Friday, April 06, 2007

軀体、靈魂、自我 (上册) / Body, Soul and Self (Part 1 of 2)

(Disclaimer: The following article is an opinion and is not based on any professional, scientific or medical facts, either directly or indirectly.)


This discussion paper will attempt to answer my blogger friend Vicky's February 20, 2007 questions (see note 1): Why my soul is in this body? Why me is me? Obviously, these are existential questions that have been asked countless times since the beginning of human existence and the author does not pretend to have woken up one day and Eureka! found the answer. Rather, I would attempt to do a diagnostique of two human conditions whereby the readers could perhaps draw their own conclusions.


Before I present the two human conditions, I would like to first of all draw your attention to the two key words in Vicky's questions: Soul and Me. For thousand of years, both religious and non-religious studies have pointed to the existence of a "soul" which could be a separate or separable entity apart from the physical body. A recent movie even suggested that a human soul might have a certain weight in grams. However, the concept of "me" is more encompassing in that when we say "me" or "I", we usually refer to both the thinking part as well as the movable parts - the body that "houses" the former. Here, we are talking about a concept, who I am, as opposed to an entity, what it is.

The two human conditions I would like to present are: Autism and Blindness (see note 2).

In layman's terms, autism is the "inability" (from the point of view of a society's majority) of an individual to interact with the people around him/her in a "normal" manner. I use quotation marks for two reasons:
* The definitions of disability and what is normal are often value-based as opposed to science- and legislation-based (similar example: people's different views on homosexuality).
* The nature and degree of autism across the population is a continuum (e.g. from a habitual daydreamer, to the character played by Dustin Hoffman in the movie Rain Man, to a completely non-responsive autistic.)

Similarly, the definition of blindness (visually challenged) follows more or less the same arguments, so I would not repeat them here.

For individuals with extreme autism, the "self" might not exist, or he/she might have a sense of "self" but it is so detached from other members of the society that it is almost like an isolated universe by itself. I call it a sense rather than a concept because this "self" could be a very passive entity, reacting to sounds and external stimuli as opposed to actively seeking and conceptualizing the information available to formulate a higher awareness and gain the ability to distinguish self from non-self. In another word, the sensory faculties are there but the de-coder for meaning is either on a different frequency from the rest of the society or else it is shut off. There is no conceptualization process to make any linkage between the inner "self" (if it exists at all) and the outside world in a meaningful way to the individual and the people around him/her.

On the other hand, a blind person who was born blind will have no initial idea as to how his/her pre-conceived "self" situates in the outside world and relates to other members of the society. I would suggest that the individual, with an acute sense of "self" internally, will want to continuously seek external information to bridge the gap between the inner and outer worlds. The conceptualization becomes a continuous process to adapt, learn and redefine the inner "self" so that it can relate to and present itself to the outside in a way meaningful to the individual and the people around him/her.

1. Original exchange with Vicky: (8:59 下午, 二月 20, 2007 張貼在 Lotus and Cedar) vicky 已針對您的文章「心眼 / In My Mind's Eye」留下新意見:
* Vicky: I also have these questions, why my soul is in this body? why me is me? But i can't figure out.
* Haricot: Good questions !!! When I have time, I will attempt to do a diagnostic on the concept of "self". Don't hold your breath though, as I have been quite busy lately.

2. Williams, D. "Somebody Somewhere - Breaking Free from the World of Autism". ISBN 0385254474. p231 "... The pianist had been blind from early infancy and now had glass eyes. I spoke to him about meaning blind. I talked to him about seeing objects without meaning. He talked to me of depth of meaning without seeing ... ."


vicky said...

Oh! you still remember my question! I still thinking of it sometimes.

微豆 said...

Vicky: Don't think too too hard on this kind of existential questions, they might drive a person nuts !!!

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