This is a story.
Identity in the sense of knowing who one is and how one fits into everything else begins, we are told, when the brain forms in the zygote. “Thought” is a function of the brain “dashboard” which records every impingement of code as something physical, an electrochemical trace recorded in cells. Molecules and the ability to arrange them in cells is the most basic understructure of being human.
Necessarily, at first the impingement of molecules and their interaction to sustain life is dependent on the larger system of the embedding mother, how her body functions and how it interacts with the zygote, embryo and then infant. Her mental and emotional states are just as real as her flesh, the meat and blood of her. It begins with a “blast off.”
(Wiki) “After fertilization, the mammalian cells, called blastomeres, undergo rotational cleavage until they are at the 16-cell stage called the morula. The morula has a small group of internal cells surrounded by a larger group of external cells. These internal cells are called the inner cell mass (ICM) and will go on to become the actual embryo. The external, surrounding cells develop into the trophoblast cells. However, at this stage there is no cavity within the morula; the embryo is still a ball of dividing cells. In a process called cavitation, the trophoblast cells secrete fluid into the morula to create a blastocoel, the fluid-filled cavity. The membranes of the trophoblast cells contain sodium (Na+) pumps, Na+/K+- ATPase and Na+/H+ exchangers, that pump sodium into the centrally forming cavity. The accumulation of sodium pulls in water osmotically, creating and enlarging the blastocoel within the mammalian embryo. The oviduct cells stimulate these trophoblast sodium pumps as the fertilized egg travels down the fallopian tube towards the uterus. As the embryo further divides, the blastocoel expands and the inner cell mass is positioned on one side of the trophoblast cells forming a mammalian blastula, called a blastocyst.”
A high percentage of these microscopic balls ping-pong off the table, mis-bounce, slough away and are never missed. The salt pump that fills out the embryo is a trace of the primal sea, because movement and growth is built upon osmosis, a form of drawing in or out that cells must have in order to operate. Movement means change, which can always go wrong.
This reflection is meant to be about thought as recorded in the cells of the body. We have not understood until recently that the most basic categories of our minds are formed as soon as there is a brain to store them. They are deep but they determine every interpretation of sensation, reaction, organization of identity that comes after. They are the foundation of identity. Very rarely can convictions this deep be changed — that’s what makes them CONVICTIONS, not opinions. Short of surgery, only some profound experience can change them. Not torture, not trauma, only maybe revelation.
If the person who results from this long process of becoming that starts with the blastocyst ends up in a life that matches what was imprinted at the earliest moment possible, there may be great serenity and peace. Otherwise, life may be a forever struggle to get the structure to match the reality. If the struggle is shared by other people who are supportive, it will be a happy one. If they are constantly differing and trying to change the person, the struggle can be life-or-death, a matter of making conflict permit one’s existence in a near-mortal way. That is, opposition can kill you.
We are as bound books, with the binding done by family (or lack of one), tight or loose, recorded on the pages with footnotes, crammed-in memorabilia (a crushed flower, a ticket to Amsterdam), dog-eared, ripped out pages, and bookmarkers from a now defunct bookstore. I once knew a woman who saved money by tucking bills into books. Years later, she’d end up late at night, turning pages, trying to remember what she was reading in more prosperous times.
People call it history but it is better described as a torrent of interweaving histories that smash against the surface of the planet with its moving water and air, its trembling earth. No two people share the same history, not even siblings. In fact, by moving one’s point of view, one can shake out one’s own past into a new shape, this time including people and events long forgotten or repressed. Might be good — might be bad — might not matter.
Art forms recorded points of view and histories, maybe outliving their creators if the larger society recognizes and values them. Their real value is in the interaction of the moment, the flow of words, the daubs of paint, the moves of the body. There are two strategies: one is to stay with a single concept until skill meets success and the other is to explore, to search for the way “in” until mind and muscle meet.
Love-making (not necessarily sexual or even physical) is an art form and every art form is love-making, always remembering that hate-making is NOT the opposite of love-making, but rather that opposite is apathy and lassitude letting life slide into nothingness. A little allele (group) of genes are called “warrior genes” because people who have the cluster, and then are challenged by life, are not passive. They don’t withdraw to a known niche, but rather become aggressive, looking for new pathways and breaking down barriers, even if those are other people. Their book becomes a blog, a video, an adventure and often a romance. Because other people want to follow this trail for the excitement of it, the romance of it. It awakens desire.
Some families will load expectations onto such a person. Others will be threatened and pull away. If many members of the family have this same cluster of proclivities — as is likely — there will be violence among them and addictions as they try to self-medicate. Some of them will pull in quiet nurturers in hopes of relief and stability and some of those nurturers will not be strong enough to bear it. Generations, dynasties, empires are made of this. Our identities are shaped by the stories. They are as physical and fertile as our bodies.