Two posts in one month, time to make up for previous gaps!
I have just finished reading a potentially mind altering book, The Meme Machine by Susan Blackmore. The majority of the content is around the concept that ideas, stories and artefacts propagate themselves using human brains, rather like human genes propagate themselves in the human body as a whole. This in itself is an interesting concept and goes someway to giving a good explanation for how the human population has ended up living it’s life.
However for me the most amazing part of the book were the last few chapters. Here Blackmore questions the validity of the idea of Free will and also the concept of the self. Her conclusion is that both are illusions, that memes (our human need for an explanation) have created the idea of a self. She postulates that we are in fact driven to act by context, whim, feeling and our body’s innate sense of need fulfilment. That it is possible to start to realise that we act without conscious effort and that in order to be most in tune with ourselves we need to shed our idea of being self conscious. That our bodies and minds are self actualising and to allow it to just get on with it, rather than complicating maters be imposing a “false” self.
I’m still processing this information, but it did hit a resonance with me, and I wish to explore it further. I suspect I will return to comment on this at a later date with a fuller personal understanding. I urge you to find this book and at least read the final few chapters if not the whole book. If you allow yourself, her words have the power to really shake up what it is to be human. I think and feel it’s a risk worth taking and I will endeavour to follow some of her thoughts and ideas up.
Essentially there is a real message of live in the moment, this exact moment. That what your body feels like doing, in the context it’s in, do it. The background to why this isn’t a recipe for bad behaviour is that through memes (previous knowledge/ideas/cultural norms etc) we are already “programmed” to act in a way that suits us and society.
The reason this resonates for me, is that in my own life and my therapeutic practice I extol the virtue of doing what feels right at the time. To ensure we all make time for us and to allow ourselves to enjoy our lives, doing whatever it is that we feel like doing in that instant. I personally feel I need to spend more time working through what it means to accept there isn’t a self or free will. Do I totally agree with Blackmore, right now, as I type this I’m not sure. I’m certainly willing to explore it further. Interesting in itself is what do I mean by “I” and “me” as I type this? Am I referring to my”self” or merely the collection of cells that makes the physical me? What is the psychological me? Where do “I” exist within my physical body?
I appreciate a great many people don’t have the time or inclination to work this through, but those that do, stop and think a while. Get into the moment, see how it feels. I have a feeling to travel down this path might add more to our lives, to free us all of some of the negative sides of having a “self” to preserve and protect. To just be, could be very refreshing, inspiring and free.