Thursday, June 26, 2008

Change...

Are humans capable of real and lasting change? Or are our basic personalities indeed set early in life? I understand the concept of neuroplasticity, but I'm really beginning to wonder whether we just learn new compensations for survival, rather than undo old patterns and create new ones.

As I look through the Rubbermaid archives, I see a version of myself asking the same fundamental questions I ask now; dealing with the same fundamental fears; having the same basic struggles; and displaying the same basic goodness. It's encouraging to know that at my core I am the same loving person I've always been. But disheartening to know that at my core, I'm still struggling with the same issues I've always struggled with. And I wonder if this is just the human condition. Maybe there are only a few basic themes common to mankind; a few basic needs, a few basic questions that we all enter this life with and try to sort out while we're here. I don't know. I just feel like I'm swimming upstream all the time. Does everyone feel like this?

tall penguin

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't know if I'd necessarily use 'swimming upstream' as my choice of terms, but I do know what you're saying. I have a whole box of writings, papers, notes to self, etc that I like to pull out once in a while to peruse how I felt then about various things with how I feel now, and there are some definitely continuous life threads that don't seem to ever really resolve themselves.

tall penguin said...

"there are some definitely continuous life threads that don't seem to ever really resolve themselves."

And this is what I wonder about us humans. Perhaps there is a genetic need for us to ask these same basic questions,to share these common themes; maybe it's a matter of evolution. Perhaps a meme that has gotten passed around the planet over time?

Anonymous said...

Given the number of people I know whose idea of a difficult question runs along the lines of "Do I watch 'Lost' or 'American Idol' tonight?", I would venture to guess that the need to resolve the basic philosophical questions is not a human-wide theme.

matt said...

It seems there are things in our mind that we will never be capable of changing. Anything we do ends up reflecting on these thoughts and strengthens them. Self is a very powerful tool in how we interact with the rest of the world. Those questions that connect self to reality are the most basic yet strongest links in our mind. I think you're right, they will never change. They are the tiny groves where our new thoughts fit on top. :)

Whether or not we even can to change them, I don't know. Would you be you without them?

matt said...

always fun to mess up the whole point of my message, I mean to say:

Whether or not we can change them, I don't know. Would you be you without them?

matt said...

I would have to agree with anonymous there. Most people are capable of just not caring. Whether or not they are actually ignorant or just good at filling in the blanks -- I don't know. It seems to me far better to question everything than to question nothing. :)

tall penguin said...

"Given the number of people I know whose idea of a difficult question runs along the lines of "Do I watch 'Lost' or 'American Idol' tonight?", I would venture to guess that the need to resolve the basic philosophical questions is not a human-wide theme."

Perhaps it's my idealistic naivete here, but I really want to believe that even these people think about the deeper things of life; and that Lost and American Idol are just their current distractions from the questions.

tall penguin said...

"Whether or not we can change them, I don't know. Would you be you without them?"

I don't know who I'd be. Some day I wish I could find out though. I wonder what it would be like to be one of these people anon speaks of whose main concerns in life are superficial.

With self-awareness comes great responsibility and the inability to hide from your own bullshit. I wish I could hide from mine some days. Even I need a little holiday from me sometimes! Perhaps that is indeed what Lost and American Idol are for. And pot and potato chips...in that order.

Anonymous said...

No, I've studied this exhaustively. Lost and American Idol really are the depths of their intellectual swimming pools.

jdbartlett said...

"Are humans capable of real and lasting change? Or are our basic personalities indeed set early in life?"

Ooh, that's a really inspirational question. I'd have to say: both! Personality is phenotypic. Is that the right word? I mean to say it isn't exclusively carved by genetics or our environment, it's the result of both. Our inherited physical structure makes room for it (for example, our brains are a product of evolution), our childhood plots its vectors, and subsequent experience shuffles them and paints in details.

I agree that childhood experiences have a huge impact on personality. Think of the "sample size" rule in statistics: the fewer people involved in a survey, the more impact a single person's opinion has on its results. Children have less experience, so each experience has a larger impact. But just as survey results can shift as sample size increases and diversifies, our opinions and personalities can also, change subject to our accrued experience.

Ray said...

Swimming upstream, shoveling against the tide, spitting in the wind, tugging on superman's cape... story of my life (well maybe not that last one).
I guess questioning and seeking answers is what most makes us human.
Cheers!