Without any boundary determining the separation between where who you are begin and the rest of our universe ends, you become nothing, or you just become part of everything. In either case, you have no identity. Identity is another one of those words that has some baggage to it. It’s used often. It’s weighty. The details of its implication, however, are often kept at an arm length away.
While I can’t blame you for wanting to keep a sensitive subject like “identity” at a safe distance, I’ve been inspired by Margaret Wheatley to better understand the details of this concept. She begins with biology. “What we do know is that life began with membranes, with boundaries that created cells by separating them from everything else,” Wheatley explains about the need for division. She goes on to explain that without a boundary “there would be no means to differentiate one thing from another” and this isn’t about isolation because “there would [also] be no possibility to organize into great complexity and order.”
Identity is important. We know this. Yet, rarely do we think of what defines our identity as a membrane, which separates us from everything else but also allows some information to pass through. This is the same way a cell works. Consider the words of Austrian physicist Fritof Capra:
“A living system does not need any information from outside to be what it is, but it is strictly dependant on outside materials in order to survive.”
What you need to hear from me right now is that having a discernible identity is critical to your existence. The key condition, however, is to understand that the borders that make you who you are need to be permeable, like a membrane, in order to facilitate your survival. The environment around you informs you how to adapt.
Have an identity. Let information in.
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