I’m walking to the store. It’s earlier than it is now, before darkness fell, before the snow began. I can’t think of anything I need, other than the walk itself. It’s the second day in a row I’ve been out in the fresh air, walking, trying to shed the psychic torpor that set in after Christmas.
On reflection, while I walk, I think there isn’t a true self. There’s only the self. A best self, maybe, a worst self, certainly. A happy self, an unhappy self, a complacent self, a satisfied self, a frustrated self, so many possible selves, as many selves as there are moments of choice. But not a true one. Not one you, or I, are meant to be.
And those holes, they aren’t damage in the perfect self; they’re the negative space. They give shape to the self.
The temperature on the thermometer isn’t so cold today, up to 0, but the damp Baltic air cuts right through me. I’ve been ill for some weeks–I think you knew that–not seriously, but still exhausting, and long enough I’ve sunk into sticky inertia. If I can’t think of something I need by the time I get to the shop, I’ll buy the ice cream I wished I’d gotten last night. The only thing I really need is the walk, but I needed the destination, the reason, to make the walk happen.
I am an existentialist, you know. Dyed in the wool. My own moral authority. What color would you paint an existentialist? The lunacy of Goya black, maybe. I still think we’re all of us existentialists, just some of us don’t realize it.
In our desire to set ourselves apart from (above) the rest of creation, we divorce our idea of ‘self’ from our physical being. I wonder how much our cultural indoctrination with the notion of some kind of an ‘immortal soul’ plays into this, even when we consciously reject the idea. We so often fail to differentiate the idea of soul from psyche. And we consider them both independent of the body, in the same way water is independent of the vessel that contains it, a substance to be poured, at will, from one chalice to another. As though a brain in a vat would contain the same self as a brain in a body. As though a brain in a healthy body could contain the same self as a brain in a sick or broken body.
I know the changes in my self that come with the changes in my body. Energy surging and ebbing with the rhythm of the biochemical sea. Moods rising and falling in gravitational thrall to peptides. I feel the weeks of lethargy and inactivity; I’m tired less in my body than in my mind. Tomorrow the forecast says sleet. I have a parcel to pick up from the post.