In the last chapter I marveled at our curiosity and creativity as a species. I would add our uniqueness especially given that we seem to be the only species with brains that allow for complex thinking, language and reasoning.
I have long been fascinated by the uniqueness of my fellow beings. Perhaps it started with my religious roots planted in Christianity but just a small, unusual root called Christian Science. I was aware of how different the writings of its founder, Mary Baker Eddy, separated core beliefs, and me, from those of the mainstream.
A primary belief was that we should forgo modern medicine and rely on prayer, of a sort, and contemplation to help our bodies restore health that was our natural, spiritual endowment. It was, I now know, a precursor of modern and fashionable self-healing practices using personal imaging and guided imagery. Healing energy was brought to bear from outside and from within the sick person.
Its power stemmed from the belief that we are the reflection of God. Being so, if God is perfect, therefore we are too. We were spiritual beings in that sense and our time on earth was a mortal manifestation of life. As mortals, temporally, we could succumb to mortal temptations and earthly practices like hate, harm to others, self-induced doubt and pain, etc.… Those projections and internalizations made us vulnerable to the ills of those thoughts, images, and behaviors which were then evidenced by mental illness and physical sickness.
So the process involved, sometimes with the help of a guide or counselor, to reimagine our innate perfection as God’s reflection. Through sustained imaging and outside prayer-like energy, a person could restore their spiritual perfection thus combating the mortal pitfalls to be navigated while in this mortal realm.
What motivated Mary Baker Eddy to create this unusual version of Christianity? The history of her life will reveal that but let me generalize and surmise using her as an example of humankind’s curiosity, creativity. As a product of the times, in that moment, she was living through the industrial revolution when modern science was at an early stage. She read, experienced, and thought deeply about religion, Christ, and humanity’s needs and shortcomings. She felt that she could prove that her paradigm for faith and religious practice was a superior alternative to the existing Christian sects created over the last 200 years or so.
Placing her fingerprint on humanity and the snowflake she created is testimony to our uniqueness as an animal species. Broadly, her actions were similar to the fracturing of the hegemony of the largest Christian religion – Catholicism – over the centuries. Similar fracturing or branching or enhancements happened across all belief and religious systems over the nearly 2 millennia up to the 19th Century.
More snowflakes emerged. The origin of the word in my life is traced to growing up in Wisconsin. Snow was a given experience not to be avoided throughout a lifetime lived there. More importantly I recall a grade school teacher who I loved, once told us that Eskimos had words for different snowflakes, while we had one, and that no two snowflakes were alike. True or not, I took it to be true on faith and trust in her.
So perhaps that part of the title is coming into focus as I try to explain my awe and fascination with our species and its uniqueness. What about the “fingerprints” notion? Without giving examples of the power of that word to me in my life experience leading up to the snowflake metaphor, I can be brief. Again, I recall a person I trusted and believed once said with legitimate authority that there are no two people in the world, in the world mind you, with the same fingerprints. So what greater evidence did I need to bolster my awe than to now know our uniqueness can be shown through our fingerprints? Again, I was young, impressionable and didn’t have the internet to facilitate a quick research effort to disprove the assertion by a mentor. I guess that is more a small leap of faith than a reasoned conclusion.
But that “faith” has been bolstered in a number of small ways personally. Over the 35 years or so of my career, I traveled a lot around the world. I passed through many airports in the US, Latin America, Africa, Europe and the Far East. So many people. So many faces, colors, hair styles, sizes. At times it seemed a lonely experience to me. However that changed. I don’t remember when. The loneliness diminished and I started to feel a part of the unfamiliar but, strangely, familiar masses and crowds. In that moving herd I started to see “familiar” faces. Not that I knew them or thought they looked like friends and acquaintances. Now many seem, well, vaguely familiar.
That feeling stays with me to this day. More truthfully, however, it has morphed to a new exercise of my imagination. As my wife and I travel in our retirement days, I often find myself pointing and saying: “Doesn’t that person look like our old neighbor?” Of someone from our current life in the country. Or a deceased friend. Or…..it could become anybody who seems to match my mental fingerprinting file.
These personal anecdotes may affirm the titled: Snowflakes and Fingerprints. And raises this question: other than identical twins, is it conceivable that our evolution has found a way to ensure that we are all undeniably and, provable by science, different?
In closing this chapter, let me ask you to walk with me a bit longer on the path of our creativity as more evidence of our limitless uniqueness. I’ll start with music and a living example of creativity that is a current and living example of uniqueness. As you read it, I invite you to think about people you’ve known or admired or read about that are your life’s examples of your unique life path.
Born in the mid-70s, our friends’ son Michael joined our two families. All children of your loved ones are special. However, neither we nor the parents truly noticed how unique and creative their son was and would become. Michael had a rough adolescence and teen years. Perhaps contributing to that was the usual rebelliousness and then expressing it through music. He’d never shown much interest in any instrument but took up the guitar and, you guessed it, rock music. On the edge rock. He also essentially was self-taught both on guitar and composition. You may think this a familiar story. Its start, yes. Its progression, not likely. From rock to classical music it progressed rapidly. It was questionable that Michael could get into a music school given his college credits to that point. However, he got accepted to a less than mediocre school. Note that he never had a course in composition but amazed his professors. It wasn’t long before he wrote his first classical composition for full orchestra. And he was in his early 20s! That new beginning for a troubled teen catapulted him to becoming a world renowned and awarded composer who taught himself the piano and violin. His compositions span pieces for solo instruments, to ensemble groups, to many symphonic works, and, most recently an opera for one voice with piano and string accompaniment. Premiered and widely acclaimed, that composition is currently being made into a documentary movie.
Michael is an extreme example of a theme of this chapter: our creativity and uniqueness. But outside of classical music, the world’s music is replete with proof of our limitless creativity and uniqueness. Even if a folk song is sung by someone other than the composer, it is unique. Paintings, poetry, novels, histories, automobiles, boats, etc., demonstrate my point. And the list can be extended widely across life as we know it.
Were we chatting and I asked: “Give me examples of creativity and uniqueness that you know about?” “Or from your family and friends, or you personally, no matter how small they may seem but you still remember them”.
Ah yes, what our minds are capable of conjuring. These – some would call them mental games – keep us linked to our memories and thus our own fingerprints and the unique snowflake defining who we are. And this is all done in this moment in time.