August 23rd, 2009

Generic Meditation Issues: Self Concept

Since I turned a year older last week, I slightly modified the "bio" section of my LJ profile.  I didn't change much.  It is still basically a list of things I have felt or done or had happen to me, roles, attributes, relationships, little demographic definers like age, ethnicity, sex, etc.  I look at the profiles of other LJ journal writers and see way different stuff.  Some "bio"s are blank or nearly so.  Others contain fictional or even fantistic information, some have quotations from other people,  many are full of joy and fun.  Most don't even contain such "basic" information a age or sex.  I can't get a "handle" on most people here.  At first this puzzled me and bothered me a little.  Now I can see the potential value of a contentless biography, an empty self-concept.  The freedom, especially the spiritual freedom, could be enormous.

Who am I, in the absence of my roles, attrihutes, experiences, self-judgments and the opinions of others?  Well, I am  whatever I really would be in the absence of these things. First, I might be dead.  Baby, fragile, dependent, son are labels that allowed me to be fed and comforted when I did not know how to feed and comfort myself.  But maybe not.  Other animals, I presume, nurture their young without recourse to concepts of self or other.

To be a human being in this world as it has existed for the past 13,000 years it to have certain "human" experiences.  If a normal baby with normal parents is never spoken to in a human language, she or he will die in infancy.  I must be connected to the world through language, through sonship or daughtership and friendship and a network of rights and responsibilities.  Otherwise, I will die or go crazy.

But perhaps a time must come when I should say: "I had these experiences, these relationships, these opinions, but they are not me.  They are not my true self.  I must learn who I am without them.  Would I just disappear, like an onion after the last skin had been peeled away?  Or is their a core there?  Something "inalienable?"  a soul?

The Tao te Ching is full of advice about humility, non-action, not taking credit, not striving, not serving self interest, letting things be what they are, etc.  In Chapter 48 it is written:

                                  In the pursuit of learning, every day something is acquired.
                                   In the pursuit of Tao,  every day something is dropped.