I’ve been talking all this noise about Harriet Tubman and searching for the mental Mason-Dixon line. But I’m at risk of becoming the armchair explorer who spends more time imploring then exploring.
So I’m going to try and point out the direction with a thought experiment.
The experiment is to figure out who I am. Not in the existentially angsty teenager moan voice “I don’t know who I am.” That is a question of personality and is interesting, but I’m more curious about who it is that has a personality?
The only assumption I’m making is- if I can observe something, then it is not me.
I can observe a dog running away in the courtyard and a girl running after it. I watch the leaves move in the wind. This is the tried and true method of babies to figure out the difference between them and the outside world.
So I am not the outside world. Whew, that’s good cause I don’t think I could handle being a pigeon or a grocery store. Although being a sea otter would be alright.
The next layer is a little more personal. Or offensive, but remember it’s just an experiment, try it out. All the same reasons that the outside world is not me also hold for the body. It twitches and reacts and changes. I have a little more control over it, but ultimately I am still observing it. I feel sensation I am not the sensation.
So I am not my body either. This is also okay, cause being all the dust under my couch or hair in my drain would be pretty weird and boring. This is where the Greeks stopped “ahh, so we must be our minds!” They did love thinking so this isn’t too surprising.
But, try to stop thinking for five minutes, even three minutes. You will find the same pattern: thoughts come and go as they please. We seem to have some control, but ultimately we are watching them. And if we can watch them then we are different from them.
This doesn’t leave much. But what it does leave is the watcher, the observer.
And this part you can’t step back from to watch. Try it. As soon as you do, you are the observer. You can experience this part, but you cannot watch it. And since we cannot look directly at this part we cannot analyze it or pick it apart.
I believe that this is the mental Mason-Dixon line. And from here funny things start to happen.