Everyone self-harms—and here’s why

So in yesterday’s post I wrote (um … to quote myself, which I know is Automatically Pretentious, but whatever):

For what it’s worth, everyone self-harms. Some do it with booze, some with food, some with drugs or whatever. That doesn’t mean it’s okay for you to cut yourself; if that’s what you do, you need to stop that. But just know that the core urge to self-negate is simply part of—and the worst part of, really—being human. Everyone’s life is attended by that pull downward; each responds to it as they may.

So some readers asked me to expand upon that a bit.

Right. So … well, there’s really no news there, is there? People hurt. In a lot of ways it’s just extremely hard to be alive. We all know that; we all feel that. At times we feel it a good deal more than we wish we had to, of course; other times we’re as happy as a frog on another frog a lily pad.

But again: doi.

I think what does come as news—what, in fact, we basically cannot believe—is that virtually everyone is possessed of the same dismal internal life that we are. That’s the part we’re really, really not designed to believe. Our pain is so special to us—so singular, so deep, so achingly dull and persistent—and mostly so clearly derived, as we’re certainly acutely aware, from our own extremely not to say absurdly unique life experience—that it’s simply unfathomable to us that other people could be feeling, all the time, the exact same awful things that we would no sooner reveal to the outside world than we would take a dump in the middle of the street. (Sorry: terribly crude, I know. But our need to hide from others our persistently reoccurring or nagging feelings of depression is that great. Few are so far gone that they don’t, when the doorbell rings, screw on at least something resembling a happy face. We front.)

We all accept that joy feels the same to all people. But depression, pain, our tendency if not flat-out drive to self-negate? That we feel is in some ineluctable way entirely unique to us.

And in some ways it really and truly is utterly unique to us.

And that’s kind of the rub, right there. That’s where things get determinedly tricky. That’s the vortex into which so many of us continue to find ourselves being sucked.

But before going there let’s back up one giant Mother May I? step.

Here’s the thing: full consciousness—the kind predicated upon free will, basically—demands separation. There is no fully independent consciousness without radical and complete individuation.

So we are, just by being born, automatically apart. We are distinct. We are separate. We are alone.

We are the Other.

And we want that. We want to be inherently, organically alienated. Because literally the only alternative is to be a fundamentally unaware component of some dumbshit Borg. If we’re not fully human, we’re fully automaton. Them’s the rules.

[Ad break. Sorry: trying not to starve to death. Click the banner to bring you into Amazon, where I’ll get a dinky bit of anything you buy anywhere on Amazon. So. There it is. Thank you!]

That’s what people way too often fail to understand about the story of Adam and Eve being banished from the Garden of Eden. That story is the all-time, eternally awesome, 100% perfect metaphor for exactly what it is to be human. It’s just … beyond genius. When Adam and Eve leave Eden, they do so acutely aware of one thing: they are all kinds of alone. They have knowledgewhich is to say they understand themselves as separate from everything else, including and even especially from any sort of God or overlord. They’ve individuated. Even from each other: that’s why, suddenly aware that they’re full conscious—once they have knowledge of themselves as individual autonomous beings—the first thing they do is cover the parts of themselves that they’re suddenly aware are most private to them.

And then boom: Off they go, to be and become … well, us.

Everybody thinks The Fall is some huge, deep, rather infinitely complex dynamic. But it’s not that at all. It’s simply a way of referring to the intractable emotional suffering that every human must endure because that endurance is a necessary by-product of being fully conscious—which is necessary for being fully independent, which is necessary for the exercising of free will, which is necessary for the greatest gift we have—the very culmination of our creation—which is freedom.

If we want to be free, we must have free will. And if we want free will, then we must be independent: free will without independence has no meaning. And if we want independence, then we want separation. And we cannot have separation which is not attended by a sense of isolation.

Freedom → free will → independence → you sometimes alone in the dark drinking too much and morosely watching bad TV. Or injecting yourself with something. Or eating until you’ve actually changed your consciousness into something not good. Or cutting yourself.

Man, that is life, right there. It’s not all of life, certainly. But it must and will be part of it—for literally everyone. No one rides for free.

Which brings us back to lé tricky part deluxe. Because while the lives of us each and every one of us must be partially defined by the existential angst that necessarily attends all human consciousness, it is to that hole in the center of our soul that all manner of life-generated craziness attaches itself like tentacled barnacles to the underside of the Good Ship Lollipop. What is in essence natural to us, in the not-so great-on-the-user-end way that seeds are natural to apples, all too quickly becomes unnatural to the point of perversion by the time most of us are toddlers.

And why does that happen?

Because we love that ferociously.

So. We’ll continue this tomorrow, yes?

Love to you guys. And thank you for so thoroughly and wonderfully answering the girl from last time. Awesome of you. And she wrote me to say how much it meant to her. You guys are really making a difference in the lives of others.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Kristi Outler Byrd

    Good Lord, how did I previously survive without my favorite blogs inspiring me to think deeply, to question, to love radically??? I hardly know. GREAT, great, great, great post.

  • Don Rappe

    Thanks for splaining it.

  • Jill H

    I’m gonna need to re-read this maybe 8 more times and like I do with an almost empty jar of peanut butter, I’ll scrape the insides out with a spatula to get every last bit.

    I love peanut butter–and this post– that much.

  • Elizabeth

    “Freedom → free will → independence → you sometimes alone in the dark drinking too much and morosely watching bad TV.” Or, in my case, morosely watching my laptop screen while eating pasta. In the words of Taylor Hackford’s The Devil’s Advocate, one of my all-time favorite films: “Free will, it is a b****.”

  • ‘Here’s the thing: full consciousness—the kind predicated upon free will, basically—demands separation. There is no fully independent consciousness without radical and complete individuation.’

    I’d stop that second sentence in a slightly different place: There is no fully independent consciousness.

    I’ve got to take issue, a little bit, with the notion that ‘full consciousness’ (for convenience’s sake I’ll assume we mean the mishmash of mind, emotion, and putative free will that we think we have) is in any way requiring separation of us from one another, the cosmos, the animal and plant kingdom, or anything else.

    I’ll get to why in a minute.

    ‘We want to be inherently, organically alienated. Because literally the only alternative is to be a fundamentally unaware component of some dumbshit Borg. If we’re not fully human, we’re fully automaton. Them’s the rules.’

    Whose rules? To me that looks like a false dichotomy. And I think we’ve arrived at it because of a fundamentally mistaken premise – the premise that we are somehow separated from anything at all.

    We arrive at that premise because, I think, we imagine ourselves to be monadic, separable entities. We don’t see that the bodies we have are not in any way fixed; they are a process of carbon acquisition, sequestration, and release. To consider the body as individual from anyone or anything else is akin to a wave imagining itself separate from the sea. It is a delusion.

    Mind (which I consider distinct from consciousness; conscious entities might not have minds, but all entities which have minds are conscious) is similarly not fixed. I speak of ‘I’, of ‘me’, of ‘myself’, I talk about things that happened in my life when I was ten years old – but it would be insane for me to assert that the ten-year-old I was is in any meaningful way the same person that I am now, mumbledysomething years later.

    My body has changed (not surprising), and my mind has changed as well. My thoughts are different, my reasoning is different, my ‘wisdom’ is different. I am still the ‘same’ process that existed all that time ago, but the components of which I am comprised are not the same at all. It is only the action of mind which makes me believe otherwise; mind is an expert storyteller, choosing to pay attention only to the events in my life which let it form a consistent narrative about who I think I am and what I think I’ve done in my life. The parts that don’t agree with my self-image are conveniently glossed over or ignored.

    The point is that there is no monadic, independent ‘self’ that exists in the first place, so the notion that there must be some kind of fundamental separation as a predicate to ‘consciousness’ simply doesn’t carry. the only reason we think we’re alone is because we think we’re alone.

    Clearly, then, the notion that the only alternative to absolute separation is absolute homogeneity is turned upside-down, for we live in a cosmos where there is, quite literally, no separation at all. What there appears to be, instead, are interacting ‘fields’ or ‘zones’ of tendencies, matter, energy, and so on, which have developed some astonishingly complicated behavior – but again, like the waves, we are never ever separate from the sea, and only *relatively* separate from one another.

  • Jill H

    Yes, yes it is.

  • David S


    This is a really well thought out comment. I think I see where you are coming from. I’m not sure I totally agree.

    I am continually awed by how utterly interconnected we are in this world. Spiritually, I think you are absolutely right that we are not “monadic, separable entities”. [I’m not too proud to admit that I had to look up “monadic”.]

    However, we are not soulles, sensationless beings either. We are not a wave trying to separate ourselves from the sea. We are fallible humans. Indeed, God imbued us with a sense of self. He gave us free will with all of its attendant messiness.

    We have a *choice* about how we operate as a citizen of an interconnected universe. Following the great commandment brings us into unity with the world. Conversely, seeking and serving only ourselves disconnects us from the world and from God. We are *less* incomplete when we reach out with care and compassion, fight for social justice, and seek God. We are *more* incomplete when we lash out in anger and fear, fight for our own selfish interests, and have faith in only ourselves.

    I’m not sure which of these is our natural state of being, and I don’t think we ever operate completely at either end of the spectrum. But, certainly, we have a choice whether or not to love.

  • Diana A.

    Gosh, I hope this post makes it onto Huffpost. This is one of the best exegisises (?) of the story of Adam and Eve I’ve ever seen.

  • Jill H

    Oh my, I want to live everyday in this space you’ve just described. Love this.

  • Elizabeth

    Exegeses, lovely Diana. Me too.

  • Matt

    I just want to live on this blog forever.

    But as to our “natural state of being” as David brought up, I think of it as a negative feedback system. Connection is wonderful, and it’s essential for a human being’s health. Complete connectedness all the time can seem like heaven to some people. But I have experienced the sensation that my body does not end or begin, and it is torture, even when no harm was intended. I can’t imagine that happening with my mind or my self. If there is too much separation, you again have an unwell human being. So we self-adjust just like our body temperature or pulse; we reach out when alone and withdraw when overwhelmed. Intentionally interrupting the feedback loop (which happens all the time) is where we run into problems.

  • Hannah Grace

    This is good, but I would add that sometimes, someone’s pain isn’t just part of the human experience – for example, when suffering from terrible trauma and the aftereffects of abuse, or when suffering from clinical depression. At these times, seeking help can be really important.

    Also, many professionals won’t tell people who self harm to stop their coping mechanism, but will focus on finding a way to deal with the source so that the need to self harm will go away on its own. That’s the only thing that has ever worked for me. Just wanted to add so no one would feel guilty for not being able to stop self harming, or feel embarrassed that they were the only ones who couldn’t get out of bed or face the world, or the only ones having panic attacks, if such feelings are supposedly common to everyone.

  • Jill H

    I think maybe my brain is starting to implode from all this processing, but I feel the urge to chime in. I simplify my understanding about separateness/ connectedness by viewing a being in terms of ego and spirit. Perhaps over-simplistic, but it works for me thus far.

    To continue the thread I believe, in order to fulfill our reason for existing as human, we must engage fully as spiritual beings within the human matrix that physically, mentally, and emotionally separates us from our natural interconnectedness. Being tethered by human form, we have ego that basically serves as our center of gravity and our pandora’s box of challenges. We feel, seem, and sound disconnected, and for the purpose of being here on this planet, we must experience a modicum of separation in order to fully engage the individual life experience. In that way, as John said here, we do set our boundaries as a distinct being. And we must.

    But that doesn’t mean we then stay in the realm of ego without the benefit of understanding our true nature. Some people too closely identify with egoic desires, self-serving, arrogant– we all know the type. And some people (me included) have too closely identified with avoidance of the full human experience. Avoidance can in some cases mean staying in wounded, victimization space, not setting proper and self-respectingl boundaries, and giving ourselves ‘away’ to those who would gladly use us up. But both extremes are rooted in the separateness, and all of it existing in the realm of humanity trying to understand itself. Once we get a glimpse of understanding it–then we can *choose* to stay egotistical or to go play with the big Spirit. Fully engaged = fully free to decide.

    Ultimately, and I hope I captured the intent of this thread in my response, ego tells us that we are ‘self’ and ‘other’ (for valid and appropriate reasons, if balanced), and spirit always brings us back to the larger truth that every piece of humanity plays a part of—and is always connected to– the whole.

  • Matt

    I don’t disagree, but I don’t think John meant to invalidate anybody. One of the most vital (and difficult) parts of my healing from trauma has been to “rejoin the human race” as I call it, i.e., begin to think of myself a person, a human being, and with every flaw/right/beauty/characteristic thereof. Confronting every part of being a human being is essential, I think. So I think John’s actually saying: “You are not the only one. We know that feel, bro.”

    (Or something like that.)

  • Allie

    One in four girls and one in (I think the current number is six?) boys will be a victim of sexual abuse before the age of 18, with sexual abuse described as genital contact by a relative or person in position of authority. One in four women will be raped during her lifetime. Being terribly traumatized IS part of the human experience. No one is the only person who can’t get out of bed. There are boatloads of people who can’t get out of bed. Quick Google search says 1 in 10 people are currently suffering from depression. That’s what, 30 million depressed people in the US?

    It may be that the people around you are making you feel like you’re the only one who can’t deal. I’m lucky enough myself to have a mother who feels that other people’s illnesses are specifically put on to inconvenience her. I don’t think John meant at all to say, “Everyone gets depressed so suck it up.” In fact, what I got out of his post was the opposite: those people are not sucking it up nearly as well as they would like you to think. Remember that. Just because you don’t see any of the other people failing to cope doesn’t mean you’re the only one having trouble. It doesn’t mean your trouble is less, or easier to deal with.

  • David S


    This is an interesting thought.

    I work in strategic HR. The behavioral profile tool we use measures several interpersonal behavior preferences. One is gregariousness – how comfortable you are making instant connections; how friendly you seem to be. Another is sociability – how comfortable you are working with and being around other people; how much you enjoy being with others. My profile says I am pretty high on gregariousness, and pretty low on sociability. I’m pretty good at a cocktail party, but it takes a lot of energy to be “on” for any period of time. I’m more likely to have a few deep relationships than I am to have a really wide circle of acquaintances.

    In my life, I’ve learned that my tendency to withdraw needs to be kept in check (my wonderful husband does a great job of this!). For me, withdrawal is more than self-regulating and inturrupting negative feedback. It is my natural tendency to avoid life. I need my personal space, but there’s a risk that I’ll get addicted to the solitude. For me, being alone is easier and it’s natural, but it’s not nearly as fulfilling as being present with other people.

  • Matt

    I am quite the same way. I get along with a wide variety of people, and love them. But if left to my own devices, I will be alone 80% of the time. It takes a very long time to get lonely, and even if I am, I will ignore it. Just the other day, I called my partner for the first time (on a day we were didn’t have plans), just because I was lonely and sad. She was very proud of me for reaching out for her.

    So I figure sometimes we interrupt our natural tendency to reach out or withdraw, but I would argue it usually is interrupted first by others; or where else would we learn it? I don’t know, I just think of everything in terms of biological feedback and balance (future nurse practitioner in the house).

  • vj


  • David S

    Jill – Yes. Yes. Yes.

    If we take God at His word – that we are all created in His image – then your comment if fully validated. Jesus was God incarnate. He was tethered by human form. To be all God intended Him to be, Jesus endured persecution and, ultimately, a traumatic and violent death. He admitted His displeasure (in the garden of Gethsemane), but never wore the mantle of “victim”. He often spoke of the interconnectedness of humanity. And He chose to live a life consistent with that larger truth.

  • charles

    first off- John, can you put that Amazon banner as a permalink somewhere on the sidebar of the page- I would love to know I can come here for all things Amazon and be able to have it right there waiting for me….(please post those links all over the place too)

    that now being said, I really needed to hear that post. It might seem to some (including me) as being as obvious as the sun rising and setting, but it gives words of encouragement to us in our self destructive. And thats something that even the blood of Jesus has a hard time penetrating sometimes….

    love you!


  • Jill H

    David, as you’re in the business of developing talent, do you give weight to the various personality typing (Myers-Briggs, StrengthFinders, etc.) tests? Do you find there’s an accuracy and scientific integrity to these, or is it just about selling another self-improve book? Just wondering.

  • David S

    Hi Jill – just sent you a message on facebook…

  • Hannah

    Yeah, I wasn’t trying to say John was attacking people. I just wanted to point out that, whether or not depression is common, there is a difference between, for example, someone who has severe clinical depression and someone who finds it easy to participate in society.

    I’m not trying to attack John for pointing out that people who struggle aren’t alone. I was just worried that sometimes depressed people hear others say “but everyone gets depressed” as a way of attacking them, and since I knew John wouldn’t attack, I was just trying to clarify it with a comment so that no one reading would feel ashamed. It isn’t that John was being harsh, it’s that often people can be so judgemental about the vulnerable that even kind things will be read as harsh.

  • Hannah

    Maybe it’s because some of my closest friends genuinely find it easy to participate in society and don’t suffer from any mental illness at all, whereas I know others who struggle with even basic tasks due to years of neglect and sexual abuse, that I wanted to point out that differences between people are real.

    This doesn’t mean loneliness, anguish, and ennui aren’t part of the general human experience, but I worry that if depression and aguish is seen as somehow normative, it means that everyone who experiences depression are then being told that there is nothing else in life – there is no light at the end of the tunnel – the horrible emptiness of depression is all there is, and the entire experience of being human, that they will never escape.

  • Elizabeth

    I’m a borderline INFP / ENFP … not that anyone asked. It pendulums back and forth over the decade I’ve self-administered the Myers-Briggs. It’s a fun test.

  • David S

    Me in four letters – INFP

  • mike moore

    bingo. 8 times. at least.

  • Jill H

    Well since we’re all sharing… I flounder between an INFP/INFJ. So crazy the similarities here…

    And as a bonus, my top 5 strengths from Strengthfinders are: input/ connectedness/ intellection/ empathy/ learner. Go impassioned bookworms!

  • Lynne

    You know, I’ve been thinking about this problem lately. Because I grew up in 80s & 90s fundamentalism by way of megachurch non-denominational teachings founded in the 1970s Jesus Movement. Then moved onto conservative evangelicalism in high school and college. I can recite Bible verses and have major theological debates like no one else. Ironically, going to a Christian college was a piece of the beginning of my move away from Christianity. The other piece was my parents getting divorced. Another piece was when some of my Christian friends started coming out. I’ve spent the last decade rethinking exactly what Christianity means when my upbringing calls my friends sinners for just being who they are, among various other reasons.

    Anyway, I still believe in God and that Jesus was a real guy and all, but I really question what it means to be fulfilled by God. I’ve felt lonely and isolated my entire life. I’ve also been told my entire life that God fills that ‘void,’ but feeling alone has never gone away or been alleviated. I question whether God actually does this for us or not. I like your explanation of thinking of the the Fall as a recognition of individualism rather than the BIG MISTAKE that Adam and Eve made.

    Thanks for your blog, John. I don’t know of any church out there that speaks the truth like you do.

  • the sneaky subconscious

    I need to further digest this (amazing piece of writing.) Still, I’d like to address one aspect of the independence John describes:

    Personally, I have found independence is so intrinsic to our nature, so hardwired to our souls, that our subconscious can sneak in, unbeknownst to us, and build walls around our spirits to “protect” the independence of which John is writing. Counter-productive walls that further alienate us from the world and our loved ones.

    I had the unfortunate experience of being the target of killer. It unhinged me. It damaged my soul. My sanity took an extended vacation. (Insert a true and nonetheless cliche’ story of drugs, binges of every sort, and a reasonable-but-not-mentally-healthy paranoia.)

    Later, with the help of a good psychiatrist, I could clearly see that at the moment when I most needed to reach out to hold my friends’ hands, my (mis-guided? self-protective?) subconscious had pushed and pulled me out of their reach.

    I still want to swear that I did not harm myself. But, god-dammit, I did harm myself.

    The subconscious is powerful. It pulls you toward autonomy and independence, even to the risk of your well-being. It’s one of the sneakiest bastards you’ll ever meet. Keep an eye on it.

    PS – thanks for the Amazon link. I found a super-cute Spiderman outfit for Halloween.

  • Thank you, Charles. I will do that. Now, actually, since (as you see!) I’m just now taking a break from my work.

  • Russell Mark

    God, how I love the people in this blog…such incredible minds and hearts!

    What amazes me in this discussion is that it helps me to see consciousness as the “illusion maker” – it is consciousness that gives us the “sense” of separateness, and may, possibly, provide some degree of separated-ness, or uniqueness in creation. But in fact, we are not separated. Down to our atomic essence we are completely joined to the fabric of all creation and therefore to the Creator. I think “The Fall” is the mythic portrayal of the impact of consciousness as it compels us to believe we are separated from God and God’s Eden, when truly we are not. That perception becomes our reality, and we act – react – and interact with that perceived reality. We can so buy into the illusion that it becomes pathological – so the angst, the pain, the hurt, the harm to ourselves and others.

    I think in many ways the Gospel is that divine message of truth (delivered by either a slap up the head or by slow, spiritually intravenous feeding, or somehow in between) that we are not alone; we are not separated; we are not other. More than that, our existence is purposeful. But more than even that, it is intentional. And above all, we are known and loved and cherished by our Creator.

    Once the reality of connectedness truly connects in our minds then the way we act, react and interact begins to completely change. Our “world vision” is refocused. The great tragedy we have to face is that “twisted Gospel” where some believe the illusion that they are so divinely separated from the world that they are incapable of engaging spiritually or truly empathetically with anyone that is different from them; so separated that even this world exists for pure exploitation, because they will be delivered to a new Eden. What a tragic illusion.

    Do we love our sense of separateness? Sure, just like we like scratching our scabs. But once we’ve grasped the truth of our joined-ness to everything (especially each other) then denying that truth becomes harder and harder, and eventually it brings about change in our lives – positive change. But like a drunk becoming sober over time, it tends to drive the other drunks away from us and even create some hostility from our former friends. Isn’t that what we’ve all experienced as we’ve tried to talk about our newer, more progressive theology? Yeah, so the angst cycle doesn’t go away – we just deal with it differently, more truthfully. The truth will set us free and, yeah, freedom can be a bitch…but I see it in the most beautiful sense of that word!

    I know this idea is far from fully formed (how alliterative!) and I’d love to discuss it more and get feedback. Thanks for letting me ramble John.

  • Elizabeth

    Jill, that’s so funny. When I first took the Myers-Briggs, I had a lot more J (judging as opposed to perceiving.) Then I figured out I was trying to get the answers “right”. I’m a great intuitive test taker (ten years of the SAT can’t be wrong), but I’ve don’t judge myself or others anymore. Not by any rubric. I don’t know Strengthfinders. Those sound like the only strengths you need!

    And David, I’m definitely more of an introvert in real life. Extroversion is a skill I’ve cultivated to write and speak in public. To survive, basically. Like you said earlier, it takes a lot of energy to be “on”.

  • Elizabeth

    I’ve = I. Surely, I’m not going to beat myself up over a typo after I said I stopped judging myself. #grammarnazi

  • Jill H

    Yes dearheart, please don’t judge yourself. Your communication style is always clean, well-built, and intuitively ‘on’. Message fully received. 🙂

  • Jill H

    There’s a magical, mystical sort of awareness that unfolds when we reach a stage of development, maturity, growth–whatever you call it–in life that shows us that we’ve opened up enough, let the Universal ‘God-energy’ into our lives (again, many names for it), and let go of the ego based need to be right, to be perfect. Just acknowledging I am me, I am what God intends me to be, and that is forever shifting as I continue living a full life.

    And it’s just like you said, the things that no longer serve us– the myriad addictions we used as placeholders for a deeper life, the people that only knew how to support us in our dysfunctions, the ideologies that once felt comfortingly firm now become like straightjackets– begin to fall away. We do feel initially lost when the illusion falls, like when our eyes adjust from a dark room to a heavy light shining around.

    But truth replaces all that. Little by little, as we acclimate to it. And we, as I am now enjoying, find our tribe. The people that not only reach out a hand to raise you up again, but remind you regularly that I Am and You Are. I am individuated, and I am interconnected. The truth of our existence has all the bases covered. Holy &*$^#!

    I’m such a sappy thing, and I’m sending hugs to all here who keep this light burning. You all just rock.

  • catrenn

    yeah, this. I mean me. does it mean only 1 in 1o people are strong enough to admit we are miserable? or that only 1 in 10 people are so weak and screwed up that we can’t function with this constant gaping suction wound that everyone else also supposedly has, but THEY/you somehow continue to eat, smile, go to ball games, and remember to shower? Or that the happy 9 aren’t human? Or that they just haven’t realized it yet?

    While I appreciate that JOHN knows how this feels, (he must, because of how accurately he has described it), I think he may be projecting, at least as far as degree. I mean, this is like the blind leading the blind and trying to convince each other that nobody else can see either. How would we know? I did a survey of my facebook friends the other day, just to see if I knew anyone who thought of themselves as happy, or with a semi-normal life. I actually got a couple of hits, that I can actually believe. and some relatives who would swear to it whether it’s true or not. but maybe I, being me, just don’t know anybody normal.

  • Don Rappe

    Warren, what a wonderful collection of quibbles. I can’t help but agree with most all of them. You do pretty well demolish the false dichotomy: fully human/fully automaton. But let me pick your nit. You use the word “same” as though its meaning were self evident and not dependent on context. All I know from the word is that the speaker has an equivalence relation of some sort in mind. Perfect identity is one kind, so that every time I fart I become a someone else. Souls born of mothers is another kind, the kind we usually associate with a name. Clearly, this is the kind John S. had in mind. Your comment very well points out the changing nature of this soul. I think you share my notion that self harm is not necessary to being human, although it is common enough. You may also share my belief that while the concept of “free” will is useful enough, it is neither necessary nor sufficient to characterize a being as human. I think you are trying to keep open “mystic” possibilities. This seems appropriate to any religious discussion.