Evolution is a form of change

Evolution suggests many things to many people, more than Charles Darwin anticipated. One way to look at evolution is that it does not see ahead, does not plan consequences, and has no purpose in view. Aristotle believed that nature never makes anything that is superfluous. Sri Aurobindo believed that a conscious power draws the plan of life, and there is meaning in each curve and line. Darwin’s theory lays stress on competition. It suggests that the surviving organisms are superior to those that have gone extinct. Can this be said of elapsed time? One biologist said, “It’s not a question of being ‘better than’; it’s simply a matter of finding a place where you can be yourself. That’s what evolution is about. It’s not going anywhere; it’s simply exploring a space of possibilities.” If the ‘fittest’ can mean aggressive, violent, and most selfish, it can also mean the most loving, the best camouflaged, and the least selfish. A new understanding of evolution recognises the vital importance of cooperation in the evolutionary process. It is now believed that life did not take over the globe by combat, but by networking. It is the ecosystem that has to evolve. It simply means, if you want to succeed, others must succeed as well. Change is to understand the intricacies of changes, especially the insignificance of individuals against the great flow of life.

We all like to tell our stories. Our stories, however simple, are, after all, our stories. We own them. We like to share our sorrows and tragedies. We all suffer from our ‘memory sins’. The more fabricated our memories become, the more trustworthy they seem to us. We want to retain some and get rid of others. Memory failure is like breathing failure; we don’t notice it until it fails. We often forget what happened yesterday but can recall the exact details of what happened 50 years ago. It is said, “We all possess photographic memory; in some, however, the film is missing”. Sometimes, our forgetfulness is deliberate. We often ‘edit’ or ‘rewrite’ our memory, unknowingly or unconsciously. Our memories are a collage of the old and the new. Our memories are fragile. The only way to freeze a memory is to put it in a story.

Does identity change over time?

Perhaps, identity changes, but often we don’t notice it. Our identity changes as our utility changes? We want to be different, and at the same time we want to conform to the norms laid by the society. Conformity often clashes with a person’s self-interest. In many situations, we feel the pressure of social obligations that clash with our social identity. We would have liked to behave differently had there been no pressure of some kind.

I did not build any self-image. I took the turn, when the turn came. My cities changed, and with it my workplaces and set of friends. Accordingly, my self-image changed. I could not remain a school master. My image of myself was socially determined. Managing the self is a major problem. Self is evaluated from the standpoint of the person, or from that of another person. Inconsistencies between these self-concepts are the causes of emotional discomfort and uneasiness. People work on the basis of their preferences, abilities, acknowledgement of social roles, and other personal characteristics. These, however, change over time as do their goals and achievements. As a result of these changes people develop different images of themselves in the future. I am concerned about the evolution of my personal identity. I allow people to influence my evolution. I don’t belong to fixed groups. I choose my groups according to the self-image I want to build. “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances to choose one’s own way.” Wrote Victor Frankl. I don’t know how much of that is applicable in my case.