When a homo sapien sperm and egg successfully come together, a human is created.
Other than the genetic map, nothing is formed: no legs, no head, nothing. In other words, the human is in an UNDIFFERENTIATED state. There, but not yet formed in any meaningful way.
When the fetus finally releases and exits the mother, it remains very undifferentiated. Its mental function is still undeveloped. So goes the story until about 25 years of age. By this time the brain is fully formed, the body is close to its full muscular capacity. We finally are fully DIFFERENTIATED human beings.
But from that point forward we slowly begin to lose form again. With time we become the dust of the earth.
My question is: are we happier in an undifferentiated state? Or are we happiest in a fully differentiated state?
I think if we had a choice we would choose to remain undifferentiated.
I use my own life as proof. Before I was four years old, I can’t remember one shocking, unpleasant moment. Of course I can’t remember much of anything before I hit four. Between the ages of five and fifty I’m not sure I entertained the idea of happiness with any degree of seriousness. I was occupied with working, achieving, creating and getting out of trouble. I’m well over fifty now and with each passing year I’ve felt more content, even though I lose a little bit of form and fashion.
For example, the other day I was in the dentist’s chair under a heavy dose of gas getting a new crown for one of my cherished but eroding teeth. I remember thinking, “I’m very happy right now. If I had a choice, I think I would remain in this state forever. I feel united with everything. I’m not sure where I begin and everything around me ends. I’m not sure I care. I’m not sure it’s important enough to care.” I actually said to myself, “I can handle being UNDIFFERENTIATED.”
After I left the dentist’s office, I was determined to continue this line of reasoning.
For example, I thought: as I approach death, I won’t be afraid. I think everything is pealed away at that moment. I’ve come to accept the fact that most of my life has been spent in building up layers of superficiality. When I was very young I spent my early days in Huntington Park, California wearing nothing more than a pair of shorts. I even started attending Sunday School in shorts, no shirt, no shoes. Recently I’ve spent most of my time in jeans and bare feet. In between those two points I became very picky about the clothes I wore. In seventh grade I was thoroughly convinced that clothes made the man.
Then I thought college degrees made the man. Then cars, then homes. Homes get messy whether they are low, middle or high. At one point I was happy only if my home looked like it was never lived in. My wife informed me she refused to live in a home that doesn’t look lived in.
What is more authentic? Not worrying about the clothes you wear or fooling yourself into thinking that exterior adornment matters? When you are very young or getting older your differentiated self is not all together present, but so what? The undifferentiated world seems closer to what is more real.
This kind of thinking continued:
I went through a period where I was satisfied only if my children were trophies. Of course I was never satisfied. My best days were when I dropped that notion. (Where did that fiction come from anyway?) When I was very young I didn’t think of others as trophies, I didn’t know what the word trophy meant. Now that I’m older, it’s obscene to think of my grandchildren as trophies.
The universe is so vast and so old that I could be satisfied if human life turned out to be a random event probably not to be repeated. Why? I think for me existence is just as meaningful in an undifferentiated state as a differentiated state.
I want to stop here and divert.
I think it’s exhilarating I would allow myself such different thoughts from what I have programmed myself to think over the years. This article is not about differentiation versus being undifferentiated. I think it is about my surprise that I would seriously entertain ideas like this.
Just think how good it must be when writers can write from the other person’s perspective. How good it is when a male can write from the perspective of a female and vice versa. I would like to think I am capable of changing my mind and outlook in life, that I’m just not repeating and believing the same stuff from cradle to grave.
But, on the other hand, my kids have always complained that they never quite knew what was going to come out of my mouth, it was so unpredictable. One of my kids even restricted me from saying anything around her children. To her I’m like the crazy uncle who is rolled out for a few minutes on holidays and then hidden the rest of the year.