Self

Why are there so many good jokes about the self? This is a philosophical question of the first order, but rarely ever seriously addressed. The truth in humor: is the self itself not a joke?

I am suspicious I am.

Your first memory. Can you tell amongst the early ones which is earliest? Or does the time line not fracture as it fades, events unclustering in a shadowy cloud, rather than stringing neatly along a single originary thread? And does that first memory include you? Are you already there? Or is your self not built up out of your experiences? If so, there was a time in your experiences when you were not yet built up. The time before your first memory: were you there? Or did you arise with that first remembered experience? Or was even that experience only a fleeting reference to a self yet to be?

And now? Is your self not still ... yet to be? Is it not just the tattered assemblage of experiences, a heap or remembered and occurring moments, bound by the gossamer twine of association, and still open to the future? Are you merely the amalgam of your experiences, or are you the witness in virtue of whom they are all your own? But this witness — where is it in your experience? You rummage through your thoughts, like a miser through his storehouses; you note each passing intuition and emotion; you inventory your deeds and your intentions — but where in all these mental events is the witness that has them? Can the self as subject ever be object to itself? Or do you, dear witness, not transcend the very world your brain concocts?

Memories of self. Isn't that a misnomer? Is the self the possessor of memories, or is memory not the mother of the self? We may think: the self is one thing, its memories are another. Or we may wonder whether memory does not subsume the self, contain it like a scrapbook or dusty photo album. The self may be the product of memory, rather than memory a capacity of a self. O forgetful ones! When you look into your memory to find yourself, who will find and who will be found?

What will you give me for this very fine self? They don't make them like this anymore. And right now you can take advantage of a once-in-a-life-time offer which will put you in the driver's seat of this sporty little self for a fraction of its resale value. Sure it sounds like a lot; maybe its an arm and a leg; but sometimes you've got to sacrifice the part for the sake of the whole. I mean, this baby is pristine, hardly a dent in it, and a record of certifiably clean living. Ok, just for you, I'll knock off a further 10% and forego the dealer's surcharge. Plus, if you pay in cash, no taxes. But that's my final offer. You'll take it? Good. Let's shake on it. When this deal goes through, you'll feel like a whole new person. And technically, you won't end as the same person who entered into it.

Thus we negotiate the self. We pay through the nose for the self. We bargain, we strike, we climb down, we settle for less. We battle over the self as over the remote control. But we don’t remotely have control.