05 June 2016

Questioning the self’s uniqueness

My dearly esteemed constituents,

I have heard that no two snowflakes are alike. Say that a scientist dedicates his life to comparing snowflakes. At the very end, when he’s reached extreme old age, his work pays off: he happens upon a pair of identical snowflakes. Yet the moment he tries to publish his findings, the snowflakes melt. Now all he has is one photograph as evidence, which everyone accuses him of doctoring. That’s why I’m all for religion; at least they believe you.

I’ve also heard that each fingerprint is unique. Might this be true of every self? As fingers have prints, is there a self-print or a soul-print that proves every human is distinctive? Or are we all just apes? I mean apes as in “copies”—I don’t mean to insinuate that all animals are alike or that they lack souls; I don’t even mean to insinuate that every human has a soul; I’m only wondering about these concepts.

What is a self? What is a soul? Are no two selves or souls the same? Names can be the same. Two separate selves can share one name: my name is Bryan, and I’ve met other Bryans. Sharing a name is different from sharing a self. But maybe some selves out there match mine exactly. If so, however, wouldn’t that self necessarily be named Bryan Ray? Because otherwise, we’d have a small difference. Is the name not part of the self? (Ask Jesus or Yahweh.)

I like to think of the self as having been refined through the apes: to have lived as those individuals yet evolved up into us, like a water-filtration process. Of course now when I said apes I meant animals; but I’d like to keep using the term in any fashion, and to allow for ambiguity. Why is the ape self inferior to the current self? Why do selves ape selves? Do we only ape up, never down? Optimism tells me there must be some future form of self that will look back on humans as a low point: We sure have come a long way since our days as humankind. Or will the later self pine for its former form, as we contemporaries pine for the golden age? Will those upcoming selves think of themselves as having fallen from the height of humanity, as all human beings recall having fallen from godhood? Or angels from devilhood? Did we fall from perfection, or are we ascending towards it? Perhaps we luxuriate from divine past to divine future perfect? Being a brontosaurus might be every bit as bad as being a Bryan.

I wonder if it is significant beyond mere coincidence that, precisely at this point in my writing, I was interrupted by bonking noises on our glass sliding door, and, when I looked to discover the cause, there was a young squirrel wrestling with its reflection.

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