Reading an article that discussed a neurology professor’s discovery—that a man’s “out of body” experience could be traced to the anterior precuneus—caused me to remember a periodic mental/emotional experience I had when I was much younger; twenty-five or so, possibly even a few years younger. I can describe the experience only as an overwhelming sense of amazement that my body actually belonged to me. I remember looking at my hands and thinking to myself that those hands were mine to do with whatever I wished. If I wanted, I could cut into them with a knife or plunge them into a bucket of icy water or make a fist with them. They were mine—they were part of me. Obviously, I knew all along they were mine; but these sensations amplified that understanding to a reverential level. Memories of those strange sensations—of awe at my ownership of my self, my body, me—came flooding back when I read the article. Recollections of those odd, mystical experiences collided with the factual explanations I subsequently found in other sources as I explored what might have been responsible for my youthful fascination with the fact that my body was my own. For example, this complex definition of the precuneus, which I found on sciencebeta.com:
“The precuneus is bounded anteriorly by the marginal branch of the cingulate sulcus, posteriorly by the parietooccipital sulcus, and inferiorly by the subparietal sulcus. It is involved with episodic memory, visuospatial processing, reflections upon self, and aspects of consciousness.”
Another resource, this one from the August, 2012 issue of Nature, offers an explanation of humans’ sense of self:
Human adults experience a ‘real me’ that ‘resides’ in ‘my’ body and is the subject of (or ‘I’) of experience and thought. This aspect of self-consciousness, namely the feeling that conscious experiences are bound to the self and are experiences of a unitary entity (‘I’), is often considered to be one of the most astonishing features of the human mind.
At this very moment, as I write this, I have an overwhelming sense of regret that I did not pursue a career in the scientific exploration of human experience—looking into how and why we are what and who we are. Both on a macro level and on a deeply personal micro level. I wish I knew more than I know, more than I can ever hope to know, now that I am nearing the seventh decade of my life. But I know, too, that this feeling of remorse will dissipate quickly when I remember I have never been sufficiently focused on anything for long enough to develop even modest ‘expertise.’ My regret almost certainly is more a brief wistfulness than a permanent anguish. But, still, I wish I had written about and described the sensation of incredulous surprise that my hands and arms and legs and eyes—all of me—belonged to me and only me. The intervening years almost surely have deformed or otherwise distorted my memories…if only I had documented who ‘I’ was when I confronted this odd sense of self-ownership…
We were invited to dinner last night by a couple who participate in our “wine group” and attend our church. The other members of the “wine group,” one of whom also attends our church, as well as another couple from our hosts’ neighborhood were there. Our hosts supplied fried chicken, wine, and various other components of the meal; the rest of us contributed food, too, and we took a couple of bottles of wine. The evening—relaxed, enjoyable, and entertaining—was the latest in a number of get-togethers involving most of these folks. It occurred to me that I have enjoyed their company for several years now, probably from about 2017 or 2018. Though we do not get together often, when we do it is natural; I appreciate the opportunity. Until I moved to the Village in 2014, my late wife and I had very little social life involving others; we were too busy with our company and too tired after long work-days and too many working weekends to socialize much. I thought I was not especially social—and in fact I was not and am not. But I have learned to enjoy spending social time, on occasion, with others. Though I am by no means a gregarious person, I am becoming increasingly more comfortable in social situations. That evolutionary development has taken a rather long time to unfold; almost seventy years now. Still, I must feed my introversion through solitude. I desire to spend a lot of time with a very few people in my sphere of friends and acquaintances. And, of course, those people have other demands on their time and probably do not have as much interest as I in “hanging out” with me as I do with them. That is reality, isn’t it? The world does not revolve around any one person. It never has. It never will. That reality is not as easily accepted as might be desired. Such is the way of the world.
Two quotes I encountered as I read this morning stick with me now, quite some time since I read them:
The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.
~ Marcus Aurelius ~
Indifference pretends to create peace, but it is based on not caring, a silent resignation. It is a movement away, a separation fed by a subtle fear of the heart. We pull back, believing that what happens to others is not our concern. Our courage leaves us. Indifference is a misguided way of defending ourselves.
~~ Jack Kornfield ~
And with that, I will wander off into the day, my interests fueled by my experiences.