I am not, ultimately, the computer-mechanism I am using; I am that which is conscious of it. This computer contains information about me, it manifests my creative impulses and extends my perception into distant material realms, so in a sense it is me, but ultimately — pretty obviously — I am not my laptop.
Analogously, but less obviously, I am not, ultimately, the mental-emotional mechanism I normally call ‘my self’ either. This mechanism comprises a) my thinking mind — the screen of imagined language, sound and image I seem to experience ‘in’ my head, and the mind-knowable objects ‘out there’ which the mind creates by focusing, abstracting and relating and b) my emoting mind — the clenchy wanty, likey, don’t wanty, don’t likey sensations I seem to experience in my stomach, chest and neck.
I COMES BEFORE ME
My conscious experience — I — blends into, but, ultimately, precedes this self — me. It is possible to be conscious of thought (to observe the screen of the mind), it is possible to be conscious of emotion (to feel it in the body) and it is possible to be conscious of self-created stuff (to ‘pull back’ from the isolating, naming mind and experience the whole moment).
Possible, but, alas, all too rare. Conscious experience is not, unfortunately, a common experience for many (particularly modern westerners) who are entirely lost in their mental-emotional selves. To we Apollonian moderns the idea that the conscious I precedes the mechanism of me is just that — an idea; an ‘assertion’, abstract, ‘naval-gazing’ (and so on). A mad blindman would say the same of sight.
For the mad self *, reality is exclusively a series of self-made objects that I look at and think about, and a series of emotions, of varying (quantitative) intensity, that all revolve around what I want or don’t want. For modern man the mechanism of me is master of I… a diabolically unpleasant situation we normally call ego.
I AM THAT
For the sanely conscious I reality is a mysterious and vivid contextual whole which, through my senses, I experience feelingly as quality (the quality of this moment, this event, this person I am with…) and then, mentally-emotionally as measurable, graspable, quantitative stuff.
The timeless quality of this conscious experience is not an object — there — which I — here — apprehend. It is me. I am the quality of what is happening — the quality of this afternoon, the quality of the icy water I plunge into, the quality of the lemon-cake I nibble, the quality of you; all this is the flavour of my consciousness. I am that.
THE TOOL OF SPACETIME
The [useful] experience that I am not that is based on the self’s creation of time and space. Self does not experience things as they are, but as the timespace subjects and objects that it makes of them. This does not mean that subjects and objects don’t exist, but that the self-filtered experience of separate things, moments, subjects and objects can never arrive at, or directly express, the truth of what they are, only how they appear to self; as mind-knowable, mind-graspable, mind-relatable data.
The actual things in front of me can only truthfully be ‘known’** consciously. Conscious experience of what is happening precedes the ‘me here / you there’ isolating timespace which the self creates. There is no gap between my conscious experience of quality and the quality itself.
This is why it is so painful to consciously be with people who do not recognise quality, who are entirely themselves (or who ‘take themselves seriously’). To spend time talking with, living with or experiencing the ‘artistic’ creations of a thinking-wanting machine is to literally be that which, ultimately, consciousness is not; a ceaseless river of selfish fact and emotion. It is also why, to turn to a softer-self, to leave the cinema or climb out the office window feels so extraordinarily liberating; because I am that freedom.
And it is also why, to people who are wholly themselves, the reverse is true. For self it is fine to live entirely amongst self-made creations, to only ever speak of self, to gives one’s life to the definable want-not-wantable priorities of self. To let go of self, however, to let go of the qualifications, money-power, sex-power, plans, theories, possessions and prestige that self uses to claw up the pyramid of evil (or to keep the void at bay), to live in nature or in a manner where nothing made by mind can speak to mind, to enter into the flow of a conversation in which meaning is coming from metaphor, tone, implication, irony and space — is utterly unendurable. And this ‘unendurable’ doesn’t goes away.
Until the self breaks. We call this experience ‘heart-break’, but what is actually happening in such broken moments of clarity, is that the self is releasing its grip on ‘I’, and the simple, humble, timeless actuality of my conscious experience is allowed to live, to breath. Then, in that moment, I wordlessly know who I am; and you, wordlessly, love to be with me.
* The word ‘self’ is ambiguous. I have explained what I usually mean by the word, but it can mean all sorts of things — including ‘consciousness’: as in the expression ‘I express myself’, in which ‘I’ means ‘self’ and ‘self’ means ‘consciousness’.
** ‘Know’ is also problematic word in English as it can mean two diametrically opposed things — intellectual knowledge (‘I know the answer to the crossword puzzle’) and pre-intellectual certainty (‘I know I love you’). Here I mean the latter.