Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Look But Please Touch: The schism between the external and internal world

<bout what separates all that’s internal to me from the world outside myself. On the physical level it seems simple: my body, which has definite boundaries in space, is Alissa, and everything outside my skin is not Alissa. Yet say I spit on the sidewalk. When the saliva was in my mouth it was Alissa, but once it left my mouth did it become un-Alissa? And what about the unphysical? Where are the boundaries of my mind? If I think a conscious thought, then that thought is inside of me, but if I say that same thought aloud does it leave my insides and enter the external world? Or is that thought still a part of me even though I expressed it aloud for others to hear? And if my mind doesn’t occupy any physical space, then my mind must exist in another place, another dimension if you will. And also, assuming that I am alive, what differentiates my aliveness from your aliveness? And now for a bit about aliveness:

We cannot insulate ourselves from our surroundings and be fully alive at the same time. Insulation of the self results in isolation of the self, and when we isolate ourselves from the external, we mute our senses so that we sense nothing. To be alive is to feel naked, even when you are fully clothed. Aliveness requires an acute alertness of the senses, acute alertness requires energy, and energy has its limits. What happens when we reach the upper limit of our energy? Well, if we can do no more, then we must abandon the task at hand, whether it is physical or spiritual. When we abandon the physical, we fill the empty space created with the spiritual. But when we abandon the spiritual, the physical loses its meaning, and so as a result we necessarily abandon the physical as well. Now for a bit more about the physical and the spiritual:

Why do we place more value on retaining and even augmenting the spiritual rather than stimulating our senses with more physical objects? To physically experience nothing but feel everything can be just as suffocating as experiencing too much and feeling too little. I’d prefer to feel something profound than to own something valuable, even if that something has personal value. But what if the spiritual is unimportant? What if what we feel is nothing compared to what we experience with our senses? I can’t sense the spiritual– I can’t see love or taste anger – so what good are the senses if the spiritual is all that matters? What matters is the physical: what I can touch and see and experience in the external world. And now about the ownership of objects:

We can sense an object without owning it, so why is ownership important? The ownership of an object comforts us because by owning an object we guarantee that we can always experience that object. That is why the loss of our physical possessions pains us (with the exception of the loss of objects that are necessary to our survival, like food and shelter): not because now we have less or because we don’t have the money or the ability to acquire another similar object, but because now we have one less certainty. So the ownership of an object is not about the object itself; it’s about the comfort that object provides us; it’s about how we feel when we experience that object. And now back to the nature of the self:

Sometimes I turn a corner and find myself face to face with myself. The world becomes my mirror: the world reflects all that I am right back at me so that looking out at the world is like looking past my flesh into my organs and into the cells that live in my blood. It’s like looking into my own eyes without looking in a mirror. I see me as only I can. This is the self: the dissolving of all barriers that divide inside from outside and outside from inside and the continuum of existence that the dissolving creates. Touch anything and you touch me. Love anything and you love me. Suddenly there is nothing more to know.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *