Where the mind resides…
Where does the mind reside? For conventionality, the modern body of knowledge points to the head, more specifically the brain. Within the field of neurology and with the use of better imaging equipment we have begun to observe the connections that damage to the brain leads to potentially sever altercations of what we associate with as the self; our personality. We have seen the harmful effects a frontal lobotomy can have on someone’s behavior as well as damage done from Alzheimer’s or Dementia were as the disease claims ever more of the brain we see the person we know and love slip away. Even physical blunt force trauma from a fall or a car accident can have a lasting impact on an individual’s disposition.
Here, we can begin to make connections to the brain. A brain is composed predominantly of neurons, and neurons also exist outside the brain. There are many other nerves that run through the body from the spinal cord to the solar plexus neurons are abound throughout us.
The second highest grouping of neural cells we have is not found in the head but rather in the body. This second grouping of neurons is called the enteric system. I am not suggesting the idea of the “I” that we identify with is in the body either. What’s more complicated are those medical cases where people actually exist with up to 90% of their brain missing. I can see the damage caused from a stick being shoved into your prefrontal cortex and giving it a little wiggle and it causing irreparable damage to the brain but
here is an example (click this article) where a lobotomy may cause nothing at all. This is a case of a 44 year old man who (missing 90% of his brain) operated as a civil servant, married and fathered two children, all with barely having 1/10th of what the average person has. That literally shows how much we don’t fully understand where the “I” resides inside us.
Metaphorically the “I” that we identify with is arguably not something found inside but rather composed an amalgamated from the outside. From our families to our schools, our nations and our sacred places of worship, we are constantly being indoctrinated with culture. As Oscar Wilde once said “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” The, I, that I am today is largely composed of ideas and opinions, books, movies, documentaries and conversations that I have been exposed to throughout my life experience. So even the subjective and intangible “I” is not fully me just as my body is composed of the chicken and Brussels sprouts that I ate and yet no part of me looks like that which I ate.
The analogy that is often used to give this a little more meat with the potatoes is that of a ship with its captain and crew that set sail for a journey that will take 7 years to return. During their time at sea the ship has taken on damage from the high winds, rocky waters and the ever corrosive salty sea air. Over this time there has been a replacement of boards and sails, ropes, and other equipment, so much so that over this 7 year journey every board at one time or another has been replaced.
As the ship went from port to port some of the men would find other aspirations and jump ship deciding a new path or succumb to the challenges of being at sea and so the ship loses men and gains men over this time. Even the captain has perished with a new one stepping in and the ship changes hands a few times over this period with every new owner a new name.
By the time the ship returns to the original port that it had set sail from 7 years ago… not a single thing has remained the same including the sailors and captain on board. Is this the same ship? If it isn’t, at which point did it stop being itself?