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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A Made Man

A personal blog or diary is, by its very nature, an exercise in solipsism (I am smiling as I type this, Bernice). It’s true. I write about my feelings, beliefs, observations and thoughts. Every entry has been about me, me, me, but this begs the question: “What/who am I?” It’s the age-old question of nature vs. nurture.

I’ve been pondering this for months; not in any great depth, mind you, just random, chaotic musings mostly. These thoughts often come to mind when I encounter libertarian or “conservative” opinions regarding the importance of taking personal responsibility for one’s own success or failure. The underlying assumption is that we each possess an irreducible core of rational thought, emotions and capabilities that we must harness and utilize to our best advantage…that we each possess the potential to succeed in all of life’s endeavors if only we choose to do so.

Is this fundamental assumption correct?

I came into this world with blended genetic attributes, courtesy of my parents. I’ve always felt that I was a bit short-changed in this dance of DNA. My parents were both very good-looking and athletic (as is my sister). I, on the other hand, am decidedly “average” both in looks and physical capabilities (although I do have my father’s thumbs, and that has come to mean a great deal to me in my dotage). At any rate, I was not imbued with my parents’ comeliness, but I seem to have inherited a quick mind. My double helix bestowed its own unique blessings.

So I entered the world as a one-off mechanism with physical strengths and weaknesses and a data processing center, my brain, that seems to function quite well, thank you (despite my repeated attempts to futz with it). Did I come with a soul? I’ll never know. I certainly wasn’t aware of it in my earliest years. I simply was…and my brain was empty.

My body grew without any guidance from me. My cells simply did what they were designed to do. Data began to stream into my brain, first from my senses, and then from external programmers. Without a doubt, my parents were the first to put thoughts in my head. They were my greatest teachers. They taught me words and the meanings of things. My mother read to me each night. By age four, she was reading from complex, mature novels. She paused patiently, again and again and again, to explain practically every word and every idea, while I rested in my bed with eyes wide open in amazement. She taught me that words and books were magic things. My father taught me about emotions…the realms of the spirit. Both told me I had a soul, and I believed them. I was on my way.

Data streamed in from nuns and priests and teachers, and I supplemented the data flow with knowledge gleaned independently from my own observations, experiences and my omnipresent books (I began reading voraciously at age four). I accepted everything I learned in those days without doubt or question. My basic values, morals and ethics came from these early sources and teachers. I simply believed that everything I was taught was true.

Then came others: neighbors, strangers on the street, voices on the radio, faces on TV, and school chums. Then came ever more complex experiences. Each played a role in shaping me. I processed the inputs using the fundamental assumptions that had been implanted in me by my earliest programmers. My brain had been hard-wired by others to process data in a certain way. I began to accept or reject data based on that…and the data came in torrents.

As I grew older, my friends became my mentors. We challenged each other, influenced each other, emulated and molded one another. I say with considerable pride that I picked great friends…either that, or great friends picked me (when it comes to kindred spirits, can anyone really know who did what to whom?).

And then came lovers…profound influences all. I think I’ll save my thoughts on the importance of lovers for another day. I do not wish to write a book today.

As I search my head and my heart for the true and essential “me”,
I find only the fingerprints of all the people who have touched and molded me. Have I ever had a truly original thought? I see only the imprints of others, and there were countless fingers. Had those fingers come from different hands…who would I be?

What, or who, am I? I’ve come to believe that I am, truly, a “Made Man”, and I am grateful for all my Makers.

* * *

4 Comments:

Blogger Zen Wizard said...

Great post.

Tue Feb 07, 04:36:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Thank you.

Tue Feb 07, 04:46:00 PM  
Blogger bct said...

I smiled, too!

Wed Feb 08, 09:13:00 AM  
Blogger tipota said...

i also learned to read early. my brother went to kindergarten and then came home every day and we would play 'school' and he'd teach me everything he'd learned that day.it was our afternoon ritual. so, quite by happy accident i learned the alphabet and started reading. totally shocked and surprised my mom one day when we were at the grocery and i pointed to a sign and read it. because of this early booklearning i was able to skip a few grades in school (also helped that my parents were teachers) anyway, not meaning to ramble, this piece is totally magical, thank you!

Tue Mar 10, 01:24:00 PM  

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