Overlapping Re-Incarnations

The Self as Symphonic Palimpsest

Self Portrait, by Oleg Shupliak
Will “I” as an individual, occur again?

Where then, to find comfort, when your spouse takes their last breath, hand growing limp and eyes unseeing? When your child is born dead? When your friend dies suddenly and unexpectedly? When your strong and vital parents wither into shells of their former selves?

Where to find comfort when someone you love reveals themselves to be monstrously abusive? When an artist who inspired you is revealed to have committed unconscionable acts? When a friend suddenly turns on you, and you wonder if they were ever really true?

Photo by Dieter K on Unsplash
Pareidolia by Android Jones

“As the individual is not just a single, separate being, but by his very existence presupposes a collective relationship, it follows that the process of individuation must lead to more intense and broader collective relationships and not to isolation.” — Carl Jung

This idea, that what you consider to be “you”, the collections of memories, feelings, beliefs, imagery that creates the living pattern recognisable as an individual “self” — is a collection of overlapping imprints from “other than you”, is expressed by Carl Jung as individuation, the drawing out of a distinct pattern that one recognises as the “individual self” while at the same time remaining equally and completely aware of the socially constructed nature of this “self”.

Art is the communication between past and present, allowing the patterns of past lives to find new shape again and again in new contexts.

“My life extends far beyond the limitations of me.” — Cloud Atlas

And so you can take comfort from this palimpsest, symphonic, archetypal nature of the “individual self”, in the recurring nature of patterns. There have been people before me who felt “like I do” in the sense of their emotions, their ways of viewing the world. Individuated patterns, arranged for the 21st Century. It won’t be “me” in a static sense, but then again there is no static self, it’s always shifting.

Manifestation Apotheosis, by Sylvio Vieira

“Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts”

— Ulysses, Alfred Lord Tennyson



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“The nature of our immortal lives is in the consequences of our words and deeds” — Cloud Atlas