Creating a Self

The act of persisting as a self is the same act as creating a self.  -Peter Ralston, The Book of Not Knowing

When you think of your “self” what is it that you are thinking of? Something essential, substantial, a soul? Is there a You that survives beyond death?

Some have maintained that Self is absolute, part of a chain of being going up to God, or emanating from God. Others maintain there is no Self, only a conglomerate of perceptions we have that we gather into an abstract concept of Self. Plato was in the former category, Hume the latter.

mark_rothko3Others say that Self is really an aspect of a larger whole. Hegel’s picture was of an Absolute, a reality only present in its unity. Specific, particular individuals are an illusion, and these individuals fight each other until a synthesis is achieved.

I take a very dynamic view of Self, that it is something that must be created each day. Many aspects of self are inherited, our traits, DNA, and so on. Other aspects are governed by environment. I associate my own identity with my family name, for instance.

But if one gets behind and underneath these associations, beliefs, and material causes, one can see a space for creative action. It is a space that is not a space, that is, it has no extension or measurement like an object does. It is, like the pinpoint of the Big Bang, an energy source that wants to funnel out and expand, making worlds.

This creative action is not pure Will, nor is it about despotic power. But it is dynamic and seeks to make. Its first action of making is that of the Self.

Take a GoodMinute:

  1. How do we create the concepts, associations and beliefs that make up “self”?

  2. Why is this important?

  3. How has your life been affected by your sense of self?


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