If you want to truly understand something, try to change it.- Kurt Lewin (American Psychologist)
I'm often tempted to believe - I means everything that is unique to my existence. Just to see if such a definition has any relevance in the chain of evolution, let's take a blue-green algae with a boring lifestyle. Broadly speaking, it does 3 things over the course of it's life -
- Interact with the environment.
- Die. (Woah! Isn't it remarkably similar to our lives)
So all that can be unique to an algae's existence is - the way it interacts with the environment. Within the lifetime of an algae, this way is completely determined by its genes. Crude as it may seem, millions of years of evolution has added just 1 more category of activity in the lives of humans -
- Store our interactions & learn from them.
While an algae can learn only from it's genes, humans can learn in innumerable ways. But this small change is sufficient to completely alter the meaning of I. While the way an algae interacts with it's environment evolves over thousands of generations, the way we interact with our environment evolves with every interaction. So apart from the way we interact, the interactions themselves become a part of us, part of I. No prizes for guessing what takes care of this - the human brain.
Looking through the glass, this essentially means -
- I = genes (in algae) = genes + brain (in humans)
- Understanding an algae = understanding it's genes + it's environment ; Understanding humans = understanding our genes + brain + environment
- While I evolves over generations in an algae, it evolves continually in humans
While most of the things I've mentioned above might appear common sensical, they give a direction to delve deeper. On a different note, returning to common sense is also essential to discard some of the long held prejudices & start afresh.
Amidst all this, am I suggesting that - it is I or the notion of Self which has been driving evolution all along?