Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Death and the Self



Death and the Self

Rustam Singh
This essay continues the meditation on the self from the previous essay, “Self and Time”.
The self brings about its own death, hastens towards it out of its wish to die, and yet it does not wish to die: it wishes to live forever. The self wishes to have its way all the way till death, and then it would not like to die. And if death is inevitable, it would like to die its own way and at a moment of its own choosing. However, the self realises that this may not be possible. Nevertheless, it does not wish to give up control over its destiny. This situation turns the self into a desperate entity and it drives itself to the point where it wishes to die.
But there is another thing that needs to be considered here. That is, whose death is it going to be? Will it be the death of the self, or the death of the being which is, so to say, the being of the self? Or is it going to be the death of both of them?
In other words, is there a being which is the being of the self, a being which is part of existence? Or has the self, in the process of becoming what it is, distanced itself so much from being that the latter is not any longer one with it, that the self has become a self without being or is a self but not being?
Looking for answers to these questions, we can straightaway point out two things. Firstly, there is no doubt that the self, as it is, is situated very far away from existence. Secondly, before this entity that we now call ‘self’ became what it now is, it was part of existence. Therefore, now that it has become what it is, now that it is a self and is located at a great distance from existence, does it still have a connection with the latter, a connection in the sense that it retains some ingredient of it, that it carries a substance which resembles somewhat the substance of existence?
Let us think about it in this way. What is the most peculiar thing about existence? The most peculiar, and the most visible and clear thing about existence is that, firstly, it is there at any given moment, and, secondly, it is no longer there the very next moment as it was at the previous one. Given the fact that the self is, in its nature, an unstable entity, one can say that it shares this trait with existence. But there is another trait that existence has: it comes into existence––it is born––and then it goes out of it––it dies. In other words, there is no eternity, no endlessness about it. And this too is a trait that the self shares with it. It too is born and it dies, but what it does not share with existence is this: when it is born, existence is already there––is prior to it––and when it dies, it leaves it behind entirely intact.
This shows that the death of the self makes no difference to the life of existence. In other words, the self was already redundant for existence while it was still alive. But was it redundant too as the entity that it was before it was born, before it came into existence?
We have to be extremely careful here. When we say ‘self’, we mean that entity which has moved away a great distance from existence. Therefore when the self dies, it is the death of this entity, the entity which had created this gulf, this hiatus with existence. One reason why its death makes no difference to existence, why it leaves it indifferent to it, is precisely this gulf. This gulf is too vast for this death to make any impact on existence. And it is too vast because it was created by this entity called the self. This means that it is only the self which could have created this gulf. If the self had been a being, or if there were a being which was the being of the self, it would not have created this gulf. Therefore we have to say that, firstly, the self is not a being, or that there is no being which is the being of the self, a being which is part of existence. Secondly, the entity that the self was before it became a self could not have been redundant for existence. In other words, the self created this redundancy when it created itself.
Let us not forget that this redundancy which the self has created is the redundancy of the self itself. Thus the self is a superfluity; it is a thing which is not needed and yet is there. On the other hand, it is there but because of this redundancy of itself, it is as if the self does not exist. That is why one can also say that the self is an emptiness, a void, a vacancy, but a vacancy which has weight.
The self is an entity which, because of its weight, finds itself banished from existence. Furthermore, it is an entity which, despite its weight, turns into an emptiness.
What could have saved the self from this emptiness that it is? What would have held it firmly within existence?
Precisely being.
But, in such an event, the self would not be a self but something else. It would not have created itself, and, in the process, created that distance from existence which has made it redundant for the latter. Given this distance––given the fact that the self is there––it wishes to die, and yet it does not wish to die: it wishes to live forever.
* * *
Wishing to die, the self takes steps to realise this wish and goes on rushing towards its death. However, the death towards which it rushes is not the death which is inevitable, but the death which it brings about.
Thus, there is not one but rather two deaths which loom over the self, and it is the inevitability of one––an inevitability that it deeply resents––that makes it speed up the advent of the other. As a consequence, the death which meets the self––or the death which the self steps forward to meet––is the death which replaces the inevitable death, happens before it, and is, as such, only a false death, a death which crops up but, as a created death, lacks the substance which would make it real. In this fabricated death, it is as if the self fails to die and because of this failure is yet to die the other death which this death has upstaged but which is yet to take place.
This being so, the self, having once died, must die a second time.
But this second death never comes about. It stays at a distance, seeming to wait for the self to come near, to approach it, as it had approached the first death, but the self never approaches it. The reason for this is quite clear. This death––which is death proper––does not wait for the self, cannot wait for it, for the self which does not exist for existence does not exist for this death either.
Nevertheless, so far as the self is concerned, this death never disappears. In fact, it is the only death which the self sees as death. And it is the sight of this death which frightens it and from which its wish to die appears. With the appearance of this wish, the self starts moving towards its death, which is apparently the death proper but is actually that false death which the self creates for itself and embraces in the illusion that it is meeting its death.
This is how the self is abandoned by death––as it was abandoned by existence––but dies. It dies at the hands of that false death which is death too but is a kind of death which is not preceded by life and therefore does not succeed it: it succeeds only an illusion and itself comes as one. Having lived without life, the self dies without death, but dies nevertheless. After this death, it is no longer there, neither as a self nor as anything else. That is why even in this illusory death the self meets a proper death, a death which is not proper but is proper to it. Even though the self was an entity without life, this death kills it: it makes sure that it does not have life. In this way it confirms––exactly as if it needed this confirmation––that the self had no life and that it was precisely because of this lack that it needed to die, and die in the way it does.
We can see that what gets confirmed in this confirmation is that the death of the self is the death of an entity which is already dead. This would mean that the self is born as a dead entity, and lives as such until it dies. It would also mean that it is born in the sphere of death, and lives in it, and then dies in it. If this is so, then the world of the self is the world of death, and the self is a deathly, a deathlike entity.
However, isn’t it true that this world––the world of death––is created by the self and that it is created precisely when the self creates itself?
Therefore, the very birth of the self is an act of creating death and of creating a world which is deathlike. The self comes into the world accompanied by death, a death created by it. It comes into the world of death, a world which is created as soon as the self creates itself. It lives in this world of death as an entity which is dead and is deathlike. And it dies at the hands of a death which is there only till it dies.
Why is this death around only till the self is alive? Why does it die along with the self? It dies along with it because this death which was created by the self was created in order to die, and once the self dies, this death has no reason to exist. It appears from this as if the self knew, when it created itself, that it was going to be abandoned by death and therefore created the space for this other death for itself. And it follows that, in such an event, the self would have known too that having created itself it must die, that it must not keep alive forever.
The self would have known it because it would have known as well that in the world it was creating––the world of the self––there would only be the self and no one else. It would have known that it would be a lonely world and that in this world it would be lonely.
This shows that the self was aware of the consequences of what it was doing. Secondly, this makes the self an entity that experiences loneliness.
* * *
Having created it––along with the world that it was creating––the self makes attempts to free itself of loneliness. To free itself of it the self must die. On the other hand, being the entity which is focused on itself, the self does not wish to die. This conflict makes the self even lonelier than it would otherwise be.
But why does the self feel lonely? Why is it the entity that cannot be without loneliness?
The self is an entity which has no being within itself. It created itself by emptying out being and making a hollow. Therefore, it is an entity which has a hollow within itself, or, to be more precise, it is made of this hollow: it is nothing but a hollow, a void, an emptiness. Nevertheless, it is not an emptiness that is sufficient unto itself. It is dependent on being but in a way that being is a thing that is outside of this emptiness and must stay there for the emptiness to be what it is. As such, the emptiness that it is is propped on an absence: it is a consequence of it and follows from it.
Therefore, it stands to reason to say that what makes the self feel lonely is the absence of being.
But what does it mean to say this?
It means, firstly, that even though the self had emptied out being, it has not been able to get rid of the latter, in the sense that being remains present in the life of the self but not as a presence but rather an absence. Secondly, this absence is such that it is felt by the self. This is how the self fails to become an entity that is sufficient unto itself. In this failure the self misses being, wants to be close to it or one with it, and since this is not possible without ceasing to be a self, it wishes to die. In this wish, however, the self continues to be a self. As such, it does not wish to die: it continues to be lonely.
This is not to say that the self is alone in its world: it is surrounded by an infinite number of things. But all of them are things that the self itself has created, and as such these are not the things that can cure its loneliness. They are as dead as the self itself is. As a matter of fact, they are deader than the self in that they are not capable of feeling lonely. Devoid of being, the self fails to put any being into them. Deprived of being, they cannot feel for the self. But this is not all. The self at least had voided itself of being, or had created itself in the process of voiding it. But the things made by the self lack this valency. They are entirely dead and are dead too for what is not themselves. Being dead as such, they are as good as being absent, but this is an exaggeration. They are not absent: they are very much there, around the self, but entirely dead for it. And this is not a desert in which the self lives. (A desert has a being.) This is a desolation. These things, which surround the self, symbolise what it has ravaged in the course of creating this desolation. They are the ravaged face of a world that could have been the world of a ‘self’ but has turned itself away, leaving towards the self that face of itself which is not a face but a ravaged landscape. This landscape is not visited by the inevitable death. What death will visit a place which has been voided of life? Not the death which is the antithesis of life, but only a death which will kill what is already dead.


Written in 2006, this essay first appeared in my book 'Weeping' and Other Essays on Being and Writing (Pratilipi Books, Jaipur, 2011). The book is available at www.bookspunch.com, www.flipkart.com and www.amazon.in

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Self and Time



Self and Time
Rustam Singh
This essay continues the meditation on the self from the previous essay “To be Regardful of the Earth”, the meditation that was first begun in the essay “To be Fortunate”. Here the focus is on the relationship between the self and time. I will not write a longer abstract to this rather bold essay which begins by saying that time does not exist but is, in fact, a creation of the self.
The endlessness of the weight[1] of the self[2] is linked to another thing as well. It is that the self is acutely conscious of and constantly measures itself against what is called time. There are two things that need to be noted in this context. Firstly, the self likes to behave as if it is never going to die, as if it is immortal. Secondly, it likes to behave in this manner because this thing called time is considered by the self to be endless, to be itself immortal. Measuring itself in terms of this time that it thinks is immortal, the self tries to approximate time but is always defeated.
Why is this defeat inevitable? For two reasons. One is that the self is mortal. The second is that there is no such thing as time.
If there were such a thing as time, and if this thing were immortal, the self would behave like a creature which is bound by time, a creature which is bound in it. That is, a creature which is born at a point in time and dies at another point, a creature which would not behave as if it is outside time, as if it is against it. In fact, in such a situation the self would not need to perceive time: it would perceive only itself––but as a creature which, without ever thinking about time, merely is, and which, having lived its life, comes to an end, dies. In other words, if there were actually a thing called time, then for the self there would be no such thing as time, then for it time would not exist, nor would it try to imagine time: such a thing would not occur to it.
To be able to imagine time, the self must live without time, it must spend its days in the deprivation of time, it must feel that there is not enough time, that hardly is it born and already it is time to die. To be able to imagine time, the self must have desire for time, it must have desire for more time than it has, or it must have the fear that it may soon have to leave behind whatever time is there.
This is exactly the fear the self has: it feels that time is something it does not have, or that it has very little time. That is why, out of this time that it feels it has, it spends a lot of time thinking about time. It thinks about time, or rather imagines it, and having done that it believes that there is actually a thing called time.
But why does the self imagine time? Why does it believe that time exists, that it is there, outside its mind?
* * *
The self believes in the existence of time so that it can measure itself against something which is weightier than itself, or, if it is a thing that cannot have weight, is mightier, stronger, lasts longer, lasts endlessly, as time is supposed to do. But why does the self wish to measure itself against time? It wishes to do that in order to feel its own weight and to feel that its weight is no less, is not lesser, than that of time. And if time has no weight, if it is an entity which is weightless, then the self wishes to feel that it is not without the endlessness of time, that this endlessness is within its reach, is in fact in its grasp, or is almost so.
This wish on the part of the self is not surprising. It is only by measuring itself against a thing like time that it can illumine for itself the possibility of a life without end––‘life’, not just in terms of a physical entity that lives forever but also a ‘mind’, a ‘selfhood’ that does not die, that overcomes time or at least is not defeated by it.
Let us put it in straightforward terms: the self does not like to countenance the idea of defeat. In fact, it does not like to be defeated. But we can go even further: the self, the way it perceives itself, likes to win. But how does the self perceive itself? What is its vision of itself? What is its dream? Its dream is to dominate––to rule over––not only the things that it can see but also the things that it can think about, the things that it can imagine and not yet imagine, the things that it can conceive, invent, conjure up, the things that it can concoct––images, ideas, concepts and words, representations, notions, but not only these. The dream of the self is to master the things that it can create.
And time is a thing that it has created.
The self has created time, and it has created it in order to illumine for itself the possibility of immortality. But having created it, it would like to dominate time––it would like to dominate it and rule over it, to be its master. Given the way it perceives itself, nothing less would be acceptable to the self.
However, is time a thing that the self can dominate? Is it a thing that would allow the self to be its master? What kind of a thing is time? And how realisable is this wish of the self to be able to rule over it? Having created it, this relation that the self strikes with time, how sensible is this relation?
Let us straight away put this down: time is a thing which is unlike any other thing. In fact, we can go to the extent of saying that time is not a thing. Unlike things, it does not have a substance––a substance which is material or even spirit-like. If time is there, it does not manifest itself: it is visible neither in itself nor in any other thing. Then, in what lies the existence of time? In what way does time exist? What is time?
The best that we can say is that time is an idea, a notion that exists in the mind of the self.
Nevertheless, this is not the way the self looks at time.
Time is a notion in the mind of the self. As such, time does not exist. Or it exists only to the extent that a notion––a fancy––can exist: as a thing which is an illusion in the mind of another thing, a fantasy, a delusion, a false impression, a daydream, a figment of imagination, a mirage, an apparition, a hallucination.
The fact remains, however, that the self does not look at time as any of these things.
For the self, time is real, as real as the self itself is.
But in reality it is only a fascination with something which is beyond its grasp. It is a thing which has come over the mind of the self, which has taken its possession. It has possessed it in such a way that in this possession it appears to be real, as real as a thing that possesses can appear to be real. Let us take note of this: it is never a thing that possesses; it is always a mind which gets possessed. And it gets possessed even when there is nothing to possess it. The thing that possesses is an invention of the mind: it lives in imagination. It lives there or gives the impression of a life which is, actually, not there: a life not lived, not liveable, a caricature.
But the self believes that time has a life: a life longer than its own life, much longer than it, a life that goes on beyond its own life and was already there when it was born.
And the self cannot bear it.
The self cannot bear, not its own life, but the life of time, a life which makes an appearance in its own life and disappears beyond it, a life before whose disappearance its own life disappears. This disappearance of its own life before the disappearance of the life of time the self cannot bear.
The self cannot bear it.
In its inability to bear, the self gets weighted down by its own creation. Time, which had no weight, begins to acquire a shape. A shape that grows. Till now the self was the only thing that had weight. And its weight was enormous. But now time displaces it. It becomes weightier than the self. This, too, the self cannot bear. It cannot bear this weight, too. This weight crushes it––the only thing which is crushed by this weight of time.
* * *
The self is the only thing for which time has weight. This is so for two reasons. Firstly, for no other entity does time exist. Secondly, the self itself is a weightful entity. In other words, if the self were an entity without weight, time would be weightless. This means that the weight of time has a connection with the weight of the self. It is only because the self is a weightful entity that time comes to acquire weight. That is, if the self were weightless, it would not experience time as if it had weight––a weight that crushes it. The self experiences time as such, it feels crushed by it precisely because it has a substance that can be crushed by time, in a way that this crushing, this being crushed, is felt by the self.
But this is not the only reason why time is weightful. For time had weight even at the time the self had created it: it was conceived by the self as a weightful entity. The crushing by time, the devastation at its hands, came later. It was a consequence of the weight of time created earlier. Therefore we can say that the devastation that the self experiences at the hands of time is its own creation.
However, is it possible that it was precisely to experience this devastation that the self had created time?
This is a peculiar thing about the self: it does not like to be defeated but it inevitably gets into situations which would lead to its defeat. And it gets into such situations because it is aware that, no matter what it does to avoid getting devastated, devastation is its fate. This awareness turns the self into a reckless and impudent creature. In this recklessness it does everything to mock its fate: it mocks it and challenges it till its provocations spur its fate to devastate it. Each moment of this devastation is experienced by the self as a blow that crushes it: for the self is not merely impudent, it is extraordinarily delicate. It is sensitive and proud and tries to hold its ground till the devastation lasts.
But this devastation cannot be stopped.
It can neither be stopped nor be stopped from coming, for the self, because of the very inevitability of the devastation, takes steps to bring it about.
This is how it created time.
* * *
It is curious to think that the self, which will in any case die, takes steps to bring about its own destruction. This shows that the self wishes to die even before it meets its death; it wishes to die in order to bring its death closer; may be it wishes to die straightaway, at this very moment. Does this wish to die have something to do with time? Is it likely that––now that time is there––the self wishes to die also because it wants to put an end to its engagement with time?
If this latter is true, then, is this the proper way to disengage with time? The proper way to do so is: not to die, not to choose death for oneself but rather to let time die, to let it pass away, to let it pass out of the mind, the imagination.
Let us not forget that time lives in the mind of the self, in its imagination. In fact, it is the self itself which gave this life to time. The self is the one which had created it, and then established it in such a way that it has acquired a life outside of the mind of the self. Actually, however, the only life it has is inside that mind. As such, it is the self only which can bring it to an end, which can push it out. In order to do that the self has to learn to live without time, to live as if it had never created time and given it a life, to live as if there never was a time when time was there. In other words, the self has to kill time: it has to kill it to clear those vast stretches of space in its mind which are now occupied by time. But does this mean that it will have to clear out its memory itself, its story, its history? Does the self have no memory, no past without time?
To say that memory and past––memory and history––are things that exist in time would amount to saying that they are things in imagination, for time itself exists only there. However, this is not the argument we are going to put forth here. What we are going to put forth is this: Memory and past are things that do exist in imagination––in fact, they exist only there––but they have nothing to do with time. Past comes to an end the moment it becomes past, and as such there is no such thing as past, nor, as a consequence, is there an entity which remembers past. What then is ‘past’? It is images––stored in what is called memory––that denote certain events. These events, in turn, when the self ‘thinks of’ them, evoke feelings and emotions, thoughts. And all this happens in imagination. Therefore, when the self clears out time from its mind, it would leave intact both the ‘past’ and the ‘memory’: they are secure in the mind of the self; no harm will come to them with the killing of time.
However, will the self ever kill time? Or will it rather kill itself? But by killing itself, the self would kill, too, its own story, its history. Therefore may be it would prefer to kill time?
The self is faced here with a great difficulty. Both its story––its history––and time exist only in its mind. As such, they do not really exist. And if this is so, it should not at all matter which one of them is killed. But will the self dare to kill its own story? Will it dare to take that step when it can, rather, kill time? The self which is a weightful entity and has no compunctions about increasing its weight––will it dare to kill its own story when that story is all that it cares about? Its story is more or less what the self thinks it is, and when the self increases its weight, this story is what gets lengthened, what runs parallel to the length of time. As such, this story is what brings it the grandeur, the glory that it craves. Therefore, will the self be imprudent enough to cut short this story, interrupt its course?      
The answer to this question is ambiguous. The self may not kill its own story fearing a loss of its weight. However, in the very pursuit of such weight it may push itself beyond its endurance and die before its time, thus putting an end to its story.
It appears that this is the course the self is most likely to adopt.
Time will go on till the story of the self, its history, comes to an end, that is, till it is brought to an end by the self itself.
This behaviour is characteristic of the self. It will not kill its own story. As a consequence, it will not kill time. However, precisely because of this dual act, it manages to kill both of them and dies in the process. By this refusal to kill––because this killing will kill the self as well––the self ends up killing itself. In this killing the self dies before its time. As such, this death appears to be untimely. Nevertheless, it is also simultaneously a timely death. It is a death in which the self, while dying before its time, dies, too, along with time: the self and time die at the same time. Thus it appears to be an appropriately timed death, as also a death which is appropriate. It is neither a suicide nor a death which comes at its own time, but rather a death which is brought into existence to time with the end of a life which, having created time, lived in mortal fear of it and yet tried to use it to increase its own weight.

NOTES
[1] The idea that the self has weight, is a weightful entity, was first introduced in the essay “To be Regardful of the Earth”.
[2] Which, from another perspective, is not actually endless; for the self dies and along with it its weight comes to an end.

Written in 2005, this essay first appeared in my book 'Weeping' and Other Essays on Being and Writing (Pratilipi Books, Jaipur, 2011). The book is available at www.bookspunch.com, www.flipkart.com and www.amazon.in

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Simulating: The Heart Breaking

You may read my essay "Simulating: The Heart Breaking" in the journal "Comparative and Continental Philosophy" (Vol. 4, No. 2). The essay can be downloaded FREE OF COST. Kindly go to the following link: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1179/ccp.4.2.r023p2w06410342t

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

To be Regardful of the Earth



To be Regardful of the Earth
Rustam Singh
This essay continues the meditation on the nature of the self, first begun in the essay “To be Fortunate”. It also continues to elaborate the notion of the self-less one which was introduced in the essay “To be Fortunate”. The essay asserts that the self is a weightful entity. It then points out that existence is weightless, and so are the earth and the self-less one. However, being weightful the self is not part of existence. In fact, it stands very far away from it. And to become part of existence, it must lose weight and become weightless. The essay argues that this is not possible for the self, until it ceases to be a self and turns itself into the self-less one. The essay also raises and tries to tentatively answer the question: Does the self really exist?
To be regardful of the earth is to be regardful of one’s self. Unfortunately the self does not understand this. It is only the self-less one[1] which has this understanding. Or rather this understanding is a part of the nature of the self-less one. As such, the self-less one stands closest to the being of the earth, and puts no burden upon it.
Does this mean that the self is a burden upon the earth? It does. But then it also means that the self is, at the same time, a burden upon itself, and that it can relieve itself of this burden only to the degree it becomes less and less of a self.
Thus the self is, by its very nature, a burdensome entity––this burden (this weight) is a constituent of its existence. The self is, in other words, heavy. The earth, on the other hand, is weightless: the only weight it carries is that of the self––the self that rides over it.
But, what does it mean––to be weightless? Does it mean not to have a body? No. For the earth does have a body. As a matter of fact, the earth is all body and nothing else. To be weightless means to carry the body in such a way that it loses all weight. (Only the earth knows how to do that. Or the self-less one.) It also means––to be without a self. Fortunately, the earth never had a self: it was born without one. That way, it was luckier than the self-less one, for the latter had to carve itself out of and away from the self.
* * *
Away from the self the self-less one has no relation. This is true about the earth as well. In the absence of a relation they present themselves with no occasion to accumulate weight. For it is precisely a relation––which the self is bound to enact––that imbues the self with weight. Weight, then, is the product of the relation between one self and another self. And since the self imposes a similar relation on to the earth as well––a one-sided relation––it acquires weight, and the earth experiences it as a weightful entity. The self-less one escapes this experience, for it keeps the self at an unbridgeable distance. However, this distance is not always a physical distance. Although the self-less one stays in the very midst of the beings with a self, but in relation to them, it conducts itself in such a way that they cannot put their weight upon it: unlike the earth it can choose not to let them impose a relation upon it.
Clearly the earth is incapable of escaping the relation that the self imposes upon it. But this does not mean that it cannot get rid of this imposition. It has immense capacity to overturn whatever the self imposes upon it: it has the strength to overturn it or reduce it into nothingness.
This nothingness is the final fate of the self (and not eternal recurrence), a fate it continually tries to forget by enacting one relation after another, till it fills the entire space around it with its weight.
* * *
This space is the space of the earth. The self erects in this space what is called the world––the world which is the concatenation of relations between one self and the other selves. Thus the world is the manifestation of the appropriation by the self of the space of the earth. As such, the entire world––this multiplicity of relations between one self and the other selves––is a burden upon the earth.
In this world each self relates to the other selves in such a way that it becomes a burden upon them, and as a consequence the relation itself, in turn, becomes a burden. Only the one which breaks these relations, and breaks out of them, loses its weight, and ceases to be a burden. This is the self-less one.
These relations are the relations of attachment and of exchange. Nevertheless, it is not true that where there is a relation of attachment, there will not be a relation of exchange. Both these kinds of relations can exist together.
In a relation of attachment the self feels so bound up with another self that the absence of the latter becomes unbearable. In this way in such a relation the existence of the self is dependent on the existence of another self. This dependence is precisely what gives a weight to the self, the self which may feel a similar kind of weight from another self. The feeling that the existence of another self is indissolubly bound up with the self’s own existence is a great burden to bear. However, mostly, even without realising it the self bears this burden and places this same kind of burden on the other selves.
In fact, looking closely, we can see a relation of exchange within this relation of attachment. In this relation attachment ends up assuming the shape of a demand craving for exchange. More often than not, goods do get exchanged. The self which feels attached is given a feeling of a similar kind of attachment by the other self. This is how the attachment lasts, and so the burden.
To get rid of this burden the self must break loose, without getting attached to yet another self. This is also the way to lose its own weight.
However, it is not always necessary to break this relation in order to lose weight. For, there is a kind of attachment which does not become a burden upon the other self. This attachment is called ‘love’ and it may go beyond a relation between two selves. In this attachment, a self feels attached to another self, or a thing, without putting the entire weight of its existence upon that self, or on the thing. This ‘not putting weight’ is equivalent to a loss of weight. How is this achieved? It is achieved by not demanding any love or attachment in return.
So far as things are concerned––and we are talking here of natural objects––they are not in any case capable of extending any love or attachment in return. This incapacity gives them a unique stature, a stature that the self by its very nature does not have: namely, a capacity not to demand any attachment or love. Due to this capacity they become a perfect example of the weightless existence that the self lacks: neither giving nor demanding any attachment or love, they live in themselves. Thus their existence is in harmony with the existence of the earth.
We should notice this extraordinary situation. Things are in harmony with the earth––put no weight on it––precisely because they live a life of total detachment from it, and from one another. We could also say that this harmony is a consequence of the absence of a relation between them and the earth, and also among themselves. In the absence of this relation, they do not create a ‘world’.
* * *
Clearly, concerning the matter of putting a burden upon the earth, the self and the world are the only culprits. However, the world is not just the concatenation of relations between one self and the other selves: it encompasses as well the relation the self strikes with the things that it makes. These things are the entire paraphernalia of unnatural objects that the self gathers around itself, and with whom it enters into a particular kind of relation.
What is the nature of this relation? One could say that the self is attached to the objects that it makes and surrounds itself with, and that therefore it is, essentially, a relation of attachment. To a certain degree this is not incorrect. However, this attachment is very different from the attachment that the self has with another self. There, it wants a similar kind of attachment from another self or other selves, whereas in the present case the objects that it makes are incapable of extending this attachment in return. And they are incapable of this because, unlike another self or other selves, they are not a self, or, one could even say, they lack a self. But this characterisation still does not bring us very close to the nature of their being, for even the natural objects do not have a self and do not strike a relation. What is special about the unnatural objects made by the self is this: not only do they not have a self, but also, in addition––and this is where they differ from the natural objects––they are just an outward extension of the self, an extension that becomes physically detached from it. As such, the relation that the self has with them is a relation with itself, and therefore the attachment it feels for them is, in fact, an attachment with itself.
This allows us to say the following things about the self and these objects that it makes. Since the self is a weightful entity, the objects that it makes––objects which are an extension of itself––increase its weight. This being so, the self is not just a weightful entity, it is also an entity which has a tendency to increase its weight and is capable of doing so. And an implication of this is that with the increase in the objects that it makes, the weight of the self goes on increasing, and along with that the weight of the world.
However, with this increase in the weight of the self and the world, what happens to the earth? Is it that this phenomenon merely increases the burden upon the earth? No. There is another thing that happens. In order to make the objects that it makes, trying to extend itself, the self gouges out parts of the earth, for it is precisely from the body of the earth that it can make these objects. Having done that, it turns these parts––these pieces of the body of the earth––into objects with which it then becomes attached, in an attachment which is nothing more than an attachment with itself. In this entire process what was earlier a part of the earth becomes an extension of the self. Lumps of the body of the earth are dissociated from it and are transformed in such a way that they become appropriable for the self, and then it appropriates them to itself. What was earlier of the earth is taken away from it and is turned against it.
But does this diminish the earth and strengthen the self? And what does it reveal about the self?
More than anything else, it reveals that the self is a monster. And far from diminishing the earth, it only diminishes the self. Thus the self falls further down in our estimation.
The self––along with the world––is the only entity that has weight. Therefore, it would appear that the self and the world are diminished by losing weight. However, diminishment is not, actually, a matter of losing weight. In fact, it has just the opposite relationship with the latter. For, in the context of the earth, the less is the weight a thing has, the greater is its stature. As such, the weightier the self and the world become, the less they are. As a monstrous entity that the self has become––creating a world which is no less monstrous––one can say that it barely exists.
* * *
This self that barely exists––and yet occupies so much space––is all over the earth, and all over another self or other selves. Given the fact that it is a weightful entity and has a tendency to increase its weight, there is little possibility that it would learn to contain itself. Therefore, the self must cease to exist.
And here we must take note of a question that inevitably poses itself, a question that can surprise us: Does the self really exist? That is, does it have even a bare existence? Or is it just a fiction, a chimera that has propped itself up, inflated itself into an enormous shape and acquired a weight which is monstrous? What indeed is the self? And what does it mean to exist?
Trying to answer this question, we must begin by saying what only suggests itself, namely that to exist means to have no weight, that existence is absolutely weightless. And this weightlessness of it comes from a characteristic which belongs only to itself: it does not focus itself on itself. By doing that it gives a go by to the need for relation. In the absence of this need it does not prop itself on anything outside of itself. It is in this way that it acquires no weight.
But let us put this view as clearly as possible.
To have weight, for a thing, means to prop itself on another thing outside of itself. This propping takes place because there is a relation. The relation is there because there is a need for it. This need is created because the thing focuses itself on itself. And this is what this thing called the self does all the time. Further, it is precisely by doing this that it becomes a fiction, a chimera, a thing that does not exist.
This focusing itself on itself, then, which is a narcissistic operation, is what divests the self of its existence.
It becomes possible now to say what the self is. The self is a thing which is constantly away, apart from existence. It is that substance which existence does not carry. It is that extra which is unwanted by the latter, or rather which is not taken any account of, is not even noticed by it. As such, the self is utterly insignificant.
This is a paradoxical situation. The self does not exist, is utterly insignificant because it has weight. However, on the other hand, it has weight because it regards itself as the centre of existence. Nevertheless, what is even more paradoxical is this: this so called centre, this central point where the self regards itself to be, is yet incapable of ridding the self of the need for relation. In fact, it is precisely this point, this location of the self, which creates this need, impelling the self in the direction where it comes to acquire weight. For, the nature of this point is such that it locates the self already in a situation which will imbricate it in a concatenation of relations.
But let us dwell a little more on this situation.
One would think that a thing which is focused on itself is sufficient in itself. However, this is not true about the self. In the case of the self, this self-focusing––in which it engages all the time––reduces its stature, to the point where, losing its capacity to endure on its own, it catches hold of all the things around it. The paradox lies in this: the self’s belief that it will now endure is already an illusion, for in the process of self-focusing, and all that happens as a consequence, the self loses its existence. From now on, it lives as a fiction, as a chimera, as a thing that has blown itself up, but a thing which is visible only to itself. For, so far as existence is concerned, it has already ceased to exist.
The nature of existence is such that it has no central point. Nor is it true that it can look at itself. As a matter of fact, existence has no eyes, although we cannot say that it is blind. Blindness lies in that illusion which characterises the self, the illusion that tells it that it exists. Blindness lies in the fiction, the chimera which presents itself to itself and calls it existence. It lies in the weight––the volume and shape, or shapelessness––which goes by the name of the self.
Therefore, there is a lesson here for the self. In order to come into existence, it must move itself away from itself.
However to do that the self must recognise its true condition––namely that it does not exist. Unfortunately for the self, this can happen only if it turns itself into the self-less one.
In other words, it is only by leaving its existence as the self that the self is able to see what it was, or, more precisely, what it wasn’t. As self, it is incapable of looking at itself as something other than what it believes itself to be.
It is with this eye contaminated by deception that the self looks around itself and finds only itself there. This is how its gaze, which is focused on itself, remains focused there even when it looks around itself. With this gaze, the more the objects it looks at, the bigger it grows.
Its weight is endless.




NOTES

[1] The notion of the self-less one was first introduced in my essay “To be Fortunate”.


Written in 2005, this essay first appeared in the online and print journal Pratilipi. Later, it appeared in my book ‘Weeping’ and Other Essays on Being and Writing, Paratilipi Books, Jaipur, 2011. This book is available at www.bookspunch.com, www.flipkart.com and www.amazon.in