Sunday, January 14, 2007

What is you?

I’m not asking who are you? I assume you know that. If not, please call 911.

I want to know what makes you be you. The essence of you. However, since I know me better than I know you, I will proceed by examining the question: what is me.



When I see a picture like this I think, hey, that’s me. It is just short hand for thinking, hey, those colored dots on the screen or page are arranged so that they provide a 2D image of what my body looks like.

The body itself is not all there is to me. If you think the body is the whole show, try standing next to one that has just ceased to live. Barbara discovered my father’s body shortly after he died. She ran to me and said: “I think we’ve lost your father”. My brain didn’t wrap around that. I thought, he is a big man and not very fast. How could we lose him? Soon I realized that she meant he was dead. As I encountered his body, it reminded me of him, but it was not much more him than a picture or even a wax museum dummy would be him.

So that thing I call me is not this meat machine. That is true even when the machine is functioning and all the little proteins and minerals are being processed at the desirable rate. When I was born I weighed less than 7 pounds. My feet probably weigh more than that now. There is 235 lbs. of body now, but still the same me, sort of.

With respiration, ingestion, digestion, excretion, and lots of other dandy processes going on, my meat machine is recycling carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and a host of other elements at a rate that means that my body is made up of whole different set of atoms in any given year.

Even the arrangement of the elements varies. I admit, there are some fundamental taxonomic similarities between my body at age 3 and at age 53. But there are also many marked differences as well. There is hair at 53 that wasn’t there at 3. My appendix was in place at 3, gone by 53. Now at 56 I am considering having my left knee sawn out and getting some metal and plastic glued into that spot. I will still be me, just as I was 53 years ago or 3 years ago.

I am more than my body. I am more than the functions of my body or the arrangement of my body parts or materials. I can forget something and still be me. So I am more than my memories, although as I wrote last post, my memories are an important part of me.

Memories, muscles, scars, and loads of other identifying features are changed over time. If they change a lot, I say that I have changed a lot. I do not say that I am a new me, unless it is just a figure of speech. If studying, experiencing, exercising, and healing all caused me to be a different me, what benefit would there be to the old me in doing them? The old me would be annihilated.

Some things seem to just happen to me. Flatulence for example, just seems to happen. Wrinkles too. However, I remain convinced that I make decisions about how I will conduct my life and about how I will respond to the things that just seem to happen. Those decisions also change me, without creating an all new me.

I believe that I decide. The molecules and the forces that work on them do not decide for me. My decisions are not random. I operate according to a set of principles that are much influenced by what I believe my purpose to be. I have purpose. In fact I am purpose full.

Summarizing, we see the following:
Me is not just meat.
Me is not just processes.
Me is not just what happens to me.
Me is not random.
Me is purposeful.

What is you?
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