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Friday, June 11, 2004

What am I

Steven Den Beste has a stimulating post on the nature of identity. He talks about how difficult it is to define what makes up our concept of self and how we have no concept of where that selfness resides. A number of years ago I suffered from manic-depression. I have memories of that period, I know what my thought processes were, but they are so alien to me that thinking back on that time is like observing someone else. I know that I was equally ‘alien’ to my family and friends. Later, I was able to break the manic-depressive cycle with lithium. While on lithium I was more myself, my thought processes were more logical and I understand them, but essential characteristics of my personality were absent. Thankfully I was able to stop taking the drug and have not had any problems for over a decade. This period of my life has made me aware how fragile our essential selfness is. Thought processes, moods, the entire core of our being can be dramatically altered by the presence or absence of a few chemicals. I am clearly not the person that I was when I was going through this episode. To a lesser degree I am not what I was before it, or even what I was yesterday. Moment by moment we die and are recreated usually we are very similar to what we are before, occasionally dramatically different.


Blogger Pat said...

I've never had an experience like your manic-depressive cycle, but I think I can understand what you are talking about. Sometimes I recall foolish decisions I made when I was much younger, and I ask myself, "What was I thinking back then?" Am I the same person who made those mistakes? Obviously not. But I'm not a totally different person, either. There's a relationship of some sort between me and him, but it's hard to clearly define what it is.

I'm reminded of a scene in Arthur C. Clarke's novel "2010: Odyssey Two," in which the disembodied spirit of David Bowman returns to Earth and visits a former girlfriend. When he appears to her, she asks, "Are you Dave Bowman?" He answers, "I remember David Bowman and everything about him." Does that mean yes or no? I don't know, and I think Bowman is saying that he doesn't know either.

6/11/2004 01:43:00 PM  
Blogger Nome said...

Very true. An example of a fairly radical change would be the changes that people underwent after September 11, 2001. I can't speak for anyone else, but I've noticed some radical changes since then. For example, I am fairly obsessive about logging in and getting the news now. I've relaxed somewhat in that I don't check every half hour anymore. I still feel a sense of impending doom if I don't check at least once a day. This is a fairly irrational quirk. Knowing and studing the news doesn't change anything on a larger scale; however, it does make me feel less helpless if I understand what's going on in the world around me. Just my two cents...

6/14/2004 10:34:00 AM  

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