Fledgling Fascination with the No Self

Get over your {no} self!

Let’s face it, apprehending that you are not a Self and that the Self you always took for granted as being real is just a sock puppet you carry around with you is pretty mind blowing. But it can also bring on an awkward phase where you are repeatedly asserting your lack of self, or lack of discursive thinking or lack of desire or emotions, or even lack of agency.

For the first year or so I, too, was utterly fascinated with not having a self. Someone would ask me what I thought about something, and I would reply that I no longer had thoughts. If asked how I felt about a thing, or if someone assumed I felt badly about something or happy about something, I would correct them, because I did not experience emotions. I no longer had desires. Everything was just happening, life was living itself. Eating happened. Driving happened. Sleep happened. No matter where I looked, I could identify no self that was doing these things or to whom things were happening. I wasn’t being precious about it, or feeling superior. It was just such an overwhelming and novel perspective.

The funny thing is that I was repeatedly asserting this no self. I can only imagine how annoying I must have been, but looking back it seems that the few people close to me with whom I shared my experience were pretty fascinated with my no self as well. It’s as though I won a Delorian in a sweepstakes I didn’t even know I entered. Everyone in the neighborhood wants to stop by and take a peek at it and ask how the doors work. No one has ever seen one, except in the movies.

But after a while, my absolutely favorite question arises…so what? You’ve got a fast car with funky doors. So what? You can fly. You can live without eating. You can breathe underwater. After a while, so what?

And asserting the no self is particularly funny because, really, how long can you go around asserting something that isn’t there? Asserting the unreality or nonexistence of something? No mind, no self, fasting heart, I am not the doer, and so forth. At some point, it is no longer even remarkable, no longer something that you even notice or pay attention to. Because really, how can you pay that much attention to something that isn’t there or isn’t happening? In that first phase, if I had a calling card printed, it would read: Commonly known by the name Lilith, but be assured, no such self exists. Followed by my contact information, of course. Ugh!

After a while it all becomes so normal that for the most part, you just forget about it. If you let yourself, that is. If you get in any way even a little attached or remain fascinated by no self or no mind or whatever, obviously it will take a lot longer to get over your {no} self and get on with life.

image: taken in Prague

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4 comments

    • Lilith says:

      That about says it all!

  1. jesusolmo says:

    “In her first collection in five years, Anne Carson contemplates ‘decreation’ – an activity described by Simone Weil as ‘undoing the creature in us’ – an undoing of self. But how can we undo self without moving through self, to the very inside of its definition? Where else can we start?”

    Decreation“, by Anne Carson:

  2. jesusolmo says:

    “The self: a temporary euphemism hung upon a large amalgamation of disparate biological material, memory and feeling. The name attached as a country is assigned to a stretch of land and water – nobody is expected to believe that it is real.”
    -Martin MacInnes, “Infinite Ground”

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