The Self: A caption box

paper_speech_bubbles_vector_548315I’ve been reflecting on discussions I’ve been in regarding the meaning (or meaninglessness), structure (or not), of the Self. I haven’t constructed an air-tight syllogism, but I wanted to summarize some thoughts based on the conversations I’ve been so enjoying.

As I thought about an image to ‘capture’ (pun intended) my thoughts, I stumbled into a page full of ‘caption boxes’, also called ‘speech bubbles’. They’re used by cartoonists to capture and identify the speech of characters. As I pondered these figures (in the context of recent conversations – I’m not sure why) the thought occurred to me that the ‘Self’ (that structured ‘someone’ who is the subject of our conscious, interior experience) can profitably be thought of as a caption box, a speech bubble. We’re full of things to say, and we say them. But there’s something about the givenness of the Self (its createdness, its ecstatic nature, its irreducible teleological orientation and aesthetic appetite) that suggests not only does the Self speak, but it is spoken. And so I say the Self is a caption box, a speech bubble. Question is – whose caption box am I? Whose speech creates us? Hence the progression of my reflections in what follows.

1) I am.

2) I am created (i.e., I do not create or sustain myself).

3) So, I am given (i.e., given existence).

4) So, existence is a benevolent gift.

5) So, my “I am” = “I am created and sustained by some uncreated, gift-giving love.”

6) There is a benevolent, Uncreated “I am” who is the Gift-Giver and Life-Sustainer.

7) Only this Uncreated “I am” can tell me who I am.

8) Christ’s “I am” was one with the Uncreated “I am” (as demonstrated to be the case by his resurrection; Rom 1.4).

9) We murdered Christ but could not silence his “I am.”

10) Christ-crucified demonstrates the indestructible love of the Uncreated “I am” who grounds and sustains every created “I am.”

11) Only the risen Jesus can tell us what his death means (i.e., only an experience of the living Jesus can mediate ‘Christ-crucified’ to us).

12) Through Christ, my “I am” (from [1] above) participates in the Uncreated “I am” of the Son’s eternal “Abba, Father” (Rom 8.15) revealed in, and mediated to us via, the Incarnation/Cross/Resurrection, and is thus transformed into “I, not I, but Christ.” (Gal 2.20).

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