From the Wikipedia page for essence: “In philosophy, essence is the attribute or set of attributes that make an object or substance what it fundamentally is, and which it has by necessity, and without which it loses its identity. Essence is contrasted with accident: a property that the object or substance has contingently, without which the substance can still retain its identity. The concept originates with Aristotle, who used the Greek expression to ti ên einai, literally ‘the what it was to be,’ or sometimes the shorter phrase to ti esti, literally ‘the what it is,’ for the same idea. This phrase presented such difficulties for his Latin translators that they coined the word essentia (English ‘essence’) to represent the whole expression.”
I’ve started thinking of the concept of an essential self recently—of why philosophy contrasts it with accident, of why incidentals are placed at odds with something assumed to stay still within. Why is it, then, that I can’t recognize even a few-months-old self in examining knickknacks and earrings she collected and in reading what she wrote?
In a file of writing ideas I keep, I had typed an extract from May 19, 2012 as a germ for some essay or piece, and when I read it I had no idea I had written it until reading that it was from my own journal. I wrote, “And I’m back to projecting the life I want, that I’ve been working so hard for, so long, that I have no sense of a stopping point—and that’s all right, because I never want to stop.” The who of that bit is not who I recognize, though her hopes are the same. Before I realized I was her I envied how she phrased that.
There must be truth, then, in the “set of attributes.” This difference in modes of expression may change nothing but the bearing of the same ship, may just push the compass one degree west of the same general place.
Maybe there’s something to distancing self from self. A lag in love. As if I can only love a self I no longer fully inhabit because such love includes nothing of ego, because she is far enough from me to be no mirror but some transmutation: a painting of the same subject with different shades and strokes, another apple in the bowl.
I wrote of wintered dreams and leaf shoots I no longer remember, so that later, now, I can love them.