Who are we? Why it mat­ters

How dif­fer­ently would we live our lives know­ing that we’re more than the prod­uct of ran­dom evo­lu­tion?

Living Now - - Philosophy - By Gregg Braden

Since the time our ear­li­est an­ces­tors looked with awe into the dis­tant stars of a moon­less night sky, a sin­gle ques­tion has been asked count­less times, by count­less num­bers of peo­ple, shar­ing the same ex­pe­ri­ence through the ages. The ques­tion they’ve asked speaks di­rectly to the core of ev­ery chal­lenge that will ever test us in life, no mat­ter how big or how small. It’s at the heart of ev­ery choice we’ll ever face, and it forms the foun­da­tion for ev­ery de­ci­sion we’ll ever make. Dur­ing the es­ti­mated 200,000 years or so that we’ve been on Earth the ques­tion we’ve asked is sim­ply this: Who are we?

In what may be the great­est irony of our lives, fol­low­ing more than 5,000 years of recorded his­tory and tech­no­log­i­cal achieve­ments that stag­ger the imag­i­na­tion, we have yet to an­swer this most ba­sic ques­tion with cer­tainty.

Why it mat­ters

The way we an­swer the words ‘ Who are we?’ pen­e­trates to the essence of each mo­ment in ev­ery day of life. It forms the per­cep­tual eyes – the fil­ters – through which we see other peo­ple, the world around us, and most im­por­tantly, our­selves. For ex­am­ple, when we think of our­selves as sep­a­rate from our bod­ies, we ap­proach the heal­ing process feel­ing like pow­er­less vic­tims of an ex­pe­ri­ence that we have no con­trol over. Con­versely, re­cent dis­cov­er­ies con­firm that when we ap­proach life know­ing that our bod­ies are de­signed to con­stantly re­pair, re­ju­ve­nate and heal, this shift in per­spec­tive cre­ates the chem­istry in our cells that mir­rors our be­lief.

Our self-es­teem, self-worth, sense of con­fi­dence, well-be­ing and our be­liefs of spir­i­tu­al­ity and God each stem di­rectly from the way we think of our­selves in the world. From who we say ‘yes!’ to when it comes to choos­ing a life part­ner and how long our part­ner­ships last once we cre­ate them, to what jobs we feel we’re ca­pa­ble of per­form­ing, the most im­por­tant de­ci­sions that we’ll ever make in life are based in the way we an­swer this sim­ple, time­less ques­tion.

What we teach our chil­dren is also af­fected by our opin­ion of our­selves. When their del­i­cate sense of self-worth is so over­pow­ered by the re­lent­less bul­ly­ing from ri­vals and class­mates, it’s their an­swer to ‘ Who am I?’ that gives them the strength to heal their hurt and, some­times, makes the dif­fer­ence between when they feel wor­thy of liv­ing and when they don’t.

The way we think of our­selves de­ter­mines the cor­po­rate poli­cies that ei­ther jus­tify the dump­ing of 12 mil­lion(+) tons of used plas­tic and thou­sands of gal­lons of ra­dioac­tive waste in the world’s oceans each year, or that cher­ishes the liv­ing oceans enough to in­vest in pre­serv­ing them.

Even the choice of how coun­tries cre­ate the bor­ders that sep­a­rate them, and how we jus­tify when armies cross those bor­ders to march onto the land and into the homes of an­other na­tion be­gins with how we un­der­stand our­selves to be. It’s pre­cisely be­cause the way we think of our­selves plays such a vi­tal role in our lives, that we owe it to our­selves to an­swer ‘ Who are we?’ as truth­fully and hon­estly as pos­si­ble. This in­cludes tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion ev­ery source of in­for­ma­tion avail­able, from the lead­ing edge sci­ence of to­day to the wis­dom of 5,000(+) years of hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence. This also in­cludes chang­ing the ex­ist­ing story when new dis­cov­er­ies give us the rea­sons to do so.

When you ask ‘ Who are we?’, the short an­swer is that you’re not what you’ve been told, and more than you’ve ever imag­ined. The long an­swer is what fol­lows.

Since the birth of mod­ern sci­ence three cen­turies years ago, we’ve been steeped in a story that leaves us feel­ing that we’re lit­tle more than in­signif­i­cant specks of dust in the uni­verse – bi­o­log­i­cal side­bars in the over­all scheme of life. Carl Sagan de­scribed this think­ing beau­ti­fully when he com­mented on the sci­en­tific per­spec­tive re­gard­ing our place in the cos­mos. “We find that we live on an in­signif­i­cant planet” he said, “of a hum­drum star lost in a gal­axy tucked away in some for­got­ten cor­ner of a uni­verse in which there are far more gal­ax­ies than peo­ple.” It’s this think­ing that’s led us to be­lieve that not only are we in­signif­i­cant when it comes to life in gen­eral, but also that we’re sep­a­rate from the world, one an­other, and our­selves.

Al­bert Ein­stein echoed this per­spec­tive clearly when it came to his ideas re­gard­ing quan­tum physics, which sug­gests that all things are deeply con­nected. Leav­ing no doubt in our mind as to what he be­lieved the new quan­tum ideas meant for sci­ence, Ein­stein said, “If quan­tum the­ory is cor­rect, it sig­ni­fies the end of physics as a sci­ence.” Ein­stein’s be­liefs wouldn’t al­low him to ac­cept the pos­si­bil­ity that we live in a deeply con­nected world.

It’s not sur­pris­ing that Ein­stein would hold such a strong be­lief in a world based in sep­a­rate­ness. For he, and other sci­en­tists of his era, the idea that ev­ery­thing is sep­a­rate from ev­ery­thing else was largely ac­cepted as a fact fol­low­ing the fa­mous Michel­son Mor­ley ex­per­i­ment of 1887. This paradigm shift­ing ex­per­i­ment, con­ducted in the base­ment of Ohio’s Case West­ern Re­serve Univer­sity, had con­firmed that the field of en­ergy be­lieved to con­nect all things, the aether field, doesn’t ex­ist.

mean here. They clearly don’t sup­port the tra­di­tional story of evo­lu­tion. Let’s be­gin with what we know for cer­tain about us, and what’s sci­en­tif­i­cally agreed upon when it comes to our ap­pear­ance on Earth. world. They were al­ready de­vel­oped in AMHS when they ap­peared. Hu­mans – we hu­mans – haven’t changed since the first AMH ap­peared. In other words, we are the Anatom­i­cally Mod­ern Hu­mans 2000 cen­turies later.

One of the cen­tral themes in evo­lu­tion the­ory is that na­ture gives us what­ever fea­tures we need to sur­vive, only when we need them to sur­vive. In other words, the the­ory says that we have abil­i­ties such as stand­ing up­right, ad­vanced pe­riph­eral vi­sion, and the abil­ity to share our emo­tions through smiles and frowns, be­cause we needed them at some point in the past.

Al­fred Rus­sell Wal­lace, a fel­low sci­en­tist and col­league of Dar­win’s, and a strong sup­porter of Dar­win’s the­o­ries, stated this idea clearly in a pa­per he pub­lished in 1870. In the fi­nal chap­ter of Con­tri­bu­tions to the The­ory of Nat­u­ral Se­lec­tion Wal­lace stated, “Na­ture never over-en­dows a species be­yond the needs of ev­ery­day ex­is­tence.”

Be­cause our ad­vanced brain, ex­tended neu­ral net­work and ex­tra­or­di­nary abil­i­ties of self-heal­ing, the self-reg­u­lat­ing of our im­mune sys­tem, the self-trig­ger­ing of our longevity hor­mones and our po­ten­tial for deep in­tu­ition has been with us from our begin­ning, they ap­pear to be in­her­ent in our be­ing rather than evo­lu­tion­ary add-ons de­vel­op­ing over time. This fact di­rectly con­tra­dicts the role of Wal­lace’s ideas in our ap­pear­ance. We are all over-en­dowed!

Two ques­tions im­me­di­ately come to mind when we con­sider that we have such ad­vanced char­ac­ter­is­tics:

Why did we ap­pear with such ex­tra­or­di­nary abil­i­ties al­ready de­vel­oped 200,000 years ago?

How do we fully awaken these ad­vanced ca­pa­bil­i­ties in our lives and in our world to­day?

To­day, sci­en­tists are re-dis­cov­er­ing the ex­cep­tional fea­tures that have been with us from our begin­ning, in­clud­ing the spe­cialised cells in the hu­man heart that en­able deep in­tu­ition on-de­mand and the abil­ity to thrive through big life changes.

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