Involuntary embodiment

If the eyes really are the window to the soul, that makes my body the building and me the little homunculus trapped inside; maybe there’s even a notice in there somewhere, like the one on my floor, telling me that I have to vacate the premises by May 29. Of course that’s not the way people like to think about it. People generally seem to believe that they possess their bodies so closely and completely that they continue to own them even after they’ve left them for good.

But as the late great Bill Hicks once said, beliefs are odd. Most property rights exist so people can make use of something without being disturbed, but this one seems to exist exclusively so that no one can use it in any way whatsoever. I admit I can’t think of a whole lot of uses for a lifeless body, but it’s still a strange belief. I suppose in a sense most bodies wind up serving as fertilizer once they’re in the ground, but it doesn’t do any good since they’re buried in huge swaths of land that are also set aside precisely so that no one can ever use them for anything.

Or maybe it’s more for the sake of their friends and family, who still believe that in some strange sense the body still is the person. Of course, if that’s the case, why they burn them to a crisp or nail them shut into a wooden box and bury them in a hole in the ground we may never know. Still though, this idea seems to persist that the body is so close to you that it is in fact a part of you. But then why is it that a disembodied head, if it could be kept alive, would still presumably be considered the same person as if the head had a body?

Besides, in many ways you have a lot more control over ordinary possessions than you do your body. If you turn your computer off for the night, unlike when you pop off yourself, it won’t move around or wander off, or flash twisted fantasies across its interface all night and reveal in the morning that it has used your bedsheets to pitch a big-top tent. And maybe other people can enter your apartment or even take it over, but at least you have a choice to move into it, and if you move out you can still move back later. Life, on the other hand, really is a blessing, after all, at least in the sense that you have no control over receiving it or not, and it generally seems to maintain itself with about as much regard for the sound and fury of consciousness as a communist country’s legislative assembly gets.

Still, it’s probably for the best. As much as humanity brags about its vaunted consciousness, which apparently confers the right to murder or destroy anything not possessing it in the exact same form, any task that both the unconscious and conscious mind can perform the unconscious generally does much, much better. Just try consciously regulating your own breathing for a couple of minutes. Maybe we should hope for less consciousness, not more.

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