Thursday, May 10, 2007

Cogito, Ergo Sum?

A sinus infection offers a perfect perch for ruminations about the existence of a permanent self, because the infection seems to have taken over most of the brainpan where the permanent self is supposed to reside, and it has also made the permanent self act as if it has early-onset Altzheimers. I have a strong urge to write lists today, beginning with such things as the arm with the scar belongs to the right side of the body and continuing with reminders about a particular door swinging INWARDS, dammit.

But none of this is about the "self", of course. It is about the many little machines that empower the self, and in particular about the thinking and monitoring part of the mind. The emotional part of the mind seems to be asleep right now, as it usually is when I am sick, only to wake up disgruntled and very depressed during convalescence, leading to a few days of "vanity, all is vanity" kind of thinking and a much greater empathy with long-term depressives.

What is quite clear to me, though, is that none of these changes are ultimately affecting that part of my mind that feels to me like the "self". The part that somehow observes everything else, the part that can decide that "we" are a little down today, and can also decide that this, too, will pass. And as well as I can remember, that observing part has been pretty unchanging all through my life.

Perhaps that is not the "self" that buddhism discusses, say. But it is the part of me that feels like "home", or at least the part of me that appears somewhat able to climb out of any turmoil caused by high emotions or an outside emergency and even illness. Yet at the same time it is an integral part of the whole body-mind meld and not something that I can imagine floating alone somewhere above the clouds.