When we experience the phenomenon we call ‘change’, is it truly a moving from one reality to the next, or is it simply a continuum of the same reality? Do we really change, or do we simply unlock something that was always in us?
I’m a gamer, i.e. I play video games a lot. There is something in gaming called an “unlockable”. This is an item or option that you “unlock” by completing certain tasks. For example, if you finish a game in under 10 hours, it gives you infinite ammunition the next time you play it through. Or even more simple, you can get a colourful hat for your character’s wardrobe if you beat a certain monster. There’s a million ways to explain this, but basically you get something that was previously unavailable to you once specific conditions are met.
These special items are meant to change the experience of the game in a way that wasn’t an option before. And in some cases, they allow you to do things you couldn’t do before, like jump much further so that you can reach that ledge with a treasure chest you could always see but not reach before.
So, how does this apply to my question about ‘change’? The unlockables do change how the game works or how you experience it, but they were always there in the programming of the game. They aren’t completely new to the people who made the game, but they may be completely new to those who play the game. So did the game change? Or did you just discover something that was always there, and always a part of the game?
We age. We get older. That brings about changes in our bodies and minds. That’s something we can’t escape.
Think of this: at some point you were 70cm tall. Then at another point you were over 100cm tall (I’m trying to pick heights relevant to everyone). Your height changed. But wasn’t it always going to be that way based on your genetics? Is it truly an absolutely new you, or just the same you with a new experience that was already written into your genetic programming?
What about changes in the way we think? Once you were scared of the dark, then you weren’t (I hope that applies to most people reading this). Yes, there’s a change in the way you experience the dark now from how you did before, but was that a true change, or just flicking the switch (pun intended) between feelings you already possess but express at different times?
We could talk about unexpected events that force a change in us. Maybe you broke your leg after falling off a tree. That would be a legitimate change. Or would it?
Our bones have the capacity to mend themselves, and even become thicker and stronger after repeated trauma (as in the case of martial arts experts who can break bricks with their hands without harming themselves). This ability to heal, or strengthen can only be expressed in the event of some damage to the body. And yet, this ability was always there, ready to restore the body to what it should be.
On a purely subjective level, our experience would be enough to prove the reality of ‘change’. How we feel about something can change, and, therefore, we look at it differently to how we did before. We learn new things and gain new abilities through experience (“new abilities through experience”?? RPG anybody?). How we respond can change in a way that was different from before.
However, when we consider that all the feelings and thoughts can only happen within a predetermined spectrum of possible feelings and thought processes that is already written into us, can we still say that there is a legitimate ‘change’, when it is just a different part of the same spectrum?
This could probably be one of the more abstract posts I’ve written, but it’s simply a thought. I’m sure there’s many real changes that exist. Yet, it is compelling when you look at how many of these changes could be something that was already in our coding, as opposed to something that genuinely altered us.
When you think about it, it’s remarkable just how broad the spectrum of possibility is within us as human beings. We can go through traumas, and are able to survive. We can go from lows to highs in life. We can make new decisions about how we will treat certain people. All that, and still be the same person.
It’s an even more fascinating concept when you consider how many times we tell ourselves we can’t do something, but have the ability written in us somewhere.