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Me in Here and the World Out There

Dr. Stephen Fulder

It seems absurd to doubt my existence. I experience myself every waking moment, as a center of operations, a boundary, a biography, a huge collection of memories, an identity different from others, and a sense of coherence or control, without which I wouldn’t be able to survive for a moment – how could I cross a busy street without getting run over if I wasn't an entity that looked after itself? It seems to be a continuous sense that is running the show during all waking hours and even in sleep. It seems to be a constant over our entire life. It seems uninterrupted, and an unquestioned fact.

Yet there are issues that throw the whole thing into some doubt and uncertainty:

The first is that this thing is the origin of most of the pain and suffering in my life. It is the me that gets depressed and bored, the me that day and night needs its desires fed and its dislikes avoided. It is the me that is terrified of dying, getting lost, being put down by others, being helpless and irrelevant, all of which are kinds of ego death. It is the me that is running, busy, unbalanced, angry, disappointed, lonely, failing, and feeling ill. All conflict is based on the self that starts off as a mechanism to protect the body, and ends up mostly in protecting itself. Every potential threat to my views, ideas and boundaries, every possible challenge not only to the personal me, but to my family, my national, my skin colour, my religion, my political system, my resources, is enough for the collective me to spiral into spasms of violence. Clearly every human suffering is experienced and often caused by this individual and collective me, so all in all it seems quite counterproductive to have one.

The second issue is that when we look directly at the me it is not something consistent at all. It changes all the time. We feel some kind of consistent thread on which the beads of our daily experiences are threaded, but can we really be the same as the little picture on the wall of when we were three years old? A