I was brushing my teeth yesterday when it suddenly occurred to me that proof of the soul--the much maligned intangible essence that far too many scientists, materialists and behavioral psychologists like to marginalize as "brain epiphenomenon"--was staring me right in the face.
In fact, my face had been providing "proof positive" that the soul or spirit--whatever you want to call it--exists all along.
And what is this proof?
I don't feel any different now, checking out the gathering storm of wrinkles on my face, than I did as a teenager, checking out the zits depressing my chances at getting a Saturday night date.
"I" haven't changed at all. Never mind it's not the same face looking back at me from the mirror. Never mind it's definitely not the same body. (Holy God! If I'd seen then what I see now I wouldn't have believed my eyes. Or wanted to.) I've even recently caught myself making strange grunting noises getting up from my desk after sitting for a few hours. And I don't do cartwheels in the backyard in springtime anymore. And I can't do a backbend walkover like I used to.
Yes, my body is definitely older. But "I" am not.
The essence that I call my "self" has not aged a day.
Of course, anybody over forty knows this phenomenon. At some point every human being on the planet looks in the mirror and says, "I can't believe I'm 42 (or 62 or 74 or 87 or...). I'm the exact same person on the inside. What the hell happened?"
Even the behaviorists, the atheists and the neurochemists insisting on the primacy of the body and the brain as the creator of our perceived reality will say this someday. And I can't help but wonder, in those sobering, potentially theory-altering moments, what will such people think?
Will there be a pause? A professional doubt?
Will there be a whisper in their neural networks? A brief biochemical flash saying, "Wow, maybe we don't know as much as we like to think we know." Will they look in the mirror and think, "Perhaps humans can't be reduced to physiological functions after all?"
And if that does happen where will they turn for comfort?
Surely not to religion or spirituality. But maybe quantum physics? After all, physicists (not the Newtonian kind) have discovered the world as we know it is actually an intangible realm of information and energy. The great search for the mysterious "point particle"--you know, that elusive smaller-than-an-electron-microscope-can-see grain of matter that was supposed to lie at the foundation of all things material if we could just probe deeply enough--was a complete flop from the materialist perspective.
Despite over a hundred years of searching, we've still found nothing material at all. Even structures as massive as electrons are more like events than things. As the noted Austrian physicist Erin Shrodinger put it, "What we observe as material bodies and forces are nothing but shapes and variations in the structure of space. Particles are just schaumkommen [appearances]."
Maybe such scientific discoveries will make it easier for behaviorists to embrace the possibility of the soul. But will it ease the pain of aging for the rest of us?
I tried telling myself this morning that my wrinkles aren't physical at all ... just quantum waves of possibility that temporarily collapsed into the appearance of wrinkles. But it didn't make any difference. My ego still doesn't much like what it sees happening. What human ego ever will?
My spirit on the other hand--the ageless internal "I AM" that nothing, including time, can change--couldn't care less. In fact, it gets quite a laugh out of the whole situation.
And in that, we can all take comfort. At least the non-behaviorists among us.