What's our biggest problem in life? Us. Ourselves. If there wasn't any me, I wouldn't be dissatisfied, unhappy, or feeling that a situation should be different from how it is.
Of course, I also wouldn't exist. For most people, not being anything isn't an attractive solution to the irritating somethings that are part and parcel of our daily existence.
But perhaps there is an in between, a middle ground which comfortably avoids the extremes of too little me (personal non-existence) and too much me (ego-encapsulated anxiety).
This is the promise of many forms of spirituality, philosophy, psychotherapy, mysticism, meditation, religion, and other attempts to modify the human psyche so it functions more pleasingly.
I think it's possible to view ourselves and our relationship to the world in a wiser fashion. I'm pretty sure there are many ways of realizing this altered perspective. The key is the root of realize: real.
I'm an optimist about reality.
I don't believe that God, the Devil, or some malicious maya-producing force is out to deceive us. Within the limits of human consciousness, we're able to pursue truths about the cosmos without any other boundaries or blockages.
This is the aim of science, humankind's best developed and most effective truth-seeking method for finding objective truth, the sort that can be described, evaluated, and communicated.
For me, objective truth and subjective truth go hand in hand. I find that the more I learn about how science sees the world, the easier it is for me to alter my own perspective on the cosmos in the middle ground fashion I just described.
Eagleman, a neuroscientist, describes how we and our brain relate. In short: exceedingly intimately. In fact, the relationship between me and my brain is so close, so tight, so intertwined, it doesn't even exist.
Because the brain is me, and I am the brain.
There's no difference between us; in this context "us" is a meaningless word, just as it doesn't make any sense to say "there's no difference between the grains of sand on the shoreline and the beach."
Those grains of sand are the beach. Two entities only exist within the conceptual territory of the human mind, not in objective reality.
Now, I understand that this big scientific aha! which I find so mesmerizing -- the brain and I are one -- may leave you with a "so what?" yawn. If that's the case, ces't la vie. People are different. Brains are different. I'm just trying to share my amazement when I ponder a not-so-obvious, yet also utterly obvious, fact.
Searching for a "me," an "I," a "self" that is separate and distinct from the functioning of the brain, neuroscientists can't find such an entity. (Neither could Buddha.)
I find this fact marvelously reassuring. I can't quite put my finger on it, which isn't surprising given that "I," "my finger," and "it" are the same thing. All that can said by the brain typing out these words is: the less sensation of a me there is inside my head, the better I feel.
It's like getting rid of a often-irritating roommate who has been bothering you for a long time. When you finally realize that he is a figment of your imagination and so has never really existed, it's a huge relief.
Now you don't have to share the potato chips or television. No arguing about who left the kitchen a mess, or the door unlocked. Now there's only one inhabitant of your living space, not two.
And you aren't lonely at all.
Extending this viewpoint more broadly to encompass all of existence, not just the content of my cranium, I see that I am to my brain as the cosmos is to me. Again, there's no difference.
I set myself apart from the cosmos in the same way as I set myself apart from my brain, in an illusory, unrealistic manner. An abstraction, a concept, a collection of words -- "I," "me," "mine," etc. -- leads me to believe that two entities inhabit my head rather than one.
I distinguish myself from the brain which is thinking "I distinguish myself..." Likewise, I distinguish myself from the cosmos which is inseparable from my existence. What would I be without matter/energy, the laws of nature, space/time?
And can it even be said that there is an "I' separate from all this? Of course not.
To me those three words, of course not, say a lot. More than I can say, for sure.