Invisible Man

The Invisible Man in the H.G. Wells novel presents quite a sight.  He arrives during a winter storm in the village of Iping in West Sussex, a stranger in a long coat, gloves and wide-brimmed hat, his face swathed in bandages.  As unsettling as he appears to the locals, they are horrified when the bandages eventually come off.  They expect to see some terrible disfigurement; instead, there is nothing there at all, an empty space where a face should have been.  The Invisible Man is a by-now familiar archetype in science fiction: a scientist driven beyond the point of obsession by his desire to master the secrets of nature.  He has learned how to reduce an object's refractive index to the point where it neither absorbs nor reflects light, rendering it invisible.  

In an age of self-obsession, invisibility is the last thing we would normally strive for.  And yet it may be the key to our liberation -- not invisibility to the naked eye but invisibility as a state of being.  If an object ceases to reflect or absorb light, it becomes invisible; similarly, if a person ceases to reflect or absorb thought, the self becomes invisible.  Thoughts arise as always.  But there is no longer any effort to lay claim to them.  They are allowed to float freely through the mind like a leaf dancing in a stream.  With no thought to call one's own, there is no longer any inclination to think of oneself in the first-person singular, and we can now see through "me.".

When we disengage from thought, we discover that most of what we mistook for reality is actually a mental construct.  Thoughts of here and there or now and then coalesce into concepts of time and space that we image undergird the physical world.  In reality, we exist in a timeless realm of pure sensation -- sights, sounds, smells and feelings that are shaped by thought into the world as we know it.  Everything happens right here, right now.  There appear to be no boundaries anywhere, unless we happen to think of one.

The self does not disappear entirely but shifts from a fixed point to a point of reference, enabling us to continue holding up our end of a conversation.  However, we may now realize at a deeper level that the conversation is always held with oneself, no matter how many join in.  It is as if a single actor played every role but did so with such conviction that he lost himself entirely in each part.  We find ourselves in the mind of God, or perhaps  the mind of Shakespeare cum Jorge Luis Borges.  In Borges' short fiction entitled "Everything and Nothing," Shakespeare complains to God that he had been everyone but the one person he most wanted to be, himself.  The voice of God answers from the whirlwind, "Neither am I one self; I dreamed the world as you dreamed your work, my Shakespeare, and among the shapes of my dream are you, who, like me, are many persons—and none."

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