Over the last few weeks I have really tried to challenge myself mentally. With all of the scientific reading I’ve been doing (if I read one more publication about climate change I’ll scream!) I had to find a new way to “change gears” while I was sitting in the library. I began watching videos that really make you think, two in particular:
Each one is only 3 minutes long, but they resonate with you for much longer.
I watch each of these multiple times a day, and as a result my perceptions of life and of myself, have changed. It is true that we humans view ourselves as individual units, one solid organism separated from everything that surrounds us. In fact, each human body is an ecosystem, composed of trillions of living organisms working as a cohesive unit to make this “ecosystem” function. In the same way that if you look at the earth from space it appears to be one unit, but upon closer inspection it is comprised of many smaller parts. Viewing myself this way has allowed me to get in touch with the world on another level, every time I look out the window or go for a walk I cannot help but marvel and the world that surrounds me.
I believe that the sense of “self” is a manifestation of the human mind created to guide our body, in the same way that a large company that it made up of many parts gives itself a name. It creates a sense of unity for everything that makes up the whole, and therefore gives it a “reason” to do what it does and possibly helps it to function. I think the sense of self, along with many of the complex emotions we are capable of, are side-effects of the evolution of creative thought in humans.
Humans have evolved to separate themselves from the apes. We did not become faster, or stronger, or more agile… we developed a higher intellect, the ability of creative thought and innovativeness. This has allowed us to make everything from the wheel to the iPhone, but with this ability have come various side effects, we call them emotions. This higher level of thought has also given us the ability to feel very detailed and complex emotions. I don’t believe that the act of being sad, for example, gives us an evolutionary advantage, it was simply something that came along with an evolutionary advantage.
Animals live their lives, die, and the world moves on. Humans do not accept this because our evolved intellect has allowed us to realize that, as Jason Silva so eloquently said “perhaps the greatest existential bummer of all is entropy”. As a result of this, we attempt to defy this impermanence of our bodies through some form of transcendence. This, I believe, is where art, love, science, and religion came from. Could it be that these very different, and often opposing things were forged from the same desire? In our quest to transcend time and in a certain way live beyond our lives, I believe all of these things (and probably more) were born. They have undoubtedly evolved since, each taking their own paths to become what they are today, but potentially all came from the same thing.
As for me, I am learning to embrace “the human condition” more and more everyday. I will love a little harder, hug a little tighter, breathe a little deeper, and enjoy everything to the fullest. I will not, however, give up on the quest to defy my impermanence, I will continue to strive to transcend time with science, writing, photography, and love … and hopefully leave something that will defy nature, and last forever.