When we control something we become it. When we steer the car we feel the texture of the road and adopt its dimensions as our own, and feel the tiny scrapes and impacts that scar her surface in our teeth and neck. We are our vehicle.
It’s strange. When, in our evolutionary process as a species, would we have the opportunity to develop this skill of becoming? Few human beings, until recently, had either the need or the means to occupy and control an object, a vehicle, an avatar.
We start at one degree of removal, though. We start off loosely fit inside our skulls, controlling our bodies from an intimate distance, and slowly learn to shape our minds into our limbs, to crawl, to stand, to run. And we experience the same process when we control something else: We are born anew. Stomp clutch, release slow, jerking, heaving, release slower, smoother, start, roll forward, move, free, fast, forever. A new body, of steel and wheels, of bits and bytes.
These kinds of rebirths are becoming trendy. A new genre of games with challenging and absurd control schemes has emerged, facing us with the tremendous and understated complexity of everyday tasks. It’s easy to never imagine how difficult standing and walking, grabbing and throwing, talking and tasting really are. We learned it all so long ago.
That doesn’t mean we’ll never forget. People have forgotten. The sharp impact, the blood clot, the degenerative disease, they all lie in wait, and any one of them could be the paper shredder to our instruction manual. Any one of them could reinstate the distance that we pretend doesn’t exist between ourselves and our bodies, make us guest rather than host.
It’s strangely easy to become unstuck, to become distant. Even though the brain is housed in the body, the mind sometimes floats loose on a tether, and watches at a distance as the body lives its life. This is why ghosts: This is why souls: This is why afterlife: Because it doesn’t really seem like a person is one entity when you’re that person, does it?
The brain isn’t the mind, really. The mind is a process that’s being played out on the surface of the brain. A novel isn’t the pages or the ink, it’s the words. A painting isn’t the canvas or the paint, it’s the light playing off of them and being seen. There’s nothing mystical about these processes, really, but they are discrete from the medium which enables them. So too with our minds.
That is why we will always be distant from ourselves.