My brain is following up on a previous blog post, "Brains are us: a fresh thought for a New Year." Now, I almost just wrote My brain is causing me to follow up...
This shows how difficult it is to break the habit of assuming that there is a "me" and also "my brain." Slice my head open or put me in a MRI machine: evidence of the brain's existence will be clear.
But evidence of a "me" existing -- where is it? Really, nowhere to be found.
If you doubt this, pick up just about any Zen book. Or Buddhism book. The existence of a separate self is a widespread assumption, yet by no means universal.
The thought, "You are your brain," used to bother me. A lot.
Because I hated the idea that when my brain died, so did I. Meaning, the sense of "me." If consciousness is physical, when the material brain stops working, so does the consciousness of the body to which the brain is attached.
Now, though, I find this notion entirely acceptable, if not downright pleasing. It's hard to put this positive feeling into words, but I'll give it a try.
For most of my life I've loved the thought of oneness. Even wrote a book about it.
The One I longed for, though, was immaterial. Supernatural. Spiritual. Other-worldly. It was a unitary reality beyond the physical; the foundation of this world that wasn't really a part of it (because it is the One, partless).
This put unity far away, a goal to be reached rather than a reality to be immediately embraced.
Realizing that, almost certainly, the brain is me and I am the brain brings the One close to hand. No distance at all, really.
Materiality is everywhere evident. I am material. We are one. There is no difference between me/brain and other/world. All is the same substance.
There is something beautiful about this thought. Again, difficult to put into words.
I feel like a weight has been lifted from my psyche. I no longer feel the need to become anything other than what I already am: a brain experiencing itself; a strange loop of consciousness; matter becoming aware of materiality.
It's akin to the feeling I have when I wonder what it would be like to be a character in an alien computer simulation. Which, of course, could be true.
I could be wrong, but if I discovered that I was just a bunch of computer code constructed by a bored teenager from a super-advanced civilization in another galaxy, I think I'd feel a sense of relief.
Maybe you could call this "enlightenment."
Everything I believed to be solidly real, actually wasn't. At least, not real in the sense that I used to consider it was. So now the pressure is off. No need to figure out what reality is all about, because this is impossible for me to do.
I'm just a bunch of electrons configured in a temporary special way. In other words, pretty much what neuroscience tells me I am in this earthly reality: neurons doing their thing as a human brain.
Hope this makes some sense. If not, that's understandable. I am me (albeit not really) and you are you. Our brains are quite different, yet also very much the same.
For another perspective on this fascinating subject, check out "The brain... it makes you think. Doesn't it?"