At some point in my life I began to question who I am as a person. What is this thing that defines ME? What is so distinct about YOU as a person when compared to others?
Well, you might think it's your set of values and what you find important. All the ideas that you find fascinating, all the definitions of right and wrong that you have, all the answers and lack of answers to philosophical questions just fold into a container and such a container happens to be you. And you grow as a person over time, you change. You are connected to yourself in the past, you know everything about that person, but she's no longer you. You transitioned from that person to another through doubts and questioning your identity's definitions.
But we are mostly just products of our environment. We accept others' ideas and values and we share them, spread them down the road. We live in bubbles and maintain their biases, making bubbles more stable, until that stability crashes under some global influence. Seriously, it's a huge shift from considering having slaves a normal thing to cringing about such an idea in general. So is there true you in terms of values and ideas? I guess normal people are not true themselves. That's what propaganda uses a lot. That's also what makes collaboration possible for our species, so it's not a bad thing overall.
What makes a human being a really great human is having their own opinions, critical thinking, questioning moral norms, pushing boundaries, having the courage to stand out and shout out for change. Such kind of a person is a person beyond any global change, smashing local stable bubbles, covered with mold of bias.
Do you know what is also you? It is everything that you like or love unconditionally. Especially if it's something you were introduced to as a child. To know someone's objects of unconditional love is a bizarre and simple way of knowing someone's core, someone's starting point in this world. And it's the thing that fuels consumerism. I'll explain everything I just said in a second.
Think of it this way. Your mind is incredibly lonely in its perception of the world. It constructs a model of the outer world so it could navigate it. Nobody else could see and examine that model, compare it to others' models and correct everything that makes no sense. Language is not a suitable tool for that and probably there will never be a suitable tool. If you disagree with me, read about aphantasia - it's just a tip of the iceberg, where language failed to describe a huge and actually describable difference in peoples' minds operation until recently. But how do you describe what you perceive when you taste something sweet? How do you know if the particular smell you like causes the same feel in other peoples' minds? What if my red is different from your red? What if I like a chocolate muffin and you don't just because we perceive it's taste differently? Yeah, we both know it's sweet. You could say it's too sweet for you. But what is it actually what we call 'sweet' for you and me?
What convinced me that my representation of the world is somehow different from others was the fact that I liked something that my sister didn't. I was curious about why that could be the case while enjoying the smell of a sloe flower. That same smell's being just different in two peoples' minds seemed like an obvious answer.
Could you imagine a color that you never saw? Is it possible to invent anything that is not present in our world? Are we stuck in being able to construct something new from known simple elements only? Could we understand anything without using analogies? Could you comprehend an infinity if everything you saw has limits and boundaries?
A set of questions I was asking myself while being just a curious child.
And one day I took a mirror and faced it to another mirror. I saw an infinity. An illusion of it, to be precise.
What I do like unconditionally is just a representation of something out there. I have no idea what it is in objective reality. I have no idea, what it is in someone else's subjective reality. In my reality, the one, that exists in my mind, I see that thing and I like it. And my mind thinks that the only possible way to express itself is to say others 'Hey, look at that thing, I like it, it's me. It's my core'. And our minds make an assumption, that other subjective realities and models are somehow similar to our own, and we might find someone just like us so we could be less lonely in our dark wet skulls. 'If you like something I like, our world representations have an intersection and we might be similar. Let's find out if it's true' - that's what is happening when you find someone with the same taste in music, books, similar hobbies, background and attitude towards life.
Here's the scary and tricky application: you can ruin someone's life or give it a huge kick towards success just by introducing particular selected things to them in their childhood. You can't unconditionally love something that you never saw in your life, but what if it was your best opportunity to make an impact. It's less likely you'll love something unconditionally when you are a fully-formed grown up, a rational thinker and you lost your mind's plasticity.
So if you know someone is fascinated by something from their early childhood, you can infer some details from that person's background and true, core self. If you don't want to open your true self to others for whatever reason, don't reveal such kind of a personal matter.
Why did I say that consumerism is fuelled by things we like or love?
Well, it's not. It's fuelled by our mind's fear of being alone.
All of us are deeply unconsciously terrified of the fact, that we are a bundle of neurons, firing in the dark, and nothing else. We have no possible way to tell if everything we construct is just a fantasy. Should we be left with no sensory organs, no possible way to shout out in the outer world - we are dead-not-dead existing in a state of limbo.
Our minds want to express themselves in every possible affordable way in order to connect with other minds and feel less alone.
Music, books, movies, hobbies, social media and a constant urge to buy THINGS. Our minds assume that owning things they like is one of the simplest ways to express themselves, to create an image of them in the outer worlds. Social media is another one. A digital portrait of a mind inside a biological cage. Look at me, I exist and I don't want to be alone.
So we buy things. We assume they represent us. We carefully choose them. We boast about them. We discuss how it would be nice to buy that piece of hand watches or jewelry that we actually don't need, but we think they represent us in the scary outside where we never will be present. What is out there is an elaborate image we create.
But we are tricked into buying all those things. Painstakingly bombarded by advertisement, we assume that we are the smiling happy person on a billboard. Patterns don't need to be liked, they just need to be repeated over and over again on a smartphone screen, on a shopping mall wall, on every corner pixel of a website. Repeating patterns make every bleak and shallow pop song a huge success. Just put it in every leisure center and every shopping mall, and you'll associate your happiness from buying things with a shallow repetitive song. And you start thinking using those patterns, brutally forced into your head. You think of a piece of cloth you want to buy, and here it is, a pattern from ads. You think that's you, you think you like it. But what's happening is your brain conserves energy by pulling the freshest repeating pattern it has.
Streets are flooded with people who look the same. Is it wrong? Nah, not at all. It's effective to outsource some things to industry. Just don't pretend that owning that pair of shoes somehow represents you. It's stupid.
What truly represents you is something you create. Yeah, you will use patterns anyway, sadly it's unavoidable. But at least you will try to think about making something genuine. Whatever it is - a song, a story, a painting, a photo, food, literature club, a weird lame party, a philosophical concept, you name it, - it will represent you so much better than a custom purse made by SOMEONE ELSE just for you for a ton of your money.
The main reason I wrote this essay is that at some point in my life I forgot who I was, what I genuinely liked, what opinions were truly mine. Who was that person I called me? Why did it seem like I wasn't the one who defined me? It's strikingly painful to understand that you are a collection of thoughts, values, opinions you might have heard somewhere else and they have never been yours, that you are nobody, that there's nothing in you that is truly you. It's depressing. It seems like there's no escape and it's impossible to be yourself.
If at some point in your life you find yourself in the same situation, remember what you liked being a child. And try to create something, anything. You are responsible for your own happiness, you are responsible for keeping your sense of yourself stable and in a good shape. Don't disintegrate, be decisive and stiff when it comes to protection of your boundaries and opinions.
And no, keeping yourself busy and buying things does not help. You will have no time to ask all the questions that you fear to ask and seek answers for, but they will eventually find you anyway. At the moment, where you are so much depressed and miserable, they will haunt you like a swarm of nasty insects.
Just accept that you are alone in your biological shell, and all the resources of our universe will never fix that or satisfy your mind's need for self-expression and communication. But at least something you create is closer to that than any stuff on a store shelf. After all, your mind's total loneliness is the only thing that secures your thoughts privacy.
Maybe at some point in the future, we will understand what is consciousness and there will be no other way to resolve the privacy issue than a super-mind to emerge. A fusion of all the existing minds. This will end our loneliness once and for all. Would you like to be a part of that?