I’m a snake swallowing its tail

Just as a snake can mistake its own tail for food, so my body may mistake me for a separate being.

It feels to me like I and my body are not the same thing. I feel like the person that lives inside my body. My body is made of flesh, blood, bones and nerves. I am made of something immaterial. I am a mind.

My body often does its own thing without requiring any input from me, like the way it gets me to work without me even noticing half of the journey. Sometimes I become conscious and look around me to see what’s going on but at other times I’m away with the fairies. Where do I go when I disappear? God knows, but I’m beginning to wonder if I don’t stop existing altogether, in the same way that a shadow disappears when the sun goes in. Maybe I only exist when I’m aware of myself.

I cannot swear with certainty that there is a ‘me’ living permanently inside this body. I seem to exist at intervals when my body becomes conscious of itself. In doing so it closes a loop, like a snake swallowing its tail. When this happens my body conjures me up, a person who allegedly lives inside it.

Friendly Kitty

So maybe I am an invention of my body, a useful fiction it creates when it becomes aware of itself or needs to include itself in its picture of the world. When I pop into existence I believe I have been here all the time but just nodded off for a while, or got distracted. But maybe I wasn’t there until my body conjured me up again, as it has done hundreds of thousands of times before.

So I am the fictional creation of my body, a mirage that believes in its own independent existence, a reflection in a mirror that feels sure it is real. Yet how can a mirage or a reflection think? As Rene Descartes stated, ‘I think, therefore I am’, and by this he meant that there must be someone doing the thinking. After all, thinking doesn’t just happen in mid-air.

I agree with Descartes that there has to be someone doing the thinking. However, I suspect that someone is just my body in reflective mood, not a separate person who lives inside. The body looks at itself, gets confused (like the kitten in the mirror above) and thinks a separate person called ‘me’ is now doing the looking. Like a magician bamboozling himself with his own magic, the body falls for its own illusion. The whole thing reminds me of this clip of Mr. Bean in which he seems to believe that the teddy bear he is working has a life of its own.


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