MOST OF US ARE SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN
For most of us, we are somewhere in between the extremely autistic person, whose sense of internal "self" (if it exists) has little to do with the society, and the blind individual, whose internal "self" is being conceptualized and redefined through interactions with the outside world. While the debate on "nature" vs "nurture" might be rekindled with every new research report, I would submit that the conceptualization of "self" is something that ought not to invoke vigorous debates. In essence, it is a combination of what we have from birth (as in the case of the individual who was born blind) and the degree to which we are able and/or willing to find meanings to the information and stimuli around us (as in the case of the autistic's ability or the lack thereof to decode). An average person is born with an internal, genetically-based sense of "self". It is part of the body-and-soul package, an imprint if you may. The concept of self starts to form early in childhood and is molded by our experience as we grow and age. If I may use "think" and "conceptualize" interchangeably, "self" is "I think therefore I am" plus "I do not think, therefore I still am."
POSSIBLE ANSWERS TO VICKY'S QUESTIONS
So, what are the answers to the questions posed by Vicky? Based on the diagnostique above, I would boldly postulate that the soul is the "electronic manual" that comes with the body. As long as the body is living, the soul has meaning and is therefore "alive". I do not believe in the separation of body and soul. To me, the thinking part is very much part and partial of the moving parts (the body). When the body ceases to function, it stops providing the soul with form and energy and renders the "electronic manual" irrelevant and inoperable. Now, I am not saying that the memory of the individual also evaporates into thin air. In fact, I still remember very much my father in the various stages of my relationship with him and of course we still have lots of his pictures in the family photo albums and around the house. But, there is no doubt in my mind that when the family agreed with the hospital doctor to "pull the plug", his consciousness (or whatever was left at the time) extinguished and flamed out the moment the life-support was taken off him.
Now, if the soul is the manual to the body that gives it form, then the conceptualized "self" is the collective meaning of what the owner writes on the manual. Some owners are meticulous and are quite clear as to the meaning of his/her purpose in life. Others are less articulate and less sure as to who they are. They do not have a very strong self and will continue to imitate pop culture or be subjected to peer pressure. Yet others such as the autistics may leave the manual blank (other than the genetic imprint) or else fill it with something that the society cannot understand or relate to. To the person who was born blind, he/she already has a very strong idea what his/her manual is saying but needs to make sure it fits in and makes sense to others as well. There is a continuous process of self conceptualization and realization.
WITH RESPECT TO THOSE WHO ARE RELIGIOUS
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, it would have been presumptuous to expect anyone to be able to answer satisfactorily the two fundamental "why" questions about life. The primary purpose of this paper is to provide a diagnostique to the two key words 'soul' and 'me' and let the readers draw their own conclusions. However, in doing so, I have unexpectedly surprised even myself by inferring that there is no such thing as a soul that exists after a physical death. This might have offended those whose faith says otherwise. I truly apologize because it is not my intention to impose my views on readers. I do recognize however that the human soul might exist outside of the Newtonian universe and might take on forms that are beyond the comprehension of a mortal like me. Again, I just would like to re-emphasize there is no deliberate intention to challenge or put any faiths or religions into questions.
* Body-and-soul is a package deal. The soul comes with your body. That's why my soul is in my body and your soul in yours.
* The soul is the "electronic manual" of the physical body with a genetic imprint at birth. The body gives the soul form and energy - so the latter becomes "alive". A person's "self" (why me is me) evolves through a process of self conceptualization and realization that renders him/her the ability to decode meanings and distinguish self from non-self.
* The human soul might exist outside of the Newtonian universe in a form that the author cannot prove or disprove.