Monday, January 23, 2017

Self Again, One Chip at a Time

23 January 2017
I'm teaching again Advice and Dissent, a course about philosophers, poets, critics, and others with discourse-laden efforts who have meant to indulge the prospects of a meaningful human life and, at the same time, have refused to submit to dogmas, institutions, or other forms of stifling censorship. What constitutes "good" advice, not in the moral sense of "good" (but sometimes in the moral sense), and why must we capture the essential contrarian's strategy?  We are as much clothed by the sky of consciousness as we are clothed in consciousness.  We are made and we make ourselves.  There's no need to formulate God from that paradox.  It is just as plausible and far more likely that our making was as accidental as our efforts to make ourselves are deliberate.
We must accept and resist the facts because we must at once rely upon them and continue to revise them. We must work within, comply, and cooperate within a world that is made of little else than crisis, conflict, and degrees of criticality appearing in fields of relationships. But we're not by human nature or cultural disposition critical thinkers anymore than we are necessary beings. We seek approval and survival more than we risk censorship or worse. So we censor our ideas and feelings for complex reasons: to comply with coercians, to disengage for polite, congenial purposes, because we are not wholly confident (often literally "with fidelity.")  The paradoxes of our human nature, like our problems, are not things we will fix or resolve entirely.  To embrace the paradox is to remain in the humanizing narrative.
It seems as much the case that we humans _want_ to pour it out, what that "it" is for each of us, somehow, in some fashion, be that in words or actions, in form or movement, even for those who find Self expression elusive, repressed, or under evolved. We long for Self expression, which is in fact the Self for which we long. Self wants to have its day and in the darkness too it exists as yet more information that contributes to the on-going human crisis of merely living.
Appa was steeped in the Vedic worldview encapsulated by the phrase "dehi me, dadami te," which means "_give_ to me, I am giving to you." It is life defined as exchange, network and barter, correspondence, discord and dissent and outright conflicts of interest, interdependence, cooperation, and rearrangement. It is what we have always called "the conversation." This conversation is not merely what we attempt to humanize our relationships with each other, it is life's business, the very definition of a world created, sustained, dissolved and recreated from the processes of repetition, recursion, and accidental change. From within that "field" (ksetra is the key Sanskrit term, of course) emerges Self, the pivot upon which human experience must define itself in order to function within the great information body that makes up the field and of which it is a part. We are, as Purushasukta reminds us (RV 10.90) only the information of a body that is self-animated, that somehow self-fragments in order to reconstitute itself as innumerable other selves, again and again, little by little, for no reason other than that this process goes on (or has for as long as we reckon time). This metaphor suffices to explain both macrocosm and microcosm, and of course there are others we might deem as helpful to understanding our urge, our _human_ urge to be selves of expression. Whether we long for the freedom to express depends as much on our we have been invented as it does on our capacities of self-invention. 
We're not simply free to be "who we want" and what we want depends as much on the complexity of things outside our somatic individuality as it does on our most heartfelt feelings and inner voicing. While we are not necessary beings, we are sufficient to Self as the experience of the worlds we inhabit. Not all of those worlds come to mind or are accessible from within the somatic limitations we possess but that too is a matter still very much under interrogation. The conversation of what we are is really no different than the one about who we are.
Appa always resisted the notion of a single, realer than other real Self. Instead he saw a complex entity creating systems of identity that accumulated, accrued, dissolved, and remade multiple features of Self. Self comes to mind was a phrase he used (in some fashion) long before Demasio's famous treatment (which I think we would both commend as serious and important). We live not behind masks but in them. Every Self is an alternative but not to the facts of Self. Those facts gather and disperse, become part of a collective that holds the psyche not apart from the somatic reality but integrated into a greater, not wholly fathomable experience. It is not as Jung I think mistakenly formulated that the fields of psyche and ego are distinct--- Jung clearly borrowing from the Upanishads here. But rather it is that egos and all the rest of us that is buried beneath ego access (i.e., access = waking, dreaming, meditation) exist in the same somatic field, apart from which we are simply non-conscious. To put it another way, individual consciousness need not exist apart from the living somatic experience in order for certain of the facts of our individual consciousness to exist before or persist after death. Our messaging DNA will take care of that as a material fact and the rest, which is but speculation, need not detain us.
So how many Self alternatives can one possess? Certainly we can have false alternative selves, just like we currently have alternative facts that are misleading, deliberate disinformation. But we also live in multiples of identity that make Self a sammelana, a co-mingling of layers and depths of feeling, non-feeling (i.e., feelings we can't feel) awareness, and non-awareness (matters we which our attention does not or cannot attend ). The Self is, to use a more modern vocabulary, a complex information event composed of multiple forms of information and events. The "information" is all somatic ----for if consciousness is not made of matter (=energy) than it is a mere claim, a chimera of the very material energies of which it is composed. The events too are somatic but exist not merely within us or apart from us but as co-mingled features of a world that exists _when_ we exist to experience it.