The Promise of a Self

The following are thoughts I had that came to me during a walk last month.

Faith, Promise, and Forgiveness
In an age predicated on rational control through prediction and certainty, faith has been devalued. Faith, however, remains an important element of human existence, pertaining to our relationship to time. Faith is that of a promise, a promise that can only be imagined, never certain, a belief that things can be better. Faith is the promise of the impossible, not necessarily that which is against and in defiance to established tested knowledge, but for that which is most improbable, recognizing it as such. Importantly, Faith in Promise relies on the precondition of forgiveness for that which was. That is, to have faith in something is in some sense to forgive it, to recognize redemption in that which is towards that which is to be–the promise.

Humility vs. Humiliation
One reason behind the devaluation of faith in modern times is surely the devaluation of dependency and the non-instrumental. By configuring freedom as self-assertion and reason as pragmatism and holding both as the central ideals of our epoch, that which is beyond our control and negligible in its use value is deemed inferior and in need of assimilation and mastery. Humanity and its alleged superiority defined by these concepts of freedom and reason as such, becomes a narcissistic fantasy devoid of humility. Humility in an epoch of greater and greater (illusion) of control is identified as a weakness. Humility is as such associated with humiliation–to be alienated from one’s freedom and individual integrity.

How dangerous that these two concepts be equivocated. They couldn’t be more foreign from one another in their effect upon the psyche. Humility affirms self’s relationship to its world. It is catalyzed through enlightenment as a corrective and a challenge to the illusion of the everyday. Humiliation, in contrast,  negates one’s relationship to world and self. It is annihilating in the strictest sense, stripping one of their meaning and value, and is thus experienced as defeating. So while Humility leads toward positive transformation, humiliation leads towards despair,destroying self-esteem and agency, creating a violent and/or depressive impulse. It stains one’s existence, leaves a deep, dark, bottomless hole that pulls one’s being back into it. The hole becomes a source of gravity in one’s life that makes it hard to go forward and transform. Humiliation becomes the defining event of self–difficult to transcend and exit.

Evolution and Revolution in Self
Why the blackhole of humiliation is so difficult to escape from is because it absorbs all light, consuming the visibility of something beyond darkness. It is where faith is the most impossible yet is the most needed. This paradox is what rips open the space-time continuum and gives birth to the miracle that is faith. The leap of faith is thus the vision of something beyond possibility. To go beyond humiliation is to have faith in a self, not yet in existence. It is to forgive the self that was, so that self may be freed into the future.

Dwelling in the past is not necessarily the antithesis to forgiveness and faith. In dwelling, one may play,  reinventing possibility. Such reinventing through the play of reinterpretation is an evolution of the self. It takes what was, resists its meaning, and establishes a new one. Such may free one from shame, yet it is not a revolution because it still hinges on the centrality of a particular event. Dwelling in the past is always a dwelling in a particular past event, place, and idea. By continuously returning to that event, one becomes a subject of it. That is, one subjugates self  to the Event as a definition of one’s existence. One cannot think outside of the event. One recapitulates its centrality. Through exiting the orbit of regret through forgiveness (of self and other), one achieves a revolution by decentralizing the event’s priority.

Self, Selfishness, and Selflessness
The conflation of humility and humiliation surely has much to do also with the conflation of ego and self. Self and ego, however, are likewise vastly different entities. Self is grounded in relationship to one’s identity and existence. It is the recognition and practice of one’s agency. Ego, on the other hand, is a grasping at the self that is most familiar (most established or old) out of the uncertainty from which anxiety grows. The stronger the ego, more strongly one is possessive of old values and identity, the more one fetishizes them without thinking them through and allowing for becoming. Ego is thus childish, or rather immature, in its lack of social development.

The negative connotation of ego is transferred over to selfishness as well because of its proximity and association as a concept. The refutation of selfishness has led people to advocate selflessness as a virtue. This is again to conflate the problem with selfishness with care for the self. In actuality, both selfishness and selflessness are against Self: the former places the primacy of ego before the Other, and the latter places the Other before self. Genuine self, however, cannot exist when in opposition and priority over others nor at its subordination. Self transforms and earns value with, for, and by others. Self that is violent toward others or accepts violence from others is lacking in integrity.

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Categories: Essay, Original Writing, Social Conciousness | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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