↓ ↓ ↓
April is just around the corner, and it’s when the new school year starts in Japan. Nearly every spring, I think of a bewildering memory from high school days.
When I became a high school student, and joined a new class, teachers used a phrase which was unintelligible to me. That was “your internal world” or “your inner self”. I was at a loss what to make of those expressions. I remember saying to myself, “Wherever can be this internal world of mine? or my inner self? I can’t feel it, I can’t see it for the life of me. I can’t grasp it visually. Maybe I don’t have one. What shall I do?”
In fact, there was nothing for me to do, but just do nothing, and do what other students must have done, namely, pretend as if you can understand what “your internal world” or “your inner self”meant, and behave as naturally as possible. I did that, and as my pretense got more and more natural, I forgot that I couldn’t actually understand the meaning of these words…
One day I encountered a passage in a book and felt thunderstruck.
The author states that what modern people refer to as “internal world” or “inner self” never existed in olden days. They came into existence only after writing, and later, printing press were invented, and private reading became a common habit among middle class people. Only when a great many ordinary people began to read a book alone in a private room, as you do now, did an “internal world” or “your inner self” emerge as something solid, tangible, with depth and complex structure inside you.
I took a deep breath of relief. “Internal world” or “inner self” is a relative concept, subject to change, and it’s OK even if you can’t have its typical image in your head.
That book put an end to the silent agony I couldn’t pin down for so many years.
Every spring I relive this episode of mine, remembrance of some words past.
◯Walter Ong / Orality and Literacy The Technologizing of the Word