3/23 Embracing Oneness, Rejecting Otherness

While I often agree with the premises of the articles I put forward for us to discuss,
I found this talk by Thandie Newton to be extremely challenging. I really want to discuss the ideas here from an investigative standpoint, examining it from all angles. So here are some questions, and some statements from the video to discuss.

What is a self?

Are we born with a self?

Is the self alive? Is the self a real thing in the world?
Is your self separate from who you are?
What or who determines who your self is?
What does your self come from?

Thandie Newton said, "Our little portion of oneness is given a name, is told all kinds of things about itself, and these details, opinions and ideas become facts, which go towards building ourselves, our identity. And that self becomes the vehicle for navigating our social world. But the self is a projection based on other people's projections."Agree or disagree?
Is the self who we really are? Or who we really want to be, or should be?
Can your self change?
Can you break a self and start over with a new one?

"The self likes to fit, to see itself replicated, to belong. That confirms its existence and its importance."

"But my skin color wasn't right. My hair wasn't right. My history wasn't right. My self became defined by otherness, which meant that, in that social world, I didn't really exist. And I was "other" before being anything else -- even before being a girl. I was a noticeable nobody."

"I would put all my emotional expression into my dancing. I could be in the movement in a way that I wasn't able to be in my real life, in myself."

"My dysfunctional self could actually plug in to another self, not my own, and it felt so good. It was the first time that I existed inside a fully-functioning self -- one that I controlled, that I steered, that I gave life to. But the shooting day would end, and I'd return to my gnarly, awkward self."

Thandie Newton told a story about her anthroopology professor:
"Dr. Phyllis Lee gave me my interview, and she asked me, "How would you define race?" "So biology, genetics?" she said. "Because, Thandie, that's not accurate. Because there's actually more genetic difference between a black Kenyan and a black Ugandan than there is between a black Kenyan and, say, a white Norwegian. Because we all stem from Africa. So in Africa, there's been more time to create genetic diversity." In other words, race has no basis in biological or scientific fact. … Race is an illegitimate concept which our selves have created based on fear and ignorance."
Does race exist? How would you define race?

What does 'self-worth' mean? Is it valuable to have? Is there other kinds of worth associated with a person? Are these more or less important than self-worth?

What is the point of a self? Is it, as Thandie Newton says, "a projection which our clever brains create in order to cheat ourselves from the reality of death"?

In the comment thread, Gordon Earl says, "the self is much like the shell of a hermit crab which the essence wears, grows into, and out of." What did you think of when you heard this statement?

"The self's struggle for authenticity and definition will never end unless it's connected to its creator -- to you and to me. And that can happen with awareness -- awareness of the reality of oneness and the projection of self-hood."

"And when I realized and really understood that my self is a projection and that it has a function, a funny thing happened. I stopped giving it so much authority. I give it its due. I take it to therapy. I've become very familiar with its dysfunctional behavior. But I'm not ashamed of my self. In fact, I respect my self and its function. And over time and with practice, I've tried to live more and more from my essence. And if you can do that, incredible things happen."
What is your emotional reaction to this statement?

"I was in Congo in February, dancing and celebrating with women who've survived the destruction of their selves in literally unthinkable ways -- destroyed because other brutalized, psychopathic selves all over that beautiful land are fueling our selves' addiction to iPods, Pads, and bling, which further disconnect ourselves from ever feeling their pain, their suffering, their death. Because, hey, if we're all living in ourselves and mistaking it for life, then we're devaluing and desensitizing life. And in that disconnected state, yeah, we can build factory farms with no windows, destroy marine life and use rape as a weapon of war. So here's a note to self: The cracks have started to show in our constructed world, and oceans will continue to surge through the cracks, and oil and blood, rivers of it."
"Crucially, we haven't been figuring out how to live in oneness with the Earth and every other living thing. We've just been insanely trying to figure out how to live with each other -- billions of each other. Only we're not living with each other; our crazy selves are living with each other and perpetuating an epidemic of disconnection."

Thandie Newton seems to be saying here that our selves are not us. What do you think?

"Let's live with each other and take it a breath at a time. If we can get under that heavy self, light a torch of awareness, and find our essence, our connection to the infinite and every other living thing. We knew it from the day we were born. Let's not be freaked out by our bountiful nothingness. It's more a reality than the ones our selves have created. Imagine what kind of existence we can have if we honor inevitable death of self, appreciate the privilege of life and marvel at what comes next. Simple awareness is where it begins."