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  • Writer's pictureCrone

Fromm having to being

I mentioned the other day, with the rat, the dead one, that there was this period of time (could have been half a second or half a minute) when I was just looking at the rat and how I realised that I do this when I see, say, an exciting fungus or an unknown flower or a bird perching close to me.

When I spoke to Ali at the gym about it, describing how all thought was absent, there was no sense of self at all, he said that he might 'add' this kind of concentrated attention into his schema (like you can just add loss of self to your daily schedule).

Then I mentioned it to Richard. I had earlier read him the quote from Fromm about concentration - 'People are afraid to concentrate because they are afraid of losing themselves if they are too absorbed in another person, in an idea, in an event. The less strong their self, the greater the fear of losing themselves in the act of concentration on the non-self.' Richard said, 'That is what is happening to you in those moments like with the rat! You have a strong enough sense of self to be able to let it go entirely!'

This is counter-intuitive and contrasts to my usual way of thinking of myself - which is that I have a very weak sense of self... it's fluid, changing, not wedded to particular beliefs about myself or reality. And surely it's easier to drop a weak self than a strong one?

But then I thought about it more and considered that if a sense of self is bound up with concepts and constructs (abstract thoughts and linguistic definitions) then the loss of thinking means the loss of being. You can't afford to drop the constant maintenance of those constructs concerning what you are like and what you believe.

So if 'my' self is not about what I think... what is it?

I said in the Fromm post that I am always happiest engaged in activities that leave it (my self) out - concentrating on something else. I don't want to be thinking about what I am and who I am and what I believe or even what I believe is true of reality or ethics... I want to be 'in' the activity of living... and maybe of living those beliefs... clearly the things I value are the things I can most easily concentrate on - the natural world, art, beauty, sensations... but also conversations (or stories or books or dramas) about ideas and people and beliefs.

Richard helped me with this... much of what we concentrate upon is linguistic, so there is thinking, but just consider the best conversations you have or the best books you read - and at those times although you are thinking, you are not thinking about the maintenance and the defence of the self - that can slip away - you are carried in the flow of the concepts and the articulation of them. The thinking happens without self-consciousness. That is when ideas happen. That is when epiphanies happen.

So, you can lose the self but still be thinking.

Again, then what is the self?

There's a confusion of terms, I think. One sense in which I am using self is the constructed self that we have to defend and present ('I am thins kind of person - so I must appear like that at all times.' 'These beliefs - about politics or religion or reality - somehow define me - so they must be right and true and good.') That is what we really need to let go of. The other sense of self is... I think... something like a perspective of the world that is always a process not an artifact. That is what has to be strong in order to let go of the other self... but that isn't so much lost as transformed... we have to be strong enough to let it be constantly transformed. To let it keep on being... a type of being that has nothing.

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03 nov. 2022

That makes sense to me. Thanks.

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