The Vanishing Self 🦋
You're just there, aware that thoughts and emotions are being created around you, while the world unfolds before your senses.
Lose your sense of agency. I said to myself, as I ran around and danced against some endlessly stretched mountain ridges. I wasn't comfortable with the crowd at first, but my friend encouraged me to forget about myself. I've believed in her. My self-awareness began to wane. I felt my body against the wind, the warmth and roughness of the beach sand that I dig my feet in, the ebb and flow of the water before us, the sky ablaze with the fire of the setting sun, casting long shadows on the ground. But I am at this moment detached from myself, as if I'm outside watching this body move and the sunset magically unfold, watching the world evolve and change.
I’ve heard that no-self is a sensual, intuitive feeling that anyone could possess. During one Ayahuasca experience, my friend felt a larger self that blends with the outside world—"I was inside my house, but I could feel me outside. I was me, but I was also the cat mewing and the trees rustling in the wind." In a recent study, researchers interviewed 50 people who reported to have non-dualism experiences and they found similarities in these experiences. They realize that there are nuances within how the sense of self was experienced—At some points the self felt *expanded* and connected to everything, at others the self shattered and *vanished*.
The experience of a vanishing self can be transformed into a realization that the self is delusional, small, and impermanent. In Buddhism, self and ego are considered the source of human desires and suffering, and it is only by unveiling the illusion that one can achieve enlightenment. For David Hume, a Scottish philosopher, self is a bundle of perceptions, a result of our "natural habit of attributing unified existence to any collection of associated parts." Though this is not asking us to completely deny our existences, it reminds us to be mindful of which thought patterns are optimal. If the self is established upon a chain of present-and-past-experiences, it is then reconstructible by re-weighting memories, perceptions, interpretations or changing the way we construct. If the world is made up of continuous waves of realities, then seeing us existing separately from that inevitably put us in one single frame of reality, while in fact the world could be fluid, integrated and constantly influx. Our prosperity and hardship flow continuously, and we’re all in the process.
For Kierkegaard, the present age is characterized by an excess of reflective self-consciousness to the detriment of action and passionate inwardness. In our age, much of the reflective tension comes from our attachment to a falsifiable presence of self-identity. It prevents us from inwardly committing to life as something of genuine significance. We are constantly distracted by the fleeting swirls of thoughts, deeply absorbed in the snapshots of self. It's time to love being for the sake of being.
"You're just there, aware that thoughts and emotions are being created around you, while the world unfolds before your senses." The dance that evening was a beautiful memory, though my experiment of the vanishing self felt more like reviving a will. I danced intuitively regardless, not consciously, and temporarily escaped from the frame I lived in.
Language as Reality 🍀
The world does not speak. Only we do. The world can, once we have programmed ourselves with a language, cause us to hold beliefs. But it cannot propose a language for us to speak, only other human being can do that.
Language is-fundamentally-a cohesive, closed loop where meaning is derived from an interpretation in the greater context of many other words. We normalize and internalize such construct to build a perceivable, functional reality around us - to make sense of the world. Indeed, the human brain is well-equipped to navigate this loop - it has a tri-network consecrated to semantic processing, where default mode network(DMN) integrates various classes of experience-based knowledge, left perisylvian network(PSN) arranges words in digestible way that represents them as functional, meaningful semantic content, while the left frontoparietal network(lFPN) acts on them to retrieve semantic knowledge in a task and time appropriate fashion.
Language does mainly two things: shapes reality in the minds of human beings, and avails itself as a tool for thought. Richard Rorty, a philosopher famous for his work in analytic philosophy, says that language serves as a bridge to mediate the relationship between our statements and reality. In his words, language not only *constitutes* reality, but also changes the way we *think* about reality.
I can see the way he sees.
First, language inextricably alters the way we perceive things, as language in certain cultures favors certain habits of interpreting events, making it impossible for us to perceive reality outside the parameter of language. We often believe that reality is objectively "there", but there's no any sort of truth of fact to this in nature. It's all human creation and interpretation. We are immersed in our current social culture and language system, where words and linguistic contexts shape and affect our understanding and perception of reality. We might think nature is the way it is[and it very may well be], but it is both inaccessible and incomprehensible without language categorizing, defining, and structuring it. Language shapes our beliefs. It dictates what you *do* think, as well as what you *can* think. When historian Lucien Febvre attempted to reconstruct what it would have been like for a person living in France during the 16 century, one of the primary conclusions he arrives at was that a 1500s Frenchman could not possibly have been truly Atheist. Because of how deeply religious thinking pervades everything concerning the way you view the world, you could not have ever arrived at the belief that-simply-there is no god. The culture and time period that you are born into hence dictate the narrow parameters on what you can possibly think.
Second, it's almost impossible to digest and process thoughts without language as a tool. Scientists regard language as a processing modality in parallel to modalities such as form, color, motion, rather than as a system that makes special contributions to semantic representation. Imagine any sensory feelings you've ever had, and you'll realize that you cannot transform feelings into thoughts without words. We *feel*, but we do not *think* until the information in our head are put into the structure of languages. This is precisely what drives the necessity of language - it allows us to communicate and reason. They're designed as a form in which we can comprehend and navigate. Because these structures function so well, we not only use them in the linguistic system, but also widely in art, economics, politics, science, and mathematics, etc. But languages are also flawed, imprecise, narrowed, and delusional. Semiotician Roland Barthes says that the entire world around us is a mythological work that asks to be interpreted, only when we can spot this are we able to recognize all the assumptions we bring to the table and the enormous effects they have on the way we think, behave and structure our view of reality. These mythologies make up our deep-rooted cultures and underlying structure that allow our cultures to function in the first place.
As we articulate words and frame them in linguistic structures, however, what originates from our minds oftentimes changes and differs. Philosopher Martin Heidegger sees language and formal logic as a prison philosophy ought to be freed from. He attempted to use phenomenology to study being(Dasein) at its very foundations, before any abstractions or human inventions like language and logic are layered on, thus narrowing and distorting the way we look at what it is to be. The Lebanese writer Kahlil Gibran writes in his book The Prophet: "in much of your talking, thinking is half murdered. For thought is a bird of space, that in a cage of words may indeed unfold its wings but cannot fly."
Our collections of linguistic words further affect our connection with other human beings. Studies have shown that an average English native speaker knows around 42,000 words, with about 5,000 common words are used repeatedly. In Chinese, there are about 3,000 most commonly occurring characters (which can be combined into more words) which are selected from on a daily basis. Each language usage represents the culture and value underlying it, of which the frequency of using certain words is determinative. Our dictionary largely affects how we interpret other people's behavior and speech, and the extent to which we feel our own behavior and speech are understood. This is why social engineers tend to hack others' minds by replicating and simulating their diction, because we humans naturally appreciate and are drawn to those who share and more specifically diction. Politicians tend to use direct, repetitive, 'truth-telling' languages to make their speeches compelling, trustworthy, and accessible. Being said, the interception of dictions invariably uses almost determines the interception of worlds, of realities.
Insofar as reality consists of language, it is also reshaped as language transforms. Understanding that allows us to understand the way we see things and what we can do about it. I wish to be a great thinker, good communicator, adding bricks and mortar to my cultural base and building a bigger world where more thoughts are ever-welcome.
Have you heard the story of the rose that blooms in the night? Without the Sun's presence, she grew from her own light.
Round as lip, thin as feather
her silhouette rays of light tether
fragile softness' weak in their eyes
scattered thorns are void under force
but she never dreams
the prickly pear
for her ruby is the stain of Sapho
yet fight is not intended
beauty of mind is extended
Growing in Solitude ✨
Through his contamination with others, he falls into situations and commits actions which bring him into disharmony with himself... acts in a way contrary to own nature.
Upon my journey to grow, I picked up personalities and information along the way from other people and took them to heart. I ended up having a bunch of things that I like and dislike about myself, judging with current social standards, and I have a hard time getting rid of them. I might have powered down my personality in order to look well fit-in, professional, or pleasant to be with. While personalities are transient and constantly changing anyways, the change and conformity are almost irreversible.
I stayed in New York alone last summer for self-realization. I went with a soul that carries the past and is constantly contemplating the past. My eyes were never so keen, perceptive and cynical, spotting the bugs and flaws in everything that a living creature can say, but as well losing sparks and turning into a pointless dull. Anthony Storr said in his book *Solitude: A Return to the Self* that "In a culture in which interpersonal relationships are generally considered to provide the answer to every form of distress, it is sometimes difficult to persuade well-meaning helpers that solitude can be as therapeutic as emotional support." My time being alone was a retreat to free me from the need and expectation of other people, and so allows for the inward inflection that is necessary to better learn who I am. I crave challenges and self-improvement, but in a society that so embraces social interaction that being surrounded by others is seen as the only cure for loneliness and mental illness, the effort we spent to seek love and validation never seems so tiring and demanding. If we outsource our ability to stimulate dopamine and endorphins in our body, leaning on others to validate ourselves and feel loved, what a terrible beast is it we're living with inside? We're fearful of being alone, and people see it as narrow-minded and heart-closed, but what if, what if... the majority of our desire, ego, need, insecurity, imperfection are just artificially generated by the outside world, projected by other people with their own flaws, damages, stupidity, and tethered mind?
There're images that I want to paint myself into, paths that I wish to follow, stories that I should've told, but at this moment I'm just sipping the sweet and bitterness in my solitary existence and appreciate this amazing human being as who she is, what she achieved and envision, and what she feels pleasure from. A good friend once said to me, "you are what you are - both the things that you like and dislike about yourself are beautiful and perfect to me." I didn't see how kind I can be to others but I am such a bad friend to myself. Now I take my time to grow in solitude and take external cultures and values only as a reference, building my life into something manifests meanings that I endow. It's tough because we grow up eating and breathing cultures and social constructs that no one can escape from, we're brainwashed and fucked up that we can't scrape those stuff from our mind, and by saying that I do never succeed in it... but hey, it's okay. The more we expose ourselves to inner darkness, keeping it out in the open, the more likely we can realize what it means to be a human, and cherish ourselves wholeheartedly.
So, embrace solitude and praise your wisdom. We're more beautiful and precious than we might think.