That first gasp of air … what did I feel? Was it the sudden chill on my damp naked body no longer sheltered by the womb? Was it a startled flash bulb consciousness of everything at once and therefore aware of no thing?
I have looked into the just-opened eyes of a newborn and recognized the ancient observer behind them calmly unwrapping this new instrument to begin sampling the experiment of life this time around.
With all functions set at default, sensitive components begin reporting changes registered as pixels in the hologram it forms of where it is. As reports accumulate, similarities adjust settings to better collate them to estimate the probability of permanence in this constantly changing time and space; the framework of reality upon which existence learns to gamble its future.
These are automatic, involuntarily unfolding functions evolved genetically into increasingly more varied, complex beings with no other detectible purpose than to continue, nor limit but infinity. This body, this instrument, in terms of the individual psyche, is what I think of as the Id: the genetic memory of instincts to eat and not be eaten for survival of the individual, instincts to mate and co-create for thrival of the species, intuition of the purest sense of right and wrong.
It’s all hunky-dory, suckling and pooping along, until it’s just not enough to satisfy the sated survival instinct; no lack of food or fear of predators, but … what’s that over there? The emergence of curiosity, the instinct to grow beyond the givens, discovers a difference between reports of changes within (hunger, heartbeat, breathing) and of finding limits to careless freedom without (bumping into crib, mother’s weaning and scolding for pooping off limits).
My most vivid recollection of self/other awareness was of the change the echoes of my crying returned from the walls when someone came to check on me. This primitive echolocation gave quality to my depth perception as my eyes learned to focus at different distances before it dawned on me they might be approached. Such preverbal understandings form the avatar, the ego, a hologram the instrument builds of itself in relationship to the now exterior reality within which it appears to act.
Early on I recall imagining a game being played between myself and the world where I had a cardboard replica of what I wanted to be perceived as being (the ego), which I held before me as I walked about. In turn the world erected cardboard facades like movie sets ahead of me and struck them when I passed, ala The Truman Show. This personal myth was reified whenever adults tested the validity of my mask with their questions and obviously invented most of their answers to mine when they couldn’t remember what they were told back when they still had questions. Observing my parents perpetuate the Santa Claus myth long after I’d observed the reality taught me to be a life long skeptic.
Ego develops when curiosity is called on to explain the avatar’s place in the causal myth of whatever culture is asking. There aren’t enough whys, wheres, whens, hows or whos to conclude a purpose to the living universe without first inventing a timeline whose direction is determined by assigning cause and effect to the constant change life always is, no matter what we think of it. As the child seeks to achieve validity within its sphere of activity, the responsibility for being able to account for itself to a perceived social environment often takes priority over the id by claiming and basking in praise it does receive, and denying by masking from scorn it might, from an audience that rarely cares as much as it does about itself.
In seeking validity from ones culture the ego can actually lose consciousness of the unique, natural gifts of the id leading to fear of being left alone bereft of anyone to obey and unable to entertain oneself with creative, original thinking since abandoning it somewhere in childhood in the process of converting curiosity’s question marks into culture’s periods.
In this Freudian drama, the superego would be the unifying curve between them attempting to maintain the yang of the ego-avatar’s artificial doing in beneficial, dynamic harmony with the id-body’s instinctual being throughout a life of cultural training to exploit the difference for advantage over others in a competitive ethic.
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is usually understood to mean giving others treatment you want, precluding the reality that two unique beings rarely want the same treatment. The benefit of the dynamic the superego maintains depends on the ego’s symbiotic attitude towards perceived otherness by realizing that beneath the cultural, exterior doing lies the common guidance system of the id’s instinctual being.
It is impossible to come to a conclusion about an infinite, living universe without completely extinguishing curiosity — customarily associated with death or belief.