We have voices demanding things of us, that we hear when nobody else is around. They tell us — if you do that, you are wasting your life. They also can tell us — you cannot walk by when someone is starving in the street in front of you. Even when we are trying to go to sleep they can tell us — how could you have done that?
Some of them are what Freud called the super-ego. That is, they are messages from our parents that we absorbed into our psyche. Some of them are what Nietzsche called “herd morality”. They are our antennas picking up from the other members of our species (or those we care about) what they care about. Processing that information, our internal voices are like signalling proteins absorbed by an individual cell.
You could say that both of them are signals from a larger reality we are part of. In the internalized Mom and Dad case a dimension of our life that stretches back before we were born. In the herd animal case, a dimension of our lives that stretches beyond our skins to the various social groups that sustain us and make our lives possible.
Sometimes these voices can blight our lives. Like an auto-immune disease the mechanisms that harmonize one human cell with its neighbors can turn deadly. We can hate our sexuality or our creativity or our freedom because we are being whipped by our perception of what our neighbor wants. And he can look at us and imagine our judgment and waste his life out of fear of something that’s not real or doesn’t matter. Like a genetic disorder Mom’s fear and Dad’s shame can give us a double whammy and kill us.
But if we strip away all the voices to what is “just me” what we are left with is not much! Because we would have to strip away all the best thing everybody has ever said about what is worth doing and what matters. We would have to stop our ears to all the trans-personal realities we are part of, and act as if we are bare individuals. And what would bare individuals do or care about?
It is a puzzle. If we listen to the voices we can lose ourselves or destroy ourselves. But if we block them out, we are left with nothing worth protecting.
I think the way out of the puzzle is to recognize that there are lots of voices other than those that are issuing demands and orders. All those things our neighbors and ancestors say that is not a blight.
“Hey you might want to look at this over here — it’s pretty interesting and beautiful.”
Puzzles riddles and jokes.
There is a lot to listen to, including ourselves.
Listening is also active. When we truly listen we are also speaking and vice versa.
Listening to ourselves is a challenging journey. Like music appreciation class where they are just now giving us the words for the rhythms. A whole note is pear. A triplet is pineapple. We are still learning pear pear pineapple pear in the journey of listening to ourselves. And we are every second playing the ninth symphony of Beethoven and just not understanding it. We read sacred books about the creation of the world, slavery, exodus, and the final redemption when with every in breath and out breath we are created, enslaved, freed and redeemed.