Does it really matter if the inner self is an illusion?
It could be argued that love is an illusion, or life is an illusion. The difference between dream and reality, making love and fucking, friendship and acquaintance – lies wherever you decide to believe in it. The moment you stop believing it, it is no longer real.
The same goes for identity. Some people may be driven to spend their whole lives figuring out who they are, because it’s a compulsion to do so, even if they admit that origin and identity are constructs that exist because we decide to believe in them, give credence to them and invest in them. Others might give this construct less credence.
But, I don’t understand what the point is, in dismantling the construct. To me, it doesn’t matter if something is objectively ‘real’ or not. I’m subjective, and if I have to make one ‘objectively true’ statement about myself, it’s that I’ll never be objective or unbiased. Nobody can ever be. And to me, doubting the very source of my passions and feelings is unnatural and unproductive. I’m naturally driven to take my feelings at face value, and dissect the patterns behind them. And I don’t see how that makes me worse than someone who doesn’t invest in their self or identity.
I don’t disagree that self is an illusion – I just wonder at what point it’s productive to fold my mind over and over upon itself to dismantle my passions. When I say productive, I mean toward personal growth; I don’t mean “achievement-oriented” or “inducing concrete results.”
I have already realized the concept of self is illusory long, long ago. I read several books by Herman Hesse and Carlos Casteneda when I was 11 or 12, and in my later teens and early 20s I deconstructed and reconstructed myself thoroughly with the use of LSD – which I used for spiritual reasons, personal growth, self-searching, artistic development and so on. I am more than aware of the simple truths like “Self is an ego construct” but I wonder what good it does me to dwell on dismantling it, rather than to express it and trust my intuitions. If there’s one thing I learned through my losses, trauma and soul searching, it’s that life has no inherent meaning – it’s up to us to give it meaning. And having a sense of purpose is what gives my life meaning. My sense of purpose goes beyond understanding myself- it extends to the realm of expressing myself in the most honest, bare, authentic way I experience it. And doubting all my experiences and feelings does not help me to do that, but rather, turns in on itself and gets me nowhere. I already know life could be a dream and my sense of self could be deconstructed.. but so what?
Each LSD trip was like cleaning out my house. Imagine putting all your stuff outside, leaving it to chance – it could be stolen, it could rain or snow. You cant get rid of the shape of your house… that’s your body, your container. All of the things inside it are your identity construct, your feelings, your aesthetic, your ideas, your values, the things you chose to define and expand yourself. So now, those things are outside and anything could happen to them. As the trip winds down over several hours, you decide which things are important or helpful and bring them back in first, and arrange them in a new way that makes more sense now that you’ve seen your container empty. You leave outside the things that are too heavy or taking up unnecessary space.
I could do this over and over and over, but I don’t find it productive at this point. My house has been arranged in a certain way that is conducive to writing music, recording my albums, writing my books, building on the constructs and choices that have emerged from my self-exploration. I could take LSD or do other things to clean it out again and leave it empty over and over, but then I will never build on it, I will never expand beyond it; I will only reflect on myself ad nauseum, like an endless, eternal hall of mirrors, and I will never simply BE with myself the way I chose to build myself, and put something out for the world, something that I CHOSE to give meaning to, something that feels like a purpose and gives me impetus to wake up every morning and keep going. Which would be the more logical and emotionally satisfying and HONEST choice? Growth for philosophically minded folks is about embodying ourselves, taking action, expressing ourselves out in the world.. basically, turning the hall of mirrors outward instead of reflecting on ourselves until we’re empty and our lives are meaningless and we are utterly isolated.