You Don’t Exist

Steven Gambardella
11 min readApr 26, 2024
A Möbius strip. Source:

“This body does not belong to you, it is only cunningly constructed clay.”
— Epictetus

Try this exercise — think of parts of yourself in turn. Look in the mirror if you must. Think “this is my head”, “these are my arms”, “this is my hand”, “these are my eyes”, “this is my fingernail”, and so on and on.

At what point does that “taking stock” reach its end? At what point do we complete the list of things to reach the “my” in the middle of each of those little declarations?

Where is that “I” which claims these things to be “my this” and “my that”? Where is the entity that possesses all those things — that head, those arms, that hand, those eyes, the fingernails, and so on?

Isn’t this very nothingness the root of why the immaterial soul had to be invented? There must be something, after all, our ancestors no doubt thought, that must possess all you have.

The self exists and doesn’t exist, it is like a shadow — wholly dependent on the body that casts it and yet indestructibly consistent to that body.

When we reflect on our self in the mind we’re perceiving what is “out there”. We’re describing cells and atoms, past behaviours and actions. To perceive these things as our “self” itself to make a grave mistake.