I is another.
— Arthur Rimbaud, Letter to Georges Izambard, 13 May 1871
For the second body, there is no stable boundary between one species and another: we’re all in the same boat.
— Daisy Hildyard, The Second Body
We are many all the way down, because we are wholes that are always less than the sum of their parts. We don’t just combine into multitudes, we contain multitudes, as any self-respecting stomach bacterium will tell you.
— Timothy Morton, Humankind
‘I’ live in a body that internally requires 10 trillion organisms, while externally my survival is ecological, emotional, and cultural. I am not an isolatable specimen.
— Nora Bateson, Small Arcs of Larger Circles
I am large, I contain multitudes.
— Walt Whitman, ‘Song of Myself’
Are we perhaps condemned to wholeness, and every fragmentation, every quartering, will only be a pretence, will happen on the surface, underneath which, however, the plan remains intact, unalterable? Does even the smallest fragment belong to the whole?
— Olga Tokarczuk, Flights
I was pretty much all hyphen.
— Siri Hustvedt, The Blazing World
We are contaminated by our encounters; they change who we are as we make way for others.
— Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World
Instead of thinking of ourselves as single, unified selves who are trying to discover through self-reflection, we could think of ourselves as complex arrays of emotions, dispositions, desires, and traits that often pull us in different and contradictory ways. When we do so, we become malleable. We avoid the danger of defining ourselves as frozen in a moment in time.
— Michael Puett & Christine Gross-Loh, The Path
Whatever happens to the individual happens to the whole group, and whatever happens to the whole group happens to the individual. The individual can only say: ‘I am, because we are; and since we are, therefore I am’.
— John Mbiti, African Religions and Philosophy
When we look at the global body, it is impossible to relate that body to anything individual because there can be no certain borders between one thing and another.
— Daisy Hildyard, The Second Body
An ecological border, like a cell membrane, resists indiscriminate mixture; it contains differences but is porous. The border is an active edge.
— Richard Sennett, The Craftsman
we are in fact relational beings in a world where everything affects everything else and, as a result, to care for others is to care for ourselves.
— Daniel Christian Wahl, Designing Regenerative Cultures
this relationship existing within each of us, between the person as individual and the personality as bearer of culture and race, is not immobile, rigid or static, not fixed inside him for good. On the contrary, its typical features are dynamism, mobility, variability and differences in intensity, depending on the external context, the demands of the current moment, the expectations of the environment or even one’s own mood and stage of life.
— Ryszard Kapuściński, The Other
The ability to live with differences, let alone to enjoy such living and to benefit from it, does not come easily and certainly not under its own impetus. This ability is an art which, like all arts, requires study and exercise. The inability to face up to the vexing plurality of human beings and the ambivalence of all classifying/filing decisions are, on the contrary, self-perpetuating and self-reinforcing: the more effective the drive to homogeneity and the efforts to eliminate the difference, the more difficult it is to feel at home in the face of strangers, the more threatening the difference appears and the deeper and more intense is the anxiety it breeds.
— Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Modernity
Or is the true self neither this nor that, neither here nor there, but something so varied and wandering that it is only when we give the rein to our wishes and let it take its way unimpeded that we are indeed ourselves? Circumstances compel unity; for convenience’ sake a man must be a whole.
— Virginia Woolf, ‘Street Haunting’
The idea of self-realization is one of the most destructive of modern fictions. It suggests you can flourish in only one sort of life, or a small number of similar lives, when in fact everybody can thrive in a large variety of ways.
— John Gray, The Silence of Animals
Modernity is characterised by uncertainty, rapidity of change and kaleidoscopic juxtapositions of objects, people and events. Finding our uncertain way through these uncertainties is a prime task of contemporary existence, for individuals as well as for cultures as a whole.
— Stephen Frosh, Identity Crisis
Identities seem fixed and solid only when seen, in a flash, from outside. Whatever solidity they might have when contemplated from the inside of one’s own biographical experience appears fragile, vulnerable, and constantly torn apart by shearing forces which lay bare its fluidity and by cross-currents which threaten to rend in pieces and carry away any form they might have acquired.
— Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Modernity
This contrast between a hermetically sealed contemporary self and a porous late medieval self intrinsically connected to nature, the ‘spirit world’, and its community is meant to serve only as a striking example of two entirely different relationships to the world, each of which gives expression to different types of self and world that are related to each other in different ways.
— Hartmut Rosa, Resonance
The emerging fields of embodied and enactive cognition have started to take dialogic models of the self more seriously. But for the most part, scientific psychology is only too willing to adopt individualistic Cartesian assumptions that cut away the webbing that ties the self to others. There is a Zulu phrase, ‘Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu’, which means ‘A person is a person through other persons.’ This is a richer and better account, I think, than ‘I think, therefore I am.’
— Abeba Birhane, ‘Descartes Was Wrong’
Her consciousness, at this point – she was forty-three years old – was so crammed full not just of her own memories, obligations, dreams, knowledge and the plethora of her day-to-day responsibilities, but also of other people’s – gleaned over years of listening, talking, empathising, worrying – that she was frightened most of all of the boundaries separating these numerous types of mental freight, the distinctions between them, crumbling away until she was no longer certain what had happened to her and what to other people she knew, or sometimes even what was or was not real.
— Rachel Cusk, Outline
Listen: you are not yourself, you are crowds of others, you are as leaky a vessel as was ever made, you have spent vast amounts of your life as someone else, as people who died long ago, as people who never lived, as strangers you never met. The usual I we are given has all the tidy containment of the kind of character the realist novel specializes in and none of the porousness of our every waking moment, the loose threads, the strange dreams, the forgettings and misrememberings, the portions of a life lived through others’ stories, the incoherence and inconsistency, the pantheon of dei ex machina and the companionability of ghosts. There are other ways of telling.
— Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby
I swallow books upon books upon books
to unlearn like-mindedness, to externalise cosmos
— Nisha Ramayya, States of the Body Produced by Love
Books, conversations, and perceptions enter us and become us.
— Siri Hustvedt, Living, Thinking, Looking
he sensed the connections being made around him, all the objects and shaped silhouettes and levels of knowledge – not knowledge exactly but insidious intent. But not that either – some deeper meaning that existed solely to keep him from knowing what it was.
— Don DeLillo, Underworld
The search for origins ends with the discovery of fragments
— John Gray, The Soul of the Marionette
These fragments I have shored against my ruins
— T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land
Hence it is with a certain feeling of urgency that I seek the nature, subject, words of the other story, the untold one, the life story.
— Ursula K. Le Guin, The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction
/See, the world is full of other yous/ the kid was telling John. /Is full of people who are just like you but somehow different. They may look different; they may sound different. They may have different favourites; they may have different mammies, or memories, or names. But something in them will be the same as in you. Something in them will reflect in you as with a mirror./
— Danny Denton, The Earlie King & The Kid in Yellow
The first time you glimpse yourself through the eyes of a person like that, it’s a cold moment. It’s like walking past a mirror you’ve walked past every day of your life, and suddenly it shows you something else, something troubling and strange.
— Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
That’s the only part of himself he wants to protect, the part that exists inside her.
— Sally Rooney, Normal People
We are neither what we think we are nor entirely what we are about to become, we are neither purely individual nor fully a creature of our community, but an act of becoming that can never be held in place by a false form of nomenclature.
— David Whyte, Consolations
I am not who I am.
I must be who I become.
— Ursula Andkjær Olsen , Third-Millennium Heart