Got a bit drunk and scribbled in my notebook, felt a bit sober and attempted to clean it up. It's a bit long and I don't feel it's very creative, but I feel my arguments in it are strong and I would love to hear what you think.
What is the self? It is a difficult question to think about, although I believe it is an important one. I shall approach it first by answering how I believe the self is formed. We, as humans, tend to differentiate the external (that which is outside of us) from the internal (that which is within us). The internal is that which exists within us; it consists of our feelings, our hopes and our fears, and our impulses, and it can most certainly be considered to be subjective, because how we approach and understand any given idea will be different for any given person; but something which is common between our internal worlds is that they are structured by certain frameworks such as logic and language. Language gives us symbols for our experiences, and logic trains us to form healthy associations between our symbols.
How does language form symbols? What is the importance of a symbol? What is the relationship between our symbols, subjective truth, and language? A symbol is only a form of short-hand for many ideas. The things which leave the strongest impression in us are what our impressions which are most closely linked with. Our experiences with any given thing form a picture of it in our mind. I feel that the relationship between nouns and adjectives is a good way to view this. Any noun (for example, cat) can be described with many adjectives which we gather through many of our own experiences (our own cat may be soft, kind, warm, small, etc). Strong links exist between every concept in our mind, and what these links are will vary from person to person. Because we share many of our observations, many of us will be able to have a general understanding of what a cat is, but because we have different memories and feelings with cats in general, what a cat means to us as individuals will differ because we unconciously place more importance on some traits than others.
In our world, there is nothing which truly differentiates a door from a wall; while they may look different, there is nothing which truly delimits them from each other. However, through our experiences, we are trained to learn that doors open and close and that they may offer privacy or security. We may call these the functions of a door, and may well be our strongest associations with the door concept. Certain physical traits of this object (rectangularly-shaped, wooden, possessing a knob, etc.) are observed by all of us, but we do not all have a perfect definition of what a door is because although certain traits can be realized, we will never share every one of our experiences with one another. A door can be said to exist objectively. If I point at one and ask what it is, everyone will answer "door" because that is our symbol for it in our language. We can realize that doors often have hinges, latches, and knobs which assist in their utility, but not all doors have these have these links; if we were to remove a door from its hinges and also remove its knob and lock, and we were perhaps to saw this piece of wood into a new shape, what would this object be? We have no new name for this object, but our memories still call it a door, so the symbolism remains, its only link being our memory.
No objects actually exist. When we look at a door or a cat, we are not actually seeing a door or a cat, but various shapes or colors that it may possess. Our memories will link these traits and create a symbol for it. If we understand an object to be a linking of its traits, we can also understand a trait by linking similar objects. Consider red. Fire is red, as are apples, blood, or hair. Consider round. Balls are round, as are marbles or discs. Not everyone has seen red blood or round marbles, but if we have some understanding of redness or roundness we must have experienced them in some way in the past.
We internalize the external through our senses, our language, and our logic. Language is used to create symbols and logic maintains associations between these symbols. Our memories store these links and impressions. Language again is used to externalize our memories. We logically form links between our symbols, our ideas, when we write or speak a sentence. Language is an attempt to universalize symbols both within ourselves and within our societies. As communication increases between individuals and stricter definitions of symbols are formed (the door to my room, that cat on the television), they come closer to having the same symbol in their minds. All new ideas arise from logical combinations of old ideas, so the sharing of our internalizations of the world around us is vital.
If a bond between imagery in our minds is formed or strengthened, we are said to have faith in that idea. If it is weakened or removed, we are doubting it. In order to have some sense of understanding, we must have faith in certain ideas, as well as our framework for them. We cannot have mathematics without logic. We cannot have Christianity without Christ. We cannot have science without induction. Once faith is established in these core concepts, further knowledge can result. If we see a map and we have no reason to believe that it is a symbol for the world around us or anything at all, it will have no meaning, for no links exist. By forming broader systems and classifications of thought in our minds, we find it easier to understand new concepts. Ideas in our minds which are linked with positive feelings are beautiful. An object can never be beautiful; while we may love our waifu, we should not fall in love with the ink which light convinces us she is. It is impossible to love an object because the only way we can internalize an object is through symbolism. It is quite easy to be attracted to symbols.
Suffering is the result of conflictions. Our system of understanding in our minds, being a logical one, should remain free of contradiction. When a memory conflicts with another, when an ideal form of a person conflicts with the external one, when we want two things but can only have one, our mind punishes us for thinking in an illogical fashion. Suffering, being unpleasant, results in the eradication of false belief. Taking time to think carefully, applying both doubt and faith to our beliefs, the strengthening of bonds supported by our senses and the weakening of those which aren't, will free us from suffering. Suffering is also caused by ignorance. Our mind, being a logical one, seeks to connect all of our experiences and explain them when possible. Suffering serves us then as a motivator for justifying or rationalizing our observations in a logical way and then having faith in them. How we answer our suffering, how we apply faith and doubt, how we have come to observe the world both through our senses and from those of others is how our memories and symbols are formed. We are what we believe. Having a clearer and more precise understanding of foreign concepts leads to longer, happier, and more successful lives, which is why we humans use our senses, languages, logic, and memories to form a picture of our world. By sharing our observations with others and taking care to analyze them, we gain a clearer understanding of the world outside of us. Our awareness and our ability to form symbols which correspond with reality are what make us wise and educated. While our beliefs may be subjective because our experiences differ, our communication and rationalization of our experiences works to make our external and internal worlds align.
Ah, sorry, I'm rambling... the self, then, is our subjective image of the world, or in different wording, it is the memories which are not universally shared. As communication is further improved by advancements in technology, we can hopefully see an end to subjective thought, and the self, as it will mean that our suffering as a result of misunderstanding and ignorance will cease to exist.