Isn’t it interesting, how we live our lives through narratives? Our days, our progressions, our history; they are all organised into these narratives, which, in turn, are culturally and psychologically constructed to serve whatever purpose we fancy at the time. This includes every element of our lives, even the very limits of what ‘my life’ is to each of us, even our births, especially that. Are we born? Does that happen free of the word used to describe the action? A sperm meets an egg, the genetic material mixes and, over time, a growth develops from those primordial cells into something larger, something more complex. Eventually after an unspecified amount of time, the growth emerges from the parent and we begin labelling it. Immediately, it is a baby, it has a size, a weight, a colour, a disposition, a state of health, a place of birth, a story of conception, growth, and of course of the birth itself.
These concepts grow; they spread and multiply, defining our lives to come. Are we a mass of connected cells and tissues whose teamwork fulfils their desperation to remain alive and propagate themselves and whose electrical impulses that convey their desperate needs only masquerade as intelligent thoughts? It’s nice to think that we’re people, isn’t it? That we are definable beings with reachable and palpable barriers is a most pleasant thought. It’s comforting to find stability in our tangibility.
A flake of skin falls from you until it is later swept up and put away. Is it still part of you or did it simply used to be part of you? If it used to be, at what point did it stop being you? When it died perhaps. The majority of all visible skin on our bodies is already dead and being shed at all times, does that mean we all have a layer of something foreign on us at all times, disfiguring our true selves?
The dead flakes still serve their purpose; they provide the barrier you need from infection, from damage. Is it really right to call our cutaneous covering nothing more than keratinous clothes? Maybe the fallen flake stops being you when it falls. Does that count when you lose a thumb? Does it stop being yours when it is severed? What if re-attached? I’m afraid that these questions move on into eternity and are only to be replaced by more if you ever think you’ve provided an answer. The questions, as all questions, aren’t for answering. There is no concrete and truthful answer to questions like these; we only learn from the question itself.
Maybe we are to find more certainty of the ‘self’ in our minds. In the endless tunnels of cultural quotation and network formation, fuelled by goalless gathering of sensory information, selection and mediation of other rehashed opinions, and thoughts that are muddied by the same intertextual confusion, all overlap from person to person and utterance to utterance. If we’re to seek certainty and relief from uncertain definition anywhere, surely the greatly misunderstood and over-discussed complexity of the labyrinth of infinite corridors and connections of the mind is not the place to find it.
Despite the hopelessness of our human borders, both physical and psychological, we will all happily close our ears and minds to such senseless logic and derision of simplicity that comes from the simple act of naming. To name, after all, is to control. That's why taxonomy and etymology exist; it is why we care so much, indeed, it is why language itself exists. To name is to dominate. To dominate is to wrest the force of decision and decision allows us to draw our borders.
With language, I can refer to ‘me’ and ‘you’, to ‘James’ and ‘Rebecca’, I can talk, as I am now, about ‘my psychology’, or ‘your body’ as though they are the most simple and certain things in the world and a little attention being paid to them will reveal their scarcely hid secrets for all to see. Only solid, locked chests can be unlocked to find the secrets. Uncertainty holds no treasure. No adventure.
We seek that, too, in our lives. Adventure. Maybe not in the base form it brings to mind: That of journeys and battles, mystery and intrigue, then resolve and resolution. But we are all cursed with a sense of romanticism. We give ourselves titles and qualities that represent the stories that resonate with us. Intelligent. Hard-working. Sensible. Lucky. Honest. These can be declared as rock solid qualities that work away, independent of verification, on our character.
Films, books, novels, music, philosophy, politics – art in any form – presents us with understandable narratives and messages but the only thing they each reveal as potently as each other is that our foundations of understand centre on narration. On the act of relaying the vague and uncertain through use of the succinct and finite. Understanding, ladies and gentlemen, is a myth. You no more understand the content of this blogpost in an objective sense than you do the workings of the universe or the facets of another’s mind, separate to your own.
We will all of us remain thus clouded and we will persist in finding steady ground in the mist whether anything lay beyond it or not.
Read into this what you will.