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Sixth Paper - Cheung 1 Andrew Cheung Stephanie Clare...

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Cheung Andrew Cheung Stephanie Clare Expository Writing BU 23 April 2008 Title Who are you? Or for that matter, what defines who somebody is? The search for self-identity has plagued philosophers for ages and has been the cause of both great accomplishments and disasters such as Descartes’ famous quote, “I think, therefore I am” or the never-ending search for the self. Robert Thurman, author of “Infinite Life”, writes of the steps one can take in finding one’s self. Thurman’s writing focuses deeply on our senses and how we perceive our worlds. This focus is used to free ourselves from the imaginary self that Thurman suggests we have all created. This concept of freeing oneself from a single perception ties closely to David Abram’s writing in, “The Ecology of Magic” where Abram discusses shamanism and its effects. By definition, a shaman is one who readily slips “out of the perceptual boundaries that demarcate his or her particular culture…to make contact with, and learn from, the other powers in the land” (Abram 7). Perceptual boundaries and passing between different worlds is also a common theme among the subjects of Oliver Sacks in his work, “The Mind’s Eye”. Sacks’ subjects all had been irreparably damaged and were all considered blind. Through this blindness, they are able to develop new lives with new thought processes and new perceptions on the world. Now, based on the definition of a shaman, and considering the fact that Thurman was knowledgeable enough to a write a book on it, one could easily say that he has shamanistic traits or that he is a shaman. On the other hand, the subjects 1
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Cheung of Sacks did not attain an ability to go back to their old perceptions, but instead remained locked in their current perception; therefore they should not be considered shamans. Although both Thurman and Sacks’ subjects’ experiences differ explicitly, there remains a relation between this perception and self. But first before considering Thurman or one of Sacks’ subjects as shamans we must clearly define a shaman. As stated earlier, a shaman has the key ability to “readily slip out of the perceptual boundaries” of his or her “culture” (Abram 7). This quote provides two very important aspects of shamanism. First is the place of a shaman: “Beyond the edges of the village…mediating between
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