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🦋 Second Person, Present Tense

If you think, “I breathe,” the “I” is extra. There is no you to say “I.” What we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale or when we exhale.

Shun Ryu Suzuki

A magnificent recent story, which I discovered today thanks to a comments thread at Crooked Timber, is Daryl Gregory's Second Person, Present Tense, published in Asimov's in 2005. About hindering or disabling the narrative process of self, about how this can be a goal of drug use or of meditation. (Can't guarantee that link will always work -- his web site says the story will be readable online "for a limited time" but it looks like that was written a while ago. Update -- The link broke, Asimov's took the story down. The link is now pointing to a short piece about Gregory's story, at

I fell in love with the story from the moment of reading the epigraph above, which I've never seen before but have just now added to my collection of header quotes for the site. And every sentence of the story moves me as strongly as this quote...

(Matt Dickerson calls my attention to Daniel Wegner's book The Illusion of Conscious Will, which looks to have a lot of bearing on Gregory's story.)

Gregory's notes on his story can be found on his home page. He recommends some sources for further reading on consciousness.

posted evening of Wednesday, November 24th, 2010
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You can read "Second Person, Present Tense" at Baen Books.

posted afternoon of September 15th, 2017 by Jeremy Osner


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