An Experiment in Honesty
I first realised that the voice inside my head was not actually me when I was in my late teens. This was a crucial and disturbing realisation. The terror of this thought was similar to the instant fear and guilt I experienced as a boy when I suddenly entertained the thought that for all my atheism, perhaps God was real after all. Such radical thoughts have a bodily resonance and a guttural reaction in which tremendous doubt burns in the pit of our stomachs, as our previous convictions suddenly and unexpectedly crumble into weightless dust.
Yet this experience is extremely valuable as it allows us to be critical and indeed mindful of our own folly of the certainty of our convictions. The conviction that the voice in my head was an impostor dawned on me as I discovered that its supposed autonomy was in fact extremely limited. In fact, it only knew what ‘I’ knew, it spoke how I spoke and liked what I liked. It soon became apparent that my trusted inner self was only the act of memory and the simple recording of the ways in which I habitually filter, dissect and choose my experiences. The result was a convincing ‘story’ a ‘me’ which seemed to provide me with all that I loved and loathe about myself. Indeed this inner ‘me’ was the reflection of myself, or rather, I was the reflection of it.
The realisation that this was simply a fascinating function of memory led me to seriously reconsider who and what I was. Today this question is implicit within every breath I take. Who writes these words? I can tell you for certain that it is not me. Memory has its own momentum and the body is the seat and vehicle of its expression. When I try to catch a glimpse of myself I sometimes see shadows which disappear into an overwhelming darkness. Momentum is here, process and cause and effect are here and indeed these are the true authors of this page.
‘I’ am mystery, a mere nothing.