Defining the Self

In the story behind my current art series, Sparrow’s Descent, the journey toward earthly incarnation is undertaken because the sparrow doesn’t yet understand herself. I think this is why we separate from God to begin with. An aspect of God wanted to put itself under a microscope, understand itself through the lens of limitations, and split off, thus leading to incarnation in a physical body on a physical world. But doesn’t this just mean that the whole concept of self is an illusion? Buddhism describes the self as an illusion, and even has a word for “non-self” (anatta.) You can read more about what makes up the illusory self we cling to according to Buddhism here.

We tend to think about concepts like “finding yourself” or “getting to know yourself,” but what is the self really? Is it something that can be found in the first place? Usually when we think of ourselves and what defines us we think of personality traits, interests, goals, likes and dislikes, tendencies to behave in certain ways in certain situations, but when it comes down to it none of these things are static. Our personality traits, interests, and preferences can and do change over time, so what is left, what is self without these things? I read once that self is context rather than content, and this really made me think. All of these traits, interests, and tendencies are content, but the context of who we are is much larger than the content. On a smaller scale the energy that composes our current form of being comes from the dynamics of environment and culture that surrounds us. On a macro level our context is that of an enormous being of great energy and power that is not separate from God. Of course in order to live on this earth and interact with humanity we require a user interface, which could be considered another form of self as context. Our interface knows how to behave in the world in such a way that we are more likely to be accepted by our group and survive. For neuro-spicy people this interface is “the mask.”

When we talk about “finding ourselves” it is usually in reference to the desire to go beyond this smaller context, this mask we have to wear to fit in and survive. How are we different from and similar to everybody else we meet? We all imagine that we are much weirder, much more different, and unacceptably so, than most other people in our circle. Since we all think this way it’s rare for us to talk about it because we don’t want to feel judged for these perceived differences. Of course when we do talk about it we usually find that we aren’t as weird as we thought.

So the first act of “finding yourself” is to untangle the ways you change your nature to fit in from the way you truly feel most comfortable existing. The second part of finding yourself is to find other people who understand you at your most natural.

Theoretically, when you perceive yourself as context over content then you will more readily feel how you are really one with all of humanity and all differences are relatively superficial. But in order to get there it helps to feel understood and nurtured. To love yourself you need to be loved by others, and to love others you need to love yourself. It’s a circle. Honor the differences of others so that they will honor your differences and then you can honor your own.

I’m talking about all of this because I feel like I’ve been hiding much of who I am for decades. I go through phases where I’m more likely to reveal my true self and phases where I just want to go hide, but right now I’m in a revealing kind of mood. This push and pull is making me realize that the process of feeling comfortable in your own skin is indeed a process and not an event. It doesn’t happen all at once, and it does require encouragement from others. In the middle of that process your self also changes, so there is always more to discover and reveal. What have I been hiding? Nothing nefarious. I’m much more occulty/witchy/woo than even I let on. I remember some notable former lives, I believe some really out there spiritual stuff that most people would see as me just being delusional. I have undiagnosed OCD, which rather than being the obsessive hand washing and organizing disease most people think it is, is actually a hellscape of intrusive ego-dystonic thoughts. I also hate to say it, but even though politically I do belong to the progressive left, I am not as far to that left as the loudest lefties here in Seattle. And yes, I realize to the rest of the U.S. that admission probably doesn’t mean much. Anyway, I’m just tired of trying to pretend I’m not as weird and offputting as I am.

All that is to say that I created a Facebook group for fans and collectors of my artwork/books/puppet shows to hang out and discuss the topics behind those works in all their weirdness. I wanted to create a safe space for us to talk about things like reincarnation memories, our odd beliefs in the reasons why we come to earth at all, the magickal rituals we’re trying, stuff that you may not feel comfortable talking about in open discussion on a public facing page. While this group is another place for me to put my work out there, I also hope that the work sparks discussion, and that we can feel free to be our woo selves as we discuss what the work brings up for us in our own very strange lived experience. If you would like to join us click here. I acknowledge that my unverified personal gnosis is not yours, and let’s all be ok with that together.

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