I’ve been thinking about loneliness recently, and it has reinforced my belief that we really don’t know ourselves all that well. I’ve been wondering how I have reacted to various situations of loneliness and how I would react to potential conditions. Regarding loneliness before I was married, I can sort of remember that it had effected me, in some cases strongly, but it also seems that I was not as aware of it as I am now, but how much of this is how I really was and how much of it is just the acuteness of my current condition coloring these memories? And for hypothetical cases of loneliness, like if the separation from my family were more permanent, I struggle to come up with an answer as to how I would respond. I sometimes speculate, but I really have no confidence in my ability to predict something as complex and dynamic as the human response to such adverse sociological conditions, even if those responses are my own.
And this has me thinking about who we are, our person and identity, is not so much a thing as it is a predicate, a state of being. We are the summation of our responses, both potential and actual, to the various stimuli that surrounds us, whether internal or external. The problem with trying to understand who we are by peering behind these behaviors to understand the why of them is that the more we brush them away, the less of us there is to analyze, so that the very act of pressing the investigation further is self-defeating. Finally, when we have pulled back the curtain to understand the core of our identity, to understand the motives and desires that lie behind the things we do, all that we discover are ever moving shadows that skirt the edges of our analytic light. There are no homunculi at the core of our being, but rather a web of beliefs, about ourselves and the world around us, and not all of these are secure.
But I wonder, why do I insist on denying something like a soul? It isn’t as though I find the more transient and mercurial theory more appealing. I would actually like to believe that there is a core entity that holds true no matter for the question of who I am. So then, why do I reject this conclusion? And this is perhaps part of the reason I have rejected it, in that I cannot really answer the question of why I have rejected it. I can not discern the reasons behind this belief; I cannot discern the soul that is moving me, that offers a sense of permanency and solidity within me. Things have so conspired to move me in various directions, often against my conscious desire, that I have all but given up on something subsisting through the vagaries of my behavior and beliefs. Why am I so helpless before these unseen forces? I don’t know, but it seems obvious that I do not really know myself, do not know how I will react to various circumstances, for if I did, then how could I have been so thoroughly caught off guard by these changes?
Thus, I have been forced into accepting this idea as well, in order to account for this reality in a way that can allow me to accept it and adapt to it. I really have no choice in the matter other than to accept beliefs that can successfully navigate the subjective environment I find myself in. So, how much of a “me” can there be if I can’t even determine the beliefs I hold? I don’t know, but perhaps this regret I have does hold out some kind of hope for me. Either that or it simply demonstrates my unfitness to live with the truth, even while I am irresistibly drawn toward pursuing it.