Just My Luck – Chapter 8 – Part 1
From childhood, I have been aware that along with my body and all of its physical contents, there is a core “me” embedded somewhere in there too. It’s always been a simple awareness but a complicated concept that raises lots of questions.
Where does this core reside? Is the “me” some physical aspect of my brain? Or is the “me” some ethereal, metaphysical spirit that somehow belongs inside me? How is my central core related to my physical person?
Where does my body end and my “me” begin? It’s hard to define, but I have always known that my body and mind are mine, but not “me.” What is mine belongs to, and is subordinate to, “me.”
Boiling the idea down, I realized that one key job of the “me” is to evaluate situations and various options available and make decisions in the brain. The facility for making decisons is in the brain, but the driver of that facility is “me.” Somehow, the “me” initiates and controls the decision making function and calls the brain’s control center into use to implement the decision as best as possible in the world. That is one way the “me” defines itself (its “self”) to the rest of the world. There is no better evidence of the motivations, morality, desires, maturity, and responsibility of a person than the decisions s/he makes. What one subsequently does shows the core values that define her/him.
But how and where are decisions actually made by us? Is decision-making just the result of low level electricity flowing around in various patterns in the organic wiring and synapses in our nervous systems? Can’t be only that. Where is the force that controls and choreographs that electric synapse ballet in a manner that produces a decision that is consistent with who I am? What force keeps us from simply making random decisions all the time?
It’s still an incomplete idea, but I have embraced the notion that the core “me” is what I call my “self,” which is also my soul. I believe my soul, my core me, makes the crucial decisions in my life. Only my soul/my self is responsible for these decisions and ultimately it is my soul that will either grow or be damaged by the choices it makes.
Selfhood is a special concept, more than the sum of its parts. Self is all the conceptual nouns that inhabit my physical being: my awareness, my thoughts, my emotions, my memories, my misconceptions, my decision-maker, my judgment, my values, my prejudices, my experiences, my passions, my disinterest, my wondering, my mistakes, my pain, my ecstasy, my achievements, my dreams, my nightmares, my fears, my courage, my pride, my ego, my id, my guilt, my tastes, my love, my pleasure, my displeasure, my past, my present, my future, …and somehow more.
My soul is immeasurable, has no weight, no substance and no exact GPS coordinates, but it exists and changes constantly nonetheless. And, if you will excuse the pun, it is ‘self’’contained. The soul is not biological, not tangible, but it controls the purposed actions of my body.
Who I am now is part and parcel of who I once was plus some verbs (gerunds actually): learning, forgiving, supplicating, ignoring, discarding, growing, regressing, loving, loathing, praying, observing, recovering, participating, judging, mistaking, trying, failing, succeeding, knowing, exploring, resisting, forgetting, restoring,…the list goes on, but I think you get the idea.
But the self has another, even more important realm beyond rational decision making as well. The core self, the soul, feels emotions. It’s the soul that releases the endorphins of joy, happiness and love as well as the vitriol of pain, anger and hatred that so heavily influence our actions. We, in a way perhaps validate this idea when we tell one another, and especially our children, to “control yourself.”
In that same vein, the magnetism that binds us to, or repels us from, others is a product of the soul. Love cannot exist in the absence of the soul.
For something that takes up no space, the self, the soul is HUGE.
Mortality and Immortality
One of the more important verbs in “me” is ‘believing,’ especially in this context: I believe that my self, my soul, is immortal.
I believe that my soul, my core being, existed long before I was born and will continue to exist long after I die. I believe the bundles of gerunds and conceptual nouns that comprise my self today include many gathered before this life and some gathered in this life. I have also amended or shed some that no longer fit “me” and there are others to which I aspire but have yet to master. All those remaining when I die I will carry with me into the next journey of my immortal soul.
Death, the end, applies only to the physical body, my temporary habitat from which I experience a life that tests and grows or shrinks my self/soul. The only constant in life is change. The ultimate purpose and result of a life is a changed self -an improved or more heavily damaged soul – at death .
Why do I believe that my soul/self is immortal? I know this is a simplistic answer but, it’s because I cannot believe otherwise. I cannot conceive how and why a self/soul that has no physical composition but drives the bus can transition from being to a state of non-being. My soul wasn’t created at my birth and it will not die at my death. My body was created for my soul, not the other way around.
With apologies to Mr. Shakespeare, “To be, or not to be.”
All I know with certainty is my self, my soul is real. It exists here and now. Beyond that, all is pure speculation and belief. Where my soul goes and what happens to my soul in death, and why, will remain a mystery before the body dies.
The Possibilities are Endless
But what’s the harm in making some wild guesses?
I choose to believe that the soul is not physical and so not subject to the physical death of the body. If one accepts that premise, when the self parts from its bodily partner, it prevails in some other, likely metaphysical, form.
Will my self/soul somehow join with another newly paired set of animal chromosomes to live another life on earth? Maybe. I suppose it might, but it’s more likely, at least mathematically, to inhabit some other life form somewhere other than the earth.
The universe is incomparably big, literally, as is the realm of possibilities. It is all but certain that life forms inhabit other places in the universe. So when a soul is set free in a universe full of life, why re-visit earth? Been there, done that.
If I lift a grain of sand from a beach and toss it into the air, how likely is it to land in the exact place where I’d picked it up? And if the soul needs to grow, would not a different environment offer more opportunities to learn than the one you just left?
Will the next stop on this ride be in a place better or worse or incomperable than this one?
Which way is the wind blowing?
As Monty Python was known to say,
“And now something completely different.”
Metaphysical Mysteries Solved!
WHERE DOES THE SELF GO BETWEEN LIVES?
HOW DOES IT GET THERE?
(to be continued, unfortunately)
©2016 James C. Ash