The Undoing of Self
Monday, June 16, 2014
Understanding the Self, Undoing the Self
A Chinese fan. When folded it represents a single space. When opened it branches aesthetically, symmetrically, in all directions. The pivot, or core of the fan connects the individual branches just as it sits as the foundation of the folded singular stack.
On various metaphysical levels, the fan opens partially, fully, closes and repeats. This is a visual representation of the self. The self is not a singular, objective thing. It is, in fact, the most complex, infinite, relational and ever changing theme of your life. It is the fully flayed fan and it will boggle the mind to comprehend for it is the reflection of the world, the reflection of memory, the reflection of time, the reflection of being and most interestingly, the reflection of itself.
The pivot is the atman or the essential self. It is the very source of all the branches. The essential self is eschewed and unobtainable to us. The branches, with the connected paper fabric, can be taken as a whole to better understand the true self. Let’s move on to gain better understanding.
The Constant Self
This is the self in time. It is the self of memory. It is the current state of self viewing past selves and future selves. This is what most come to believe is their true nature because it is the most personal and easily accessible. We often define ourselves based on where we have come from and how that shaped the current state of self. Using this imprint we can easily make predictions of our future, whether these are remotely accurate or not.
The Relational Self
This can be thought about as the self adapting to other selves. Sure, it can mean the self adapting to itself, but I will get to that later. This is mostly the aspect of yourself and how it shapes others and is shaped by others. Think about the complexity of that. You perceive the form of another person’s self with the innate understanding that their self is just as gunky and multilayered as your own. You form an impression and with that image you bounce this self off of this other perceived self. This process is infinitely relational because the other is doing the exact same thing. The end result of this dance is a form shaped from the ether and agreed upon by both parties. An abstract shared self, for lack of better language.
The Self Present
This is the self we will always feel most at peace with. It is the self that forgoes reflections of time, as with the Constant Self, as well as the self that forgoes its immediate relationship with others. For whatever reason you are put in a situation free of restraints, expectations and consequences. This situation can be as common as being immersed in a live concert to as unique and intimate as a deep level of meditation. Regardless, it is the self freed of reflections. It is one step closer to the folded fan.
The Self Watching Self
This is the most confounding aspect. The self viewing itself is not unlike a hall-of-mirrors effect. It reflects upon itself reflecting upon itself and so on. It looks upon itself looking upon itself and this, as a whole, forms the highest degree of the reflective self. There is no cohesion here. It spirals out as infinite as the universe.
What event or events does it take to completely fold or rip the fan and force it back open with different meanings? This is the true undoing of self. Only an event so tragic, so immeasurable, so destructive can rip the fan apart. The pivot, the core remains, but it is forced to reinvent and reflect new folds. The undoing of self is a metaphysical death that, when experienced on the deepest and most despair-ridden of levels, will only foster a miraculous rebirth and if not, it will confirm its very dissolution.