting.
In the same way, the universe is acting me. I am a role it is playing. If it likes the role, it may play me again - and again. The role is a real role. It is really happening.
But I am not the who that is playing the role. There is no “I”. At least not the sort I have been programmed to believe in, not the kind that society would have me embrace (and whose sufferings it would have me endure). The “I” is the universe itself. It feels like me because it is concentrated inside my head.
But the very same thing is concentrated inside of your head as well. The same “I” is in you. The “I” that is in me is the same as that which is in you, the very same. We are greatly deceived by our human culture into believing that we have (or are in control of) our own individual “I”.
October 29, 2008