What exactly am I?
Every once in a while I’m reminded that I’m essentially a complex and evolved piece of machinery with a presence that perceives through my senses and exists as a “person”. I am not a tree. I am not a granite boulder. I am not a fork, or a river, or a horse, or a bag of potato chips. But like them, I am molecules, atoms and quarks, also chemicals and fluids, limbs under a load of gravity, hearing receptacles that respond to air vibrations, eyes that ingest light and assemble wavelengths to create an image to guide me through the world that I can only take at its word for its existence.
And the world I live in is not the world you live in – the passage of time, the reaction to a sunset, a rainy day, a car accident, a quarter lying on the sidewalk. I have no idea of the atmosphere of your experience. Is it a comedy? A tragedy? Some sort of moody, low-key narrative? An epic? I can only live in my own space. With my machine of flesh and bone, wired and aspirated, and somewhat clunky.
So where do we meet? Where do you and I intersect? We’re all hungry, tired, confused, excited, bewildered, giddy, bored, distracted at times. We’re all familiar with these states. But my hungry isn’t your hungry, my thinking is foggier, or clearer, or of a different sort altogether. My feelings are private, simply because I cannot adequately communicate them. I can put you in the ballpark but I can’t provide the nuance of them.
I think you’re there, in front of me. I’m pretty sure it’s you I’m talking to. I can hear your voice, expelled from your mouth, watch your eyes, read your body language. Here we are together, here I am apart. When I’m by myself, I expand outward. With no expectations of engagement or expression I simply am, and become amorphous, oozing from one sense of self to another.
I don’t know what exactly is supposed to happen next. There are the usual obligations of having a life in a society comprised of people who presumably want to be there. But stripped of the routines and tasks that make up this role I assume, what exactly is going on? The wind blows, the sun rises and descends, the moon glows in the night sky. It’s all very quiet. Maybe my place here is not to do the laundry and pay the bills, but how did we get here? Some version of us construed that things were happening and could be responded to. Tools and language and power hierarchies evolving us into binge watching couch potato scroll-bots.
So we don’t integrate well into the natural world, and our technical and economic majesty flounders and fails. What next?