Competing selves

Reading “Earth” by David Brin, a complex novel from 1990 about ecological disaster and human coping, a hard SF novel of ideas. From 1990, much of the prediction is off- the Ozone hole is a major problem- but the variety of issues considered is fascinating. Jen and Nelson discuss the cacophony of separate selves within, which co-operate and compete to make an individual. E Pluribus unum. Our conflicting emotions, such as embarrassment and pleasure in one moment, show that.

-So inside of me I’ve got… what? A barbarian and a criminal and a sex-maniac?
-And a scholar and a gentleman and a hero.

Brin’s characterisation could take second place to his essay-writing, but in this teacher-pupil interaction he escapes that.

Among my paradoxes- man or woman, supporting or subverting patriarchy, etc- I might reconsider my identification of selves. I felt I was writing with my Inner Rationalist, which analyses everything. Understanding is the royal road to Control. Yet it seems capable of feeling, especially frustration when its methods do not work, and much of my fear appears also to belong to it. My other main part is what I successively named the Vulnerable Bit, the Real Me, the Feminine Self, which seems to have final control of motivation: I wanted to transition, more than anything else in the world. I wanted to hide away. These motivations made no sense at all to the Rationalist.

For Jung (I don’t have to fact-check, this is a blog) maturing meant making the unconscious conscious, and accepting the contradictions. I had such a fragile sense of self, of me as one individual, and then I found the Vulnerable (Ha!) Bit, and changed my view of the world. I was not an individual- or I was, one body, home to many aspects of mind. At the time, I feared I was going mad- how could I not? I have always thought of February 1999 as my born-again moment, my leap into conscious spiritual growth, and have only just seen that this realisation was the heart of it.

Brin’s character Jen tells her student, “Free association… lets all the little selves within us speak out, see? No matter how thoroughly a bit or corner is outvoted by the rest, free association lets it slip in that occasional word or clue.”

(The novel is not all like that. The previous chapter is an Adventure bit, escaping the military Bad-guy through caves. In the following chapter he considers a super-weapon’s varied effects and continues a poignant analysis of a marriage break-up.)

My name is Legion: for we are many. It may behove me to meet more of my inner selves.

 
All things counter, original, spare, strange;	
  Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)	
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;	
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:	        
                  Praise him.

For complex Brin, I would recommend Existence– more up to date predictions, more character development; but if you like Existence, Earth is wonderful.
Miro, constellation- toward the rainbow

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