What is it like for me to be 88ish?
A few days ago, as I walked my usual 3 mile route around our neighborhood, I noticed a great many earthworms lying on the edge of the street pavement along my route. It had rained during the night. I have read that earthworms come up to the surface of the ground after heavy rains in order to avoid being drowned by the water in the saturated soil.
"Why", thought I, "have so many worms moved out on to the paved street where they will inevitably be stepped on or, worse, slowly fried by the heat of the sun?" Certainly, it had not been an easy or useful movement. Each worm must have crept some distance from the yards to the street curb, across the curb, fallen on to the street, and then wiggled farther out on to the pavement.
"Surely", I reflected, "if I were a worm I would be smarter than that!" Encountering a concrete curb I would certainly have turned back toward the surface of the safe and familiar soil from which I had emerged!
But would I? I am blind. I have just desperately escaped from the saturated soil in which I had been drowning, choking--unable to breathe. I grope forward, blindly. Suddenly I fall over an apparent cliff on to a continuing hard and rocky surface. I am lost. Blind, unseeing, I grope ahead, hoping for the best.
I suspect that, as a blind earthworm, I would conceive of my world as a two dimensional existence. From my internal perspective I can only move forward as a line in a kind of plane space composed of dark, unlit solidity. I might possibly perceive myself as only able to move in two dimensions--right and left. In reality, for me that space may be curved, twisted, so that I may also in actuality be moving up or down. But I would not be aware that I would actually be moving in a third dimension.
As a human person, aware of that third dimension, it is easy for me to see how inappropriate are the instinctive movements of the earthworm seeking to escape from the saturated soil in which it is unable to breathe. I can pick the worm up and move it through that third dimension, of which it is completely unaware, to an appropriate environment. There, two dimensional movement will be safe; [except from three dimensional hungry robins].
But I, too, groping uncertainly in my own limited three dimensional world of knowledge or experience, often move just as unconsciously into inappropriate or disastrous situations. Any observer in a fourth perceptional dimension could see all of the inner details of my situation and perceive more appropriate actions. Sometimes it is even possible for me to better understand the think-ings and the behavior-ings of other humans because I perceive them from an additional dimension which is outside their world.
To perceive and understand what it is really like to be the "Who" that I am, it seems to be useful, indeed essential, for me to move into that fourth dimension. There I can perceive the realities of my situation and behavior, and examine that "Who" objectively. Then I could "choose to" behave more rationally and improve that situation.
So, being 88ish, it is important for me to be aware of, and try to move myself into, that fourth perceptional dimension. What are the words of the Scotch poet?:
"O would some power the Giftie gie us,
To see ourselves as others see us".