During a spoken tribute that I delivered at a recent family gathering to celebrate my brother’s birthday, I expressed the following sentiment:
There are many changes that take place in a lifetime, some are fleeting and some lasting, which can alter us in ways we did not expect or want, but which, nonetheless, result in forward movement toward the person we WILL be.
The intention was to suggest that we cannot always predict the consequences of change, regardless of whether we initiate the change deliberately or it is thrust upon us by circumstance. Ultimately, change will come, one way or another, and the only sensible role we can play in the process, once it takes hold, is in shaping our response to the change. The degree to which it can be said that we might actually be able to participate in directing the course of change when it comes, depends largely on the person we are when it occurs, and our level of experience in dealing with the changes we encountered in the past.
Our current endowment of highly developed cognitive functioning has had the benefit of hundreds of thousands of years of evolutionary progress within which to develop and be expressed in numerous creative ways. The very nature of life, as demonstrated over hundreds of millions of years of evolution on our planet, is to adapt to changing circumstances, and to select those behaviors and genetic characteristics which enhance survival.
Once the architecture of the hominid brain became complex enough to support advanced cognitive functions, consciousness began to take hold as a highly adaptive tool that greatly enhanced survival. In combination with other physiological changes in the base of the hominid skull which facilitated the development of spoken language, Homo sapiens took this natural evolutionary endowment and began to utilize the power of the brain in ways that resulted in increased and enhanced human intelligence generally, as well as a variety of both practical and creative or adaptive cognitive capacities developed over the millennia.
We rarely consider this background of change over many epochs of time as relevant to our cosmically brief existence as sentient beings, but it seems clear that our lives today, even down to the changes that occur over a single, human lifetime, are one of the many consequences of the countless changes that have manifested over the millennia, and by that reckoning, we must then suppose that our adaptive responses to the changes occurring in our own lives, in some way, affect the continuum of which we are all an essential component.