What am I?

Next on the list of Life’s Biggest Questions is What am I?

A biologist might well answer in terms such as these:

Kingdom:  Animalia
Phylum:  Chordata
Class:  Mammalia
Order:  Primates
Family:  Hominidae
Tribe:  Hominini
Genus:  Homo
Species:  H. sapiens

True enough.  The person writing this post is one member of the great ape family.  As are you, Dear Reader.  I’d like to think that you and I are in some respects wise or knowing, as the descriptor sapiens suggests.  Does that make you or me unique?  No.  As I write this, I’m told that you and I belong to a wider “family” of more than 6,955,800,000 living humans on the earth.

Yet I am somehow unique.  Each of us has two biological parents, and no child is an exact replica of either parent.  Each of us is a unique product of the genetic and epigenetic determinants passed along to us from our predecessors.  (Please see my previous post.)  You and I are in a very real sense mutants, very similar to and yet differing from our parents.  I can thank this cast of billions for bestowing on me a vitally important fight, flight, or freeze response, a capacity for perceiving patterns–even where no demonstrable pattern exists, and a predisposition to annoying allergic reactions.  (Pardon me while I sneeze.)

I am a unique instance of the general class we know as human, begotten of man and woman, living in relationships of various flavors and colors with…well, more persons than I’d care to count.  And I interact with scores of these persons on a more or less regular basis.  It is from these interactions and the feedback which comes my way that emerges a seemingly endless series of impressions of who and what I am.

In a real sense, what I am is a direct “outgrowth” of the person I was at birth and through my years of infant, childhood, and adolescent development.  And yet I am in flux: from year to year, even from moment to moment, I am a continually shifting constellation of characteristics and ideas and understandings, influenced by and influencing other persons around me.

What am I?  I am one man who is all that I become in the presence of others who are in some ways like and in others unlike me.  Maybe you and I can deal with that, at least for now.


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