This morning, I got up, dressed and set the kettle on the burner to make coffee. I got a bottle of juice from the cooler and poured myself a glassful. Then, I sat down at the table and found my cigarettes in the mess and lit one. “Damn,” I said for the millionth time, “I really need to quit these.”
I watched the smoke curl and disappear in front of me. “Who am I talking to,” I asked. “and why doesn´t he do something about it?”
The kettle whistled and I put down the cigarette, went over and took a cup out of the dish rack. I looked at it. “Damn,” I said, “I should soak these in bleach water to get rid of those coffee stains.” I put some Nescafe in the cup and poured, enjoying the somewhat artificial coffee aroma wafting from the cup. “Why don´t I ever do anything about it?” I asked myself. I wondered again, who I was talking to. I took a sip and began thinking about it all.
I began compartmentalizing myself. The me that I was talking to; the me who was talking. And who was it that was perceiving them both?
I think, I thought, that the speaker is my inner self, my mind. The other one is my physical self, my body. My inner self wants my body to do something, but my body doesn´t care. Ok. So who is the one who wants to soak coffee cups and quit smoking and who is the other? Aren´t they the same person?
I have to think that my inner self is somewhat imaginary, not being part of the physical plane. He seem to think he´s rather important and likes to give orders. He makes a lot of grandiose pronouncements and is very judgmental, a hopeless critic. He thinks of my physical self as an idiotic dolt. Incapable of doing anything without him. Of course, this is not entirely true. He breaths and beats his heart without thinking about it at all.
Being an inner self can be frustrating. My physical self doesn´t always listen and he´s the one with the fingers and toes.
The inner self gets all his information through the senses. He also has an amazing filing system called the memory. He´s really quite intelligent and clever, but of course, there´s an awful lot of data he hasn´t collected yet, and a lot of the connections, the assumed connections he makes between pieces of data are kind of iffy. He´s wrong a lot.
Then there´s my physical self. He´s sort of oafish and lazy. It takes a lot of prodding by my inner self to get him moving. He only wants to do what he has too. He doesn´t like making mistakes, but he´s pretty gullible. He´s aged and grown a little tired and, to tell the truth, he´s always been a little lazy. He doesn´t have any imagination at all, he depends on DNA and the inner self to tell him what to do next.
Then there´s the third self. This is a most mysterious self. We don´t know much about it. It´s hard to pin it down. Apparently, this self is some sort of spirit and a shape shifter to boot. In fact, it can appear as either self or other, and pops up in the most unexpected places. The spirit self can be me or it can be you or it can be a bird, an insect or a petunia. It can even take the form of things like gravity. It can be a burning bush or a virgin mother appearing on hill with a bunch of roses and a self-portrait on a serape to an Indio peasant called Juan Diego to confirm her presence. Or it can be an ordinary rock or piece of wood. In fact, it can be anything you can imagine, a he, a she or an it. I suppose it´s the great nothingness that surrounds every star, every planet or every molecule and atom. That which forms the shape of everything that appears to be physical.
Anyway, I´ve made up this version up for the purpose of explaining that part of myself to myself and to tell this story.
Neither my inner self or my physical self have any real power. Only, in fact, what the spirit self allows them. My inner self only has the power to imagine and suggest. My physical self can only “do” what it is physically capable of doing.
There are times when my inner self becomes jealous of my spirit self and refuses to acknowledge him. This never works out. He likes to fool himself into believing that he knows it all. Then he starts prodding and pushing my physical self around with bad advice.
I´ve seen him doing this while yelling things like “Get moving you stupid, lazy idiot!” and “You´ve always been such a weakling!”, kicking and lashing at him as if he was some stubborn mule.
As a judge and critic, he can really be brutal. “Get going you dumb, ugly, useless son-of-a-bitch!” My physical self, of course, can only do what he can do. This really frustrates my inner self because he, himself, can´t do anything unless my physical self does it. “No wonder I´m still smoking and the cups aren´t soaked!!” he screams, “I hate you!!”
Then, sometimes my inner self talks my physical self into drinking too much beer or tequila to make himself feel less frustrated. My physical self usually goes along with this because he´s sick and tired of being bullied and would like to have a little fun himself.
What happens after that, is my spirit self gets mad and steps in and kicks both their butts. He usually uses some strong and unpleasant emotion like self-disgust or regret to do this, but sometimes he resorts to real physical maladies such as the hang-over. He´s big on natural law and justice. Sometimes, this spirit speaks to us in the language of pain and suffering.
“It´s his stubbornness that caused it!” my inner self cries.
“It was his idea!” my physical self whines, “He started it! I don´t see why I should be punished!”
“You lifted the glass, didn´t you?” my spirit self says, “and your both old enough to know better!”
He can be a real bugger when he gets mad, but he offers positive solutions as well. “Love is the answer, boys, love is the answer!”
My inner self sasses back, “Isn´t that kind of narcissistic?” Always the critic, always the smart ass.
“Does your bullying ever work?” my spirit self asks.
My inner self sulks and grumbles like a sullen teen-ager. My physical self just droops and pouts.
“Hey,” the spirit self says, “I´m not really fond of punishment, you know. I know you have to be wrong to be right, but what does it take? “LOVE IS THE ANSWER!!!”
And so we go down the highway, my inner and physical selves banished to opposite ends of the back seat, still silently blaming one another as my spirit self drives on.
Well, there are obviously people who have better behaved inner and physical selves than mine. People who actually quit smoking and soak their coffee cups to get rid of the stains.
And so, my struggle continues.
I wish you luck with yours.