Alan Watts described a funny feature of the English language. Our nouns (at least the countable ones) need determiners, which means that you can’t say “cat” without say something about the reference of that word. It could be “a cat”, “my cat”, “the fat cat”, and so-on. Of course you could call your cat “Cat” if you wanted, but that’s a name and not a regular countable noun.
This is why Apple, in their marketing material, like to refer to their products without a determiner. They say “don’t let iPad get wet”, when that really should be “your iPad”. They cut the determiner to make it seem like your Apple product is actually a personality, that your product actually has a name. Calling your iPad “iPad” is just as silly as calling your cat “Cat”, but I expect their marketing executives predicted people wouldn’t think about it that much.
Now Alan Watts was famous for talking about the deeper meaning of things, and he pointed out that if your arm hurts then you need to give arm a determiner. It’s my arm. And if your arm belongs to you, in the same way that your iPad belongs to you, then it means that what you are is definitely not your arm. It means that the core of who you are cannot be rooted inside the body. It’s somewhere else.
But look at these sentences, which at some time or other have all be relatively common in English:
- My mind is playing tricks on me.
- Awake my soul.
- My head hurts.
- My spirit soared.
If mind, soul, body and spirit are all things that belong to me, then where and what is me?
Is it any surprise that people feel disaffected, cut off from themselves, when the language that we use is a constant reminder that we don’t know how to feel at home in our bodies?