1 A week, a month, or a year from now, I will most likely be laughing, perhaps simply amused, at this exact piece of work, a familiar and recurrent experience everyone can relate to. I call it ‘the summary effect’, an experience that looks upon the silliest of our past deeds, and proves over and over again that we are not what we think we are. The summary effect, a feeling that emerges continuously, is contrary to the individual’s beliefs that we know who we are, no matter how long the way we have come or how mature one has become. ‘If I had asked myself what I wanted, I would have claimed a faster horse.’ In the same way as the people in Ford’s quote, anterior versions of my own self most likely wouldn’t have made the right choices, or would have inhibited a desire or need for the sake of a better future simply because I didn’t realise my full possibilities. To grow into someone else, perhaps even something else, is humanity’s greatest gift, our ability to change at will, through work and existential intelligence.
We are not our minds. The consciousness is merely a mechanism to recognize the self, and not to reach its core, or soul, its highest form. Therefore, whether it is necessary or not, it is almost impossible to know what we are, as the brain is the only tool to study the brain itself. If the brain, an engine that works in mysterious ways and still confuses the scientific community, is the actual true generator of thought, then the consciousness, on the other hand, is the only thing close enough to identify that true self. Hence, the study of the ‘true core’ is one that is, and has always been, constant, no matter how developed one may have become, as it is quite elusive.
A true self that we seldom get to grab is experienced for brief seconds when the opportunity arises. It could take a lifetime or simply pure coincidence to corner it, only to have it swiftly and unwillingly yield it the instant after that “I have reached it”, a spontaneous thought. Acknowledging that veritable self is then the exact quick moment when consciousness slips away, an almost impossible task. The entity that we are talking about can actually be felt internally, a core that cannot be denied. Mind focused, ego silenced, and wants forgotten all lead to that becoming apparent before the eyes. No wonder far-eastern culture has depicted it as a deep and almost windy concept, it can indeed be oddly felt right under the chest, somehow fluid. A soul, Foucault says, is “a prison for the body”, in a way where the body and its soul are one, and where corporal punishment may traumatize a soul so much that it eventually imprisons its bodily extension. To witness the soul as it is truly, not as we presume it to be, is unimaginably rewarding. All in all, the most transcendent state one could eventually reach is that lucid state of recognition of that allegedly animating energy, to feel it in an omnipresent perspective rather than just to know or believe in its existence. To associate it with the end eventually is actually fair, as nobody knows what phase comes after physical death.
No matter how grand the personal achievements we attain, materialistic success doesn’t even scratch the surface in the metaphysical terms of becoming someone else. The flow state, also known as ‘the zone’, is a state of extreme focus where one eventually forgets one’s own self, and is the closest achievement to a meaningful ascendance, an everything that you were not at the beginning, a state of mind where the ‘I’ is forgotten. The ‘not to be’ concept, as the ancient samurai code of the Bushido introduced it, considers thinking as a series of layers, a tricky distraction that lures the individual into a vicious cycle, drifting away from a pure mind, until the point where consciousness starts wondering how to dump consciousness itself, make it come ashore far from a tumultuous sea of thoughts. I think, therefore I am not is thus a far more appropriate quote, as the consciousness of the self always returns to the reflection of the self.
The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning. Human shedding is a remarkable thing, but shedding is part of a natural course of things to become what we aim to be has a bit more to it. The will and work mentioned earlier are by far only precursor causes, not means, to achieve progress, a manifestation of our wishes to our integral entity, thereby, a trigger to the course of things. That is why the smallest details that are often marginalized, and will remain so, do make all the huge difference. May it be lack of sleep or dehydration, drug use or sunlight deprivation… these « futile » parameters that make the brain unable to process anything in-depth, a bland attitude that defeats the purpose of having a brain in the first place, reducing us to merely empirical consumers, fake selves. The pursuit of progress, of the truth, should thereby take into consideration and provide all optimal circumstances.
Then what? Then you let yourself take care of itself without you getting involved with yourself, as we do not understand as nearly as we think we do. What seemed like or was in fact wisdom yesterday may not be so tomorrow, to remain hooked onto the tip of the iceberg regardless of subject matter, breaks the stream and wreaks creativity. On the other hand, the harder the dedication, the higher the standards and the risks taken, the further from the beginning you would find yourself at, or at least someone else (you have become) would… Dive in, to emerge, dive in to re-emerge limitless, to rise as someone else in the end and beyond.
1 Jellyfish have no brains, but still managed to survive for about 600 million years. They do hunt and defend themselves, however, so to assume that not a single bit of self-recognition subsists would be a bold conclusion.