Who hasn’t wondered at some time or other?
Tessa and I were the only ones on the trail this morning.
She’s good company and follows me wherever I go.
I understand that.
But I am not so sure about the “I” that has followed me all my life.
So-o-o-o-o, Who Do They Say I Am?
When we were children we wondered what we would be when we grew up.
The odd thing is that when we grew up we still thought we were the “I” we were when we were children.
In ordinary conversation the idea that I am the same I which I was when I was a child just slides by unnoticed.
None of us thinks a bit more about it.
But — there is a paradox here.
Everything about me has changed. That child-sized body has now been replaced by a man-sized five-foot-eight one with larger hands and big feet.
There is a lot more blood flowing through the veins.
The brain is loaded with new and more ideas, words, imaginings.
So what is it that has remained the same “I” who I thought I was as a child and I now call I as an adult?
A physicist, Frank Tipler, in his book The Physics of Immortality, says it is the software package called “I” that was uploaded into the embryo when it was conceived.
He says it’s encrypted into the genes and DNA, hard-wired into that fleshy, mushy itty bitty fetus that would eventually create this blue-eyed, grey-bearded fellow they now call Bill.
Interesting way of putting it.
And — I wonder if this software program Bill calls “I” might be downloaded when his bodily machine is discarded and the “I” software will be uploaded into a new bodily machine?
Tipler isn’t a pastor preaching immortality of the soul.
He is just a physicist re-juggling the concepts with Internet nomenclature. That doesn’t change the reality. Just the names of the parts.
A Nobel Physicist’s Take
Quantum physicist, Werner Heisenberg, spoke of these same phenomena with a different set of names. He liked Plato’s terms — Ideals or Forms.
I too, like Plato’s way of explaining his Ideals by using a simple pattern of a circle. There are ways of trying to explain what a circle is.
Name — we name the concept “circle.” But that’s in English. It is cerchio in Italian; kreis in German; circulo in Portuguese; and mzunguko in Swahili. But, the essence of circle is still the same, regardless of the name.
Definition — we can define it as in a dictionary, “a closed plane curve consisting of all points at a given distance from a point within it called the center.” But neither does that give the essence of circle.
Drawing — We can draw a circle. The drawing can be erased and circle remains. Circle is the same now as it was 2500 years ago when Plato wrote about it.
Idea — I have an idea in my head about circle, just as you have. But my idea dies with this body, as does yours. But circle is still circle and will be circle for generations to come.
Ideal or Form — The essence of circle is beyond ideas in anyone’s mind. It remains constant at all times and in all places, regardless of the names given it, definition, drawing or idea of it.
Likewise, whatever I am, I seem to be a far more complicated software package than a circle. But could that “I” that I’ve been talking about have a similar eternal nature as circle?
I’ve just been all talk so far. Only words on paper or your computer, laptop, i-pad or phone screen.
There is a more practical way of grasping who the “I am” is that has been in the body of the child, the Navy swabby I once was, the college student, husband, father, author, editor and old geezer called Bill.
I learned a saying in the first week of a class I took at the School of Practical Philosophy twenty-eight years ago.
The tutor told us, “You are not the body. It is an instrument for your use.”
That stuck with me. I’ve brought it to mind time and time again over the years. And it has this practical use, working marvels when I’m not feeling particularly good about things.
I say to myself, “I’m not this body — with all these feelings and thoughts going on it it right now. It’s an instrument for my use.”
That gives me a choice. I can stay with those unpleasant feelings and thoughts. Or, as another friend once told me, I can simply observe the body and its feelings – and yes, even its stinking thinking — allowing them all to be what they are.
That gives me freedom from them.
Oddly enough, as I stand back and observe them, they continue on their way, dissolving into the mists of time, while “I” remain with the peace and contentment that are always there for the asking.
What an idea!
What a practice!
So, who is this “I” that is able to stand back and observe Bill’s dark thoughts and feelings?