Did a Homo Erectus ever give birth to a Homo Sapiens – the first Homo Sapiens? Evolution doesn’t work that way. No animal can ever give birth to offspring that doesn’t belong to its own species. There never was a first human.
And yet: humans are not Homo Erectus.
The change must have happened; its results are clear but its progress invisible. Change is an efficient, hard-working, non-stop process that only reveals its hands after many generations.
And if change works in such measured, unseen, ways on the scale of evolution, then surely it must work in the same manner on an individual basis. Mustn’t it? Or is this just making the logical fallacy of confusing the macro with the micro – one doesn’t necessarily follow the other.
But change on the individual level does of course happen. The person you are now isn’t the same as the child you were how many years ago. But why not?
The environment surely plays a role. Would you have been the same person you are now if you had been raised atop a mountain community, or in in the depth of a rainforest? Unlikely.
History also has an impact. You must already be feeling the changes the Trump era is having on your thoughts, your way of life and thinking. Imagine if you were raised during the Black Death. Or the Holocaust. Or, somewhat milder, during the inter-war period. Change would change you in unpredictable ways.
But aren’t there physiological factors that go to make you who you are. If you are diagnosed with an illness or a psychological condition then your outlook, your personality will surely, necessarily change.
When we have to adapt to so many things how can we possibly stop our lifelong evolution?
And should we want to?
Given the sheer quantity of factors that influence how you change throughout your life, it becomes statistically impossible to predict how and when you change. In the face of such grandiose odds we are better served consigning the odds to impossible randomness. That’s all randomness is, (currently) unreadable odds.
People deal with change in equally varied ways. Some embrace it, to feel at ease with their new self. After all, evolution helps species adapt to their new surroundings, those that change too slowly, go extinct. Others try to stop it. Something they acknowledge is impossible. But the effort pleases them all the same. Others still try to reverse change. Call it Peter Pan Syndrome, if you will, but can one really recapture their childhood or their youth?
Given the broad spectrum of potential responses it is dangerous to advise anyone on any particular path. Change is subjective and so is our attitude towards it. We all have to adjust our own attitudes towards the inevitability of change. But how do we measure the success of our choices?
The measure of change is happiness. Whether you try to change yourself, to embrace change imposed from the outside, or anything else, you know you’re doing the right thing when you find the arrangement that gives you the most pleasure. And by pleasure I mean clean-pleasure. The kind of pleasure that produces no pollution, no by-products. Not the pleasure that brings suffering to others, or to yourself, in the long-term. Something akin to the elusive ‘perfect happiness’.
But it is always humbling to think that we, these semi-divine apes we have made ourselves out to be, are so power-less over our own personality, our own destiny. We are the conduit through which the various kingdoms of life pass through. We are influenced by geography, nature, the tides of history, the will of other men, the machinations of the cosmos, the births and deaths of other fellow-human apes, and even the simple flapping of a butterfly’s wings that could alter the very weather. We are helpless, but we know that we are so, and acknowledging our helplessness makes us the most powerful species one earth.
Didn’t a doctor ever tell you that you can’t fight against an ailment unless you know the nature of the ailment? We know we are helpless, and so, we can fight against it. An oxymoron that is at the root of the greatest beauty this planet has ever seen. And will continue to see. So long as we are conscious of the influence of the unconscious on our lives change should imbibe in us no fear.
There is beauty to be found in the inevitability of change.