A Short Investigation into the Enigmatic Concept of The Self

A dance of the ego and everything else

“A new pride my ego taught me, and this I teach men: no longer to bury one’s head in the sand of heavenly things, but to bear it freely, an earthly head, which creates a meaning for the earth.”

-Nietzsche, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra: On the Afterworldly”

What I desire to achieve through the next few paragraphs is to dismantle the anthropocentric focus that modern men and women find themselves hopelessly entangled. My goal is to expand our focus, the gate through which experience flows, past the ego that is focused on identity. The identification with identity is an unfortunate whirlpool that many find themselves unable to escape. “Who am I?” is certainly an important question but the focus of the question, I think, is more productive an endeavor as deconstructive rather than constructive, or a performance. While labels and identifications are useful, they are not true. They are like a spider’s web, great at catching flies as they whizz through the air, but awful at withstanding any more force, like that of a broom or the passing of time. I will quickly define and play around with two main concepts: the self and the ego. After showing the futility in erecting a timeless definition, I will address how the human may pursue meaning through embracing the metaphysical relatedness of existence and live a life flourishing in meaning. 


The self is a complex energy conversion. The ego creates borders that protect this delicate process, thus creating an outside environment. The ego works to separate an organism from an environment. The conversion of energy adheres to the laws of physics, as modern man has currently understood it of course. What follows the energy conversion has yet to be completely and totally defined—infinity. The ego contains an ability to comport the (possibly infinite) energy conversion process into a world with needs and desires, often expressed through the human’s communicative ability. Conventional thought limits the idea of the self to the human, that is the combination of mind and body. Through the exploration of the idea of the self, I will address two ideas. One, that the mind and the body interconnect and do not exist one without the other. This is important as it forces our ego and our existence of the self to work together or else face some sort of destruction, or at the very least live in delusion. Therefore, the self exists in the interconnection between the body and mind, and is intermediated by the ego pulling and pushing information into and out of the mind-body boundary. Since the mind-body relies on the outside world it is thus not an independent system. The human seeks meaning by forming connections and communicating with its respective connections. Music, books, careers, show common themes woven together into greater works that humans eventually share with others so the other may derive meaning from in its own pursuit of meaning. These units represent the power and effect of the go. Without some organization, no produced unit would exist. I suggest that the self serves a similar purpose but instead represents a more metaphysical flow of energy with the purpose to expand consciousness – that is to further connect. This self is not an observer of observation or an experiencer of experience, rather the natural flow of energy conversion.  Following, I will seek to expand the self into any system that converts energy and argue that any complex system of energy conversion has a consciousness specific to itself. I will focus less on exploring the consciousness per-say of a system and instead seek to expand the definition of the self into complex energy converting systems. Again, my goal here is not to define the self. I want to focus on the relationship that the ego has to the self such that we understand ourselves as connected to a process outside of ourselves mediated by an ego, or barrier. 

By shifting the idea of the self away from an anthropocentric perspective, I am suggesting that the human (organism) and Earth (environment) exist independently of each other.  By working to define a self, I will show that the categories act as a separative plane that serve a purpose of the ego. By showing this process in action, I will demonstrate the power the ego possesses and the dependency (and paradoxical arbitrariness) of the categories it supposes. By standardizing the definition of the self, I will strip the ego that humanity has brainwashed itself into through reification of religious scripture and a desire for a fixed identity and refocus the energy of the ego on the conservation and preservation of isolated complex energy systems and explain why each human should care—showing how each human can create a profound and meaningful existence as their actions ripple through the collective human experience and the Earth. 


I will define the self as an autonomous system of complex energy conversion recurring spontaneously. The self tends toward disorder, a more complex system measured by entropy. Using this definition, the human is a self, the mitochondria is not. The tree is a self, the chlorophyll is not. The Earth is a self, the water is not. The sun is a self, the fusion of hydrogen atoms is not. The universe is a self, the asteroid is not. The basic nature of the self is that it transforms energy. However, if I redefine the definitions, I see that the mitochondria is a self and that the DNA is not. If I further reduce my definition, the DNA becomes a self, and the vibrating atoms do not. As we can see, the act of defining (that is egoic power) limits the scope of the self – or the infinite potentiality existing beyond the utterance or conception of concepts. In all of the above examples, I called the totality of the system a self and the infinite interconnected aspects that constitute the self as blocks. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy cannot be created nor destroyed; the self proves no exception. Within the system of the self, the energy that enters must equal the energy that it outputs. Once in the system, the energy can constitute an infinite number of forms—predicated by the fact that it is always changing or tending toward something. Lastly, the self houses numerous processes of energy conversion within its boundaries, thus making it complex. These processes link together through their reliance on each other in continuing the functionality of the surrounding system. We can make the self as large or small as we’d like, but this does nothing to reduce the complexity of exchange occurring within the system. 

The ego requires a division from an outside environment. Within this isolated space, it autonomously drives the continuation of energy conversion so long that the self remains intact. The conversion of resources autonomously in the isolated system causes the ego to exist spontaneously inasmuch that it cannot be created nor destroyed. It relies on the infinite repetition of the energy exchange with the self to be defined. The ego laboriously defines the self; yet the self escapes its limited grasp each time. The system can adapt to the addition or subtraction of specific processes but must still remain autonomous and spontaneous through the changes. In this adaptation, the self will communicate its needs uniquely to attempt to alter the criteria the ego uses to define it — affecting the speed, or change direction of energy conversion. While a change of energy takes on a spontaneous nature, the self affects and bumps against the rigid structure the ego uses to connect with the greater process, any change too extreme in nature can halt its conversion of energy and thus the spontaneity. 

Through this, I have played with the ego to show how definitions affect the way in which the self manifests. In the case of the human, it is not a problem that the ego causes the body to eat, drink water, sleep, work, pursue sex. In fact, it is entirely necessary for its existence as the self requires it. The problem manifests when the ego cannot see past its needs to sustain itself and mistakes the idea it has of itself for the self in its totality. I may say that I am a writer but that definition is completely lacking a description of all the other processes in and outside my body – the filtering my liver does, the beating heart, the color of the walls of my room, or the influence of the art I hung. In other words, we (the egos) are small in relation to all else. This, however, is not a moot point as the self would not exist without the ego such that the need to eat and pursue egoic needs creates the process to begin with. It is important, thus, that we do not fool ourselves into thinking our needs are universal as this will disconnect us from the larger picture and potentially cause one to think that them getting their Starbucks coffee before work is the meaning of the universe and thus cause them to act as such. It is important to define but keep the definitions fluid as this synchronizes the development of the ego with the self at large. Thus, our ability to redefine the self shows its lack of substance as an entity and thus must be imagined as not existing. Once we can see it as non-existent, the world blooms like a cherry blossom tree in the spring and everything sparkles with vitality. Our existence and pursuits then orient naturally towards what is meaningful. The only work, then, is for the ego to understand that there exists no identifiable self.


An ability to ask why weaves meaning into the human being’s relationality with the world. To focus, the human creates of meaning by transforming processes into memories, and later an attempt at identity. Since the human represents an iteration of the self—a complex though not the most complex—it seems that the goal of the self is to create meaning. Furthering, since the self exists as the idea that emerges as the energy conversion, the ego hinders meaningful production when it focuses on defining and containing the self. I briefly mentioned the human as the main mediator of this transformation of meaning, but I wonder if (and if it can be proven) any self contains this ability to process resources into meaning, or contributes to the process, and furthermore can communicate its necessities to build the pathway for the ultimate goal—to search for meaning and understand. 

Self contained, the search for meaning self propagates. Starting with humans (and tracing backward), the search for meaning evidently consumes the human’s life. Humans possess natural incentives to understand each other’s communication and form relationships among humans. But also for another self outside the human form. It seems that any self then contains a natural incentive to understand other iterations of itself. To prove that every self searches for meaning, I will trace energy transformations emanating from the sun. Starting with the sun and its spontaneous conversion of hydrogen, the energy released travels toward the Earth which catches the energy and begins the conversion of energy which eventually results in life, exhibiting varying degrees of consciousness. In the phenomenology of the journey of light, it stands that the conversion of energy, or the relationship between each subsequent process of energy conversion, produces an emergent desire to search for meaning. The summation of this process ends, from humanity’s current anthropocentric perspective, with humanity as the ultimate being capable of catching the sun’s energy. It is impossible to know if this search exists independently of humans because the human form limits humanity in its understanding. Due to this limitation, the summation of the process results in the human being the mediator of creation with each part contributing to the human’s search for meaning thus showing, albeit small, desires for any self to search for and create meaning—the earth, sun, dog, or tree. 

Though I have placed significant emphasis on the human as the poster child for the search for meaning, each subsequent iteration of energy calls for equal importance as part of a chain. Similarly, the links on the end of a chain might anchor the chain to its surroundings, but the link is more important as each holds the same amount of force and therefore importance along the chain. Despite the non-hierarchical nature of the links in the self’s search for meaning, I will investigate how the human can connect with three specific types of symbolic selfs and live more profoundly through the relationships between the Earth, the Market, and the Table.  

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