27 March 2009

Without Title

Imagine yourself a single object, front and back and side and side and top and bottom all joined in one whole, covered and protected by a seamless carapace.  Rotate yourself in your own mind, so that you see what this imaginary self looks like from every angle, from the tender soles of its feet to the tough scalp hardened by exposure to the sun.

In fact, you need not imagine yourself this way, for this is how we all really are, contained in our smooth bolt of skin, our shell as perfect as an egg's, if not so fragile.  But inside...inside is a different story.  Inside we are divided, the outer casing's perfection mocked by the loose discontinuity within.  This division exhibits itself not only in our sloshing viscera and our grinding bones, but also our multiplicitous self, never only one.

In all things we do -- actions we perform and actions we do not perform, each equally a form of doing -- there is The One Who Does and The One Who Watches the One Who Does.  These two may be as separate as strangers who have never met, but they are never as close as twins who cannot quite make themselves one.  The One Who Does simply does:  it is all action, a pure motor self.  The One Who Watches the One Who Does is the precise inverse.  Sometimes The One Who Watches the One Who Does watches and thinks, What are you doing?  That's a terrible idea!; sometimes it thinks, Oh, to be able to do that!; and sometimes it thinks, I will absorb this experience, to recall it later in all its horror or sweetness.  But always, in every case, The One Who Watches only watches:  it does not change the behaviour.  

And yet behaviours do change.  Sometimes they even change as they happen, so that The One Who Does begins an action but does not complete it.  This means that there must be another self, one that might be called The Experienced Self.  The One Who Watches the One Who Does somehow funnels its observations into this one, and it is this one that changes behaviour and alters actions.

More interesting than this Experienced Self, however, is yet another One, this one hardest of all to name.  We might call it The Charioteer, except that it never gives rein, only holds it back.  So perhaps it would be better to call it The One Who Brakes, with the pun intended.  Because The One Who Brakes is the one that keeps The One Who Does From doing.  The One Who Brakes also does not think (although somehow it knows), and thus it might be best to imagine it not as a person inside you but rather as a single hand, gripping the back of your shirt or wrapping itself around your throat, preventing you from performing or speaking.  The One Who Brakes is, I suspect, the wisest of all, but its job is the hardest:  it must exercise main force at all times that it is on duty, most often exercising that force on a self that presses to break free, surging forward against the hand on the bunched shirt or the stopped throat.  The One Who Brakes deserves huge credit, but it gets almost none, because if it does its job well no one but The One Who Does and The One Who Watches the One Who Does is ever aware of its existence.

So this is my conception of the Self, that egg with a thousand yolks, that perfectly joined box with a thousand objects inside, that unopened door with countless murmuring, whispering inhabitants rustling inside the room it shuts up.  Thick with its selves, the carapace moves through the world, like a ship slicing through the ocean.

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