Self-Portraits

Why do I have so many photographs of rivers and waves as self-portraits? ...

 

What Is a Person?

Where is the 5 year-old version of you? That person is gone. Every molecule of your body is probably different by now. Every day billions and billions of your cells die and are replaced.

Your thoughts, dreams and ideas are all different now. Your mind is a new mind.

When you were in the womb, the molecules that would make up your infant self were spread miles and miles away, in the food your mother eventually ate. You constructed yourself from that diffuse matter.

You still construct yourself. Where are the molecules that will make up cells in your body five years from now? They too are spread miles and miles away, in the food you will eventually eat.

Everything Flows

You are like a wave on the ocean or a river flowing through the land.

Every moment, the individual water molecules that make up a river are different. As Heraclitus said, you cannot step into the same river twice. It is never the same river.

Yet the river does exist in some way. It has a recognizable form. But that form slowly changes over time as the river cuts its way through the land. Its flow changes the land, which in turn changes the shape of the river.

So there are two levels of change, every moment the water molecules change, but make up a recognizable form. That form however slowly changes over months and years.

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You Are a Wave

In the same way that a wave forms itself and rises up out of the ocean, you form yourself and rise up out of the matter of the universe.

The wave is not a 'thing'. It does not exist independently of the ocean.

You also are not a 'thing'. You do not exist independently of the universe.

The wave is a process. The wave is a temporary form within the larger process of the ocean. The wave exists only in time, only as part of the ocean.

Where is the boundary between the wave and the ocean?

There is none.

Where then is the boundary between you and the rest of the universe?

There is none.

There Are No 'Things', Only a Single Process

You are a sub-process embedded within the larger process of the universe.

Only one process exists. The universe itself. It folds in on itself and throws up an infinite array of forms. You are one of those forms.

You are not a separate 'thing'.

You are just like the wave and the river.

Matter flows through you moment by moment. Yet you create a recognizable form that persists over time.

Your form however, slowly changes shape itself, like a wave as it moves through the sea or a river as it cuts into the terrain, eroding and changing its course over many years.