Wednesday, May 03, 2006

cogito ergo sum

Cogito ergo sum. I think, therefore I am.

For the last few years, I have been having an identity crisis. But not on the same level of most people. I mean my crisis is not along the lines “Do I like blue or red? Or am I kind or stingy?” I'm questioning “Who is… I?”

Am I this body? Am I an organ? The brain? The heart? A limb? A toe? What? Who? Why? (Damn it… brain freeze).

In Carlos Castaneda’s terms, stalking the self (in Islam its jehad alnafs which translates along the lines of the battle within) would help us see that all we are, or all who we think we are, is but a collective of habits that resulted from conditioning, also known as experience.

If one day the science of habitual conditioning got so advanced that it can prove, for example, I like the color red because I associate it with something nice that I experienced in my childhood, then… then… what did that leave for my individuality? For my ego to exist? For the “I” to keep being associated with the image it insists is the only truth.

Am I saying that, yes, even if what I am does come down to habits, or how I’d like to put it, “likes and dislikes” (habits are the conception of actions taken either because they bring me happiness or avoidance of the opposite, which will result in happiness, I guess) it is ok? Because, yes, the “self” with all its magnificence and unfathomable wonder, is nothing but habits?

Well, I don’t like this… I do not like this one bit actually. Ok… back to square one, who is this “I” and why am “I” getting offended by this? Well I can tell you that if “I” am being told that “I” with all “My” individuality and uniqueness, am nothing more than preconditions, well it wouldn't sit well with me I'll tell you that. Preconditions that given the proper advancements in science, can be recreated?

If I made a list of all that I am. What makes me, Abdulaziz, me? Ok let me just tackle one strand of who I think I am.

I think I am a romantic (that's so cheesy of me, I know).

So let’s say someone can come up to me and tell me. Yeah, but you’re a romantic because:

1) Your father used to tell you stories on your way back from chalet every Thursday when you were a kid, which developed your love of happy endings (an example of a “like”?)
2) You were frustrated, as a kid, often (a dislike), and that made you escape in your mind to the world of stories and fantasies (like). Which made you wish you lived a fairy tale with a happy ending.
3) As a grown up you had everything easy, and you wish to live the anguish of the hero in a fantasy story, the anguish that the hero has to go through to reach his happy ending.

Anyway, I am sure there are other reasons why I am this way now, and each reason can be drilled down further more until a probable cause for it appears in my childhood.

Ok so this dismantling of my “self” is not a piece of cake, but it’s doable, it’s calculable.

Let’s say I did take time off and tried with all my might to do this exercise, which is called recapitulation by the way, and I ended up with all of the habits or personality traits that I’d like to think as a whole would make “me” who “I” am, and each trait can be traced to an outside stimulus that I simply reacted to, based on the preconditioning of previous stimuli. Does this answer the question of “WHO THE HECK AM I?”

I personally cannot take “You are the collective of your experiences” as an answer. And I also refuse to accept that “I” and my “ego” are interchangeable descriptions of the same thing. I was cut off during my ride back home today, I got so pissed off. This burst of anger, is it “me” or my ego? Fine, let us say that this is who “I” am and this is based on previous experiences. This means I can undo it. I can, with time, recondition the preconditioned.

If I can do that, then I can undo the bad habits and the good. After all, there is this saying “Wisdom is not about having good habits, it’s about having none”. Because as long as I am a slave to my routines and habits, then I am not free. For me to really know who “I” am, I have to remove all that surrounds “me”…

I looked deep down into myself, and I found… nothing… nothing… but what was I to expect? There was nothing to begin with…


PS. I don’t know how this post would have added value for the readers. But I guess if you separate the “I” from the “ego” you can see your habits from a third person’s point of view, and if you don’t intend to reach this breaking down of the ego for higher purposes, you can at least treat those bad habits you carry over your shoulder.


Hazolat said...

Well that was sure different than what I usually expect you to post. It was really nice though, and you sure have written about an important matter than many should think about, but don't in reality.

I think that finding your true self is a very rewarding, yet very difficult task, as you have shown us with all those questions regarding your identity.

Also, I think that many of our characteristics result sometimes from the way we are raised and the lifestyle our parents want us to grow up in. So the real you isn't really you sometimes.

The more free you are to form your own views without other people's directions, the more your true self will emerge.

But there are traits that comes along like birthmarks, that are you no matter how many people try to change or undo. Like you're a romantic, you are so because you're born that way .. in the same way I cannot be romantic even if my life depended on it, no matter how I tried.

Anyway, good luck finding your true self. Sorry I didn't plan on taking a lotta space .. this post is really neat :-)

P.S. I always thought that "ego" and "I" are the same. The more sensitive you are (ee inta) the bigger the ego. Try not to be overly sensitive Mr. Romantic. Arya7 :-/

Mother Courage said...

look who's baaaaaCk !!!!

i keep asking myself the same exact Question !! havent reached my "salvation" yet !! still looking for the answer. but i guess this is why we're here. to discover our ownselves?!
it is confusing sometimes but If your not confused then your not paying attention !

its good to have you back... keep writing.

Temetwir said...

i dont know who Castaneda is, but the thought, or theory lets say, contending for 'habituality and experience', is that of Immanuel Kant's 'tabula rasa' (white sheet)

kant suggested that u are born experience-less and thus, ur brain is but a clean slate, scribbled and scripted upon thru experience

what u mention of 'childhood' behaviours can here be described .. for example when u meet 20 yr olds who are afraid of getting into the water
it wouldnt be out of this world to have them tell u that "when i was a kid, i almost drowned" or something

or, for example, Kant would tell u "let a kid get his finger brunt touching a saucepan, so he doesnt go near it again"

does that support the tabula-rasa-hypothesis of Kant?
i dont think so
i think Kant's argument is at fault

it has been 'empirically proven', btw, that ur mind has a hierarchy .. but currently (im talking 90s and above), since the introduction of the whole 'computer-assisted' research and stuff .. there is a 'new', connectionist view, which ties both:
what u have structurally inside ur brain (ur I, presuambly in ur terms) and what is being bombarded at u in information (habitualising)

im not convinced (mind u, i only dealt with this in language acquisition of children so im really not one to judge on the connectionsist view as a whole) but, like urself, i would leave a much larger space for individuality to roam in and for "independent thought" that factors into who u become and what u stand for

ps: welcome back
pss: dont go

Mohammad Al-Yousifi said...

لا تحط أسامي

لا تحط موضوع بعدي بيوم, عط مجال الناس تقرأ موضوعي

حط صور


كان المفروض أغير الباسوورد

Shurouq said...

Lol Kila Ma6goog..
Sibling Rivalry is cute, but get over it already and rejoice his comeback :P

Agra3,Welcome back
Self-searching is overrated and human life is a futile passion.

متفرغ said...

welcome back :)..... when it comes to having who am i conversation with myself i end up having no answer except that im evolving or constantly changing.... wilma6goog loool :)

Abdulaziz said...

what an opening comment... brilliant.. thanks..

I don't know, I mean I can't agree or disagree about birth traits... I just don't know... and that's not a bad thing. :-)

mother courage:

Yeah, that's why we're here.
If you're not confused then you're not paying attention. hahhah thats beautiful. I love it, and I might quote you on it. :P


you raise interesting theories. I personally think that, the ultimate goal is to rid ourselves of this "individuality" idea. To be one with the universe (Hindu faith) one has to break that "ego" "self" "me" "I" mentality. As long as we leave room for our individuality, that's our ego fighting tooth and nail to survive.

kila ma6goog:

I hate to see this blog turn to "Jay Leno's Monday Night Headlines".


إطرح البلوق بالبورصة خل اشتري اغلبية الاسهم و اغير مجلس الإدارة


Over-rated or under-rated? I don't think it's over-rated... Not on a personal level anyway. In my opinion if it is over-rated culturally wise, it is not individualistically so.


Well at least you're on the right path. What can I say, in the end, I'm on the same boat. Constantly evolving.


I thank you all for your comments and warm welcomes. I don't think I'm back, but like temetwir suggested a while back, it doesn't hurt to post something between time and then.


Was it in the Da Vinci Code book? I can't remember, but I read or heard somewhere this...

That in the beginning, there was this question, everything... and i mean everything, is based on that question "Who are we?" which of course branches into "Why are we here?" and "where will we go from here?"

I think first, mankind was set to answer those questions, and on his path humanity got so caught up with the everyday life, that soon they forgot their destination... their target.

ScarlO said...

I ask myself 'Who am I?' and I find no answer. I am who I was taught to be. Or let's say shaped.

How many things do we do everyday because we actually want to do them? I don't know.

I believe we're all raised in an half-baked fashion, in which we are taught how we should feel, talk, walk, act, behave, live.
At night when you try to think of what you did during the day that's almost over now, you find out that you did not do anything that you wanted to do. When doing what you want to do, you always get the sense that you're being self-centred or egoistical.

Good to see you posting again. Not much of a humour dose in here (which i'm sure everybody misses :-p ) but a gweat post nontheless.

PS: I second Temmie .. don't go.

Anonymous said...

the problem with your blog dude, is there is soo much pictures which takes me a time to load your site. I suggest that you show only the recent posts and keep the old ones in the archieves.

Erzulie said...

WB :)
I was very happy to see your post :)
Kila Ma6goog: I do check this site out bes ma a7e6 comments :P I just look at your posts and I have a good laugh :))
And 3aziz, inshallah you find someone who is worthy of your romantic antics and may you have a happy ending of your own :)

Anonymous said...

you need it..