The relationship between our present self and our past selves

Extract from interview with Maria Popova, author of the wonderful Brainpickings blog.

Krista TIPPETT:  You wrote somewhere, “We are a collage of our interests, our influences, our inspirations, all the fragmentary impressions we’ve collected by being alive and awake to the world. Who we are is simply a finely-curated catalogue of those.” Which brings the word “curation” — which I understand you’re not as fond of anymore — into this — into the answer of what it means to be human, that we curate our lives. How do you think your sense of what it means to be human, that grand question, has evolved? How would you start to talk about that?

Maria POPOVA: Hmm. I think much of it has shifted from an understanding that’s based on concreteness to an understanding that’s based on relational things. That this notion of not just who we are but who we are in relation to our past selves, the people around us, the culture that we came from, the culture that we live in, all the different lives we’ve had. And for me, certainly, I feel like I’ve had all these different lives. I grew up in a country that is pretty much the exact opposite of my life right now. I grew up having nothing, and then I sort of clawed my way up and out. And now I live in New York City. And I am able to afford my own life and live my own life without worrying about things that I worried about for many, many, many, many years. And it’s so strange how we’re able to carry forward this mystery of personal identity even when our present selves are so different from our future selves. . . and from our past selves most of all. And I think a lot about this question of, what is a person? I mean, how — am I the same person as my childhood self? And sure, we share the same body, but even that body is so different. It’s unrecognizably different. Our lives are so different. Our ideas and ideals are so different. And to me, this question of what it means to be human is always a question of elasticity of being. It’s never an arrival point, you know? (from here)

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