As I sat discussing some of the details of a particular lecture in my “Literature of the Self” class, I made a realization that the most intriguing features of this class are incredibly dark. Okay, actually it was my boyfriend who made the revelation and then I caught on a few moments of thought later. The main thesis, I suppose, of the class is that the self is prosthetic, meaning it is created. Every lecture from that very first day was geared to further explaining this point. At the very end, I agree whole heartily with my professor.
What is dark about this idea of the prosthetic self however, is the notion that aspects related to the self are also constructed. For example, the idea of the dignity of humans. We now believe that we are born to have this right, but this concept was created. It began, if this is correct, with the Greeks, and this dignity was limited to a small population with suffrage rights.
Or perhaps the idea that our notion of humanity is linked directly to the opinions of society? In the renaissance, Humanism designated humanity as an intermediary position, capable of ascendance to godly levels or degradation into animal. Post humanism removes this, and we have this new idea or paranoia, of the self-dissolving. The concept of the Muselmann, (horrendous) and the horror of becoming something less than human, due to the treatment of others. This happens often.
Our lives, the way we shape them, how we chose to perceive the world, is constructed individually, socially and historically. In fact, our conception of the self is such a product of the society we live in, I’m not sure as to how much agency we have in this construction. I suppose we can chose what to believe; do we have a concept of the soul, or do we chose to believe that our death is the ultimate of ends? We are all authors, shaping our characters.
Yet, I suppose that the fact that we can shape our own character is the beauty behind this realization We can grow as people. We can change and although much of this change is directed by where we live, what we have seen, and the ideas around us, I suppose it is up to us to allow the exterior to affect our interior.
The mind dictates the judgement of the eyes…