Once Upon A Time: The Fiction Of ‘I’
Are you sitting comfortably because I want to tell you a story. It’s a huge story. It’s a tale that weaves about the earth and the stars; it twines about planets and galaxies. However it is also infinitesimal. Almost imperceptible. This story is like a gleaming strand of silk, holding together the fabric of … well, of everything.
But before I start telling the story I want you to close your eyes. During this moment I want you to experience your body. Feel your heart pumping, how your chest expands when your lungs fill with air, and how the warm and temperate air expels back through your lips. Find the silent hissing sensation of your blood as it races through your veins. Be mindful of how your muscles contract and relax. Sense the placement of your limbs and where you reside within the space you inhabit. Reach into your awareness of bodily sensations. Be physically present.
When you are done read on. I will start with the first part of the story, which is this:
‘Once upon a time there was …me.’
But this is where the fiction starts. It starts with my perception of ‘me’ (or ‘I’ or even ‘you’). ‘I’ am a physical body, a conscious mind (and perhaps a soul, although the soul is tricky). That is usually what we imagine when we think of ‘I’. But you see, a story is something we tell ourselves to explain our reality. To make sense of what we experience. A story is something we use to comprehend our present. Stories are symbolic.
The story I tell myself is that ‘I’ am a physical body with a conscious mind. ‘I’ am a thing. One thing. Or I may tell myself that ‘I’ am a conscious mind that has a physical body. One body.
As a physical body ‘I’ may be male, female, genderless or gender-free. ‘I’ may be anywhere on the spectrum between young and old. My skin has a colour, as does my hair and eyes. ‘I’ have specific physical attributes combined in such a way that they constitute a (living, human) body. But think about it. Am ‘I’ a physical body?
Can I feel the cells that layer upon layer create the complex and infinitely beautiful structure that is me? Am I consciously aware of each process that is occurring as I carry out such a simple task as writing words on a page? Is each neuron fired by my brain perceptible to me? As I carry out this task am I fully aware of the behaviour of my white blood cells or the way my digestive tract is extracting nutrients to keep the body alive and functioning? Am I cognizant of all the strands of DNA, of all the atoms or of the space between every single particle that make up me?
Therefore my body is not just ‘I’. This body is a living, organic entity made up of millions and millions of microscopic organisms all living and working simultaneously (and often without the conscious knowledge of one another). This body is a creature that is seething and teeming with multitudinous life. This body is a host. This body is like Mother Earth. This body is a planet – perhaps an entire cosmos!’ So ‘I’ am, in fact millions of ‘I’s.
So what of my conscious mind, then? Is that what ‘I’ am? Am ‘I’ the thoughts I have and the values I hold? Am ‘I’ what I think? Am ‘I’ what I consciously experience and perceive? Am ‘I’ what I imagine; am ‘I’ what I dream and what I remember? Am ‘I’ the insights gained or the knowledge attained by a thousand ancestors?
If that is the case ‘I’ am not based in a world of physical reality at all. ‘I’ am limitless, timeless and live without boundaries. ‘I’ do not exist merely in the present. ‘I’ am not held to a location or a time. ‘I’ am the potential of anything. ‘I’ am the memory of everything. ‘I’ am what sparked it all. ‘I’ am the beginning and the end (and everything in between). ‘I’ am the past, present and future all happening simultaneously. ‘I’ am divine.
Or am ‘I’ in the end, all of these things?
Am ‘I’ an interaction between all that I am made up of? Am ‘I’ a quantum- mechanical dance? Am ‘I’ a complex interplay of unique energies interacting with one another like an immense fractal orchestra that – when playing together in the exactly right way (either by some inexplicable miracle or by some beautiful design) – create in a single moment one pure strand of vibration that perfectly makes up ME: The energy of a physical and living body (with a thinking and conscious mind)?
If that is the case ‘ME’ is simply a strand of energy resonating with my own unique vibration. And ‘ME’ then interacts and interplays with all other strands of unique energies that are also quantum- mechanical dances (whether that be the quantum- mechanical dance that makes up starlight, another human being or a table!) to become WE: The interaction between all resonating energies in an intricate, exquisite and complex dance – so, like drops of water in an ocean or grains of sand in a desert WE minutely and explicitly affect one another in an eternal cycle of shifting, shimmering movement. WE are an eternal symphony of energy.
Oh, but I almost forgot! I was telling a story and so I will oblige you by finishing it.
Once upon a time there was ….me. And ‘I’ am a unique story that ‘I’ tell myself to explain my reality. ‘I’ am a way for the cosmos that is ME and WE to observe and know itself intimately.
And we lived happily ever after.