Reflections on knowing (or, not knowing) how you appear to others

So, the issue is that the self and others have differential access to each person’s corporeal being. Your corporeal being is not something that can be transfixed “out there” through another’s gaze, though, and there is nothing else given in nature to bring it “out there” in objective grounds except for the hypothetical presence of the other that we build up over time which allows us to look at ourselves “objectively”. There’s nothing objective about it! The reality is that the body is, for me (or any person), “lived in/with” in a very close-at-hand way. I cannot spin around and turn my back to it; it is always with me. So Sartre talks about how with the gaze of the other we feel that he/she sees the “phantom outline” of my being. That really hits home for me. So I cannot pull out from myself and turn around to see my own face, and this is of course troubling because my face is how I confront the world. Memories are stored in the contortions of my muscles, emotion is exuded through my eyes, lips, nose flares, etcs…the way that I animate this face is so much of how the “other” apprehends my being. (This is more or less true for the entire body via kinesics (which I love), but I’m going to focus on the face because it is the most overt example of differential access for the self and the other.)

My point is that I think when we ask the question about what we look like to a stranger, or to the “other”, or what we look like “objectively” and in some external space…you discover a more important realization about the mutuality of human experience. Here are some of the overt issues: First, even if I were to form a hologram of myself and look at myself in three dimensions “out there” in the space of the other…I would still have a tag of looking at myself that would be this strong “That’s me!” connection to the presentation of my image. No one else looks at me and has that tag (and as far as I know, there is no psychological nor neurological disorder which causes that sort of phenomenon…though it would be extremely interesting if there were). Well, that’s mostly it. There’s a whole mess of how each person perceives the world based on his/her unique worldview and previous experience, etc., and I find those arguments useful and sometimes interesting, but kind of…lacking. Of course part of it’s true and that’s why we are so thrilled to share mental spaces with one another, but…I don’t know. I’ll come back to it someday. Moving on. So, we’re never going to see ourselves as others see us, but can we even really access this hologram of ourselves in a neutral, objective way? Of course not! We are still quintessentially ourselves, accessing this image of our body from our natural body that already exists…so we have the embodied configuration of ourselves that we cannot escape. There’s nothing to pin down about this “thing” that is ourselves because it is not part of the “objective” world — it’s paired to our experience in an intimate and intrinsic way. So…one idea is that I have this inability to access myself “from the outside” and grasp the fullness of my corporeal being, but I have full and complete access to myself in terms of my imaginings, thoughts, intentions, etc. The “other” has full and complete access to my corporeal being, but he/she has limited access to my “mental” being (for lack of a better word). And I have access to a part of You (the second person plural “you”) that you do not have to yourself. That’s threatening, but also exciting. So self/other are mutually beneficial and what most pose as “reality” is transfixed, often, somewhere between the two. (I actually have no idea if that last idea has any weight; I just thought of it a second ago.)

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