Descartes once famously said “Cogito ergo sum“, in English meaning “I think, therefore I am”, or “I am thinking, therefore I exist”. Descartes has been long been dead, but his identity, his proposition still survives.
Survival. What is survival, and why is it so important to survive? Survival is the struggle to remain or preserve ‘living’. Higher the resistance to internal and external life threatening factors (disease, climate change, earthquakes, dominance of other species), higher is the survival. This process is known as Natural Selection, whereby the stronger species outlives the other weak species by developing certain biological traits that aid survival. Self preservation, or surviving life is the natural aim of any living species, including humans.
The earliest human beings, did hunt for food, did have strong resistance to external factors and did follow self preservation purely for life, that is, the struggle to, not be dead. At this point, humans were, no different than any other living being; but humans have evolved into something more than just life preservation living beings. Humans have given themselves and each other, identities. Humans have given each other names. ‘I’, ‘,me’, ‘we’, ‘us’ are examples of identities. We are not just living species any more, we have individualities and affiliations, which gives us a sense of being, other than the existence of life. In my opinion, once an identity is created, this identity needs to be preserved. Our sense of protecting our identity has moved us slightly away from the original aim of survival of life. Survival for modern humans is more about survival of the identity, the name, the individuality, and not just life.
Because life can end, the person might disappear, but sense of existence can come from identities. Newton died about 3 centuries ago, the person is gone, but not his identity. Descartes died about 365 years ago. Alexander about 2400 years ago. His identity remains preserved. This is what humans have evolved into. Humans want to do something significant such that their names and identities would be remembered long after they are gone. And to do something significant, you need, almost always a profession. Artists, scientists, mathematicians, businessmen, academics, doctors. All of them. It’s just the feeling of wanting to put your name on everything. To protect your identity, you need to beat others in your profession. What makes us humane is not beating others as gladiators to survive, but to fight against other identities to protect your own. To get into a profession, you need education, hence people are fighting for education. Education needs resources, so people in turn are fighting for resources and the process continues further with the struggles. We all end up fighting, trying to survive; our identities while our lives are spent achieving that.
So “Who are you?”. A body with life, or an identity that needs to survive? Have a look at an interesting project “Who am I” by Jituli, all about identifying who you are.