[guest post by Dana]
Asking the questions that most of us have thought about:
I have few memories of being four—a fact I find disconcerting now that I’m the father of a four-year-old. My son and I have great times together; lately, we’ve been building Lego versions of familiar places (the coffee shop, the bathroom) and perfecting the “flipperoo,” a move in which I hold his hands while he somersaults backward from my shoulders to the ground. But how much of our joyous life will he remember? What I recall from when I was four are the red-painted nails of a mean babysitter; the brushed-silver stereo in my parents’ apartment; a particular orange-carpeted hallway; some houseplants in the sun; and a glimpse of my father’s face, perhaps smuggled into memory from a photograph. These disconnected images don’t knit together into a picture of a life. They also fail to illuminate any inner reality. I have no memories of my own feelings, thoughts, or personality; I’m told that I was a cheerful, talkative child given to long dinner-table speeches, but don’t remember being so. My son, who is happy and voluble, is so much fun to be around that I sometimes mourn, on his behalf, his future inability to remember himself.
If we could see our childish selves more clearly, we might have a better sense of the course and the character of our lives. Are we the same people at four that we will be at twenty-four, forty-four, or seventy-four? Or will we change substantially through time? Is the fix already in, or will our stories have surprising twists and turns?
Read the whole thing as the author presents arguments from a number of researchers and writers who look at whether we are who we have always been who we are or is it through life’s journeys that we become who we are today. Dividers or continuers…
And I appreciated this poem titled The Ideal by James Fenton. It feels like a sigh of relief to me:
A self is a self.
It is not a screen.
A person should respect
What he has been.
This is my past
Which I shall not discard.
This is the ideal.
This is hard.
Read the whole thing.