The problem with thinking and talking about conscious experience is that, given how totally immersed we are in and by it, it's hard to gain any perspective on it. Might as well ask a fish about its experience of water. But let's give it a try.
In this view, our selves are far more extensive than we've been led to believe. They extend beyond our own bodies to include what we think of as other selves and the world. We live in the minds of others, and they in ours.
The word "self" carries strong connotations of autonomy, individuality, and self-sufficiency. It's as if it were chosen to mask our interdependence. It's hardly an exaggeration to say that in buying into this notion of selfhood, humankind got off on the wrong foot.
It is tempting to think of the self as simply a home for the identities we adopt over our lifetime, but on reflection, this, too, falls short. Our self is also the source of the identities that sally forth as our proxies.
If day-to-day stress and anger and anxiety are not causes of hypertension, do I believe that there is a mind/body connection in hypertension? Yes, I absolutely do. But the connection is very different from what most people think.
One worrisome development among many in the consumptive frenzy of our so-called culture is that our innate desire to improve ourselves has been transformed into to a desire to improve our material position.
The October 9 issue of The Week reports that during this month's gigantic celebration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic, more than 1000 Chinese soldiers sought mental health counseling after drilling for the event.
If every older person were guaranteed a physician with time to talk about life and ways to live it more fully, as well as to discuss the best ways to deal with the inevitability of death, debates about "death panels" would wither.