All organisms differentiate. From a single cell, the process of differentiation must occur. The cell divides and eventually becomes something different, something specialized, something specific. But, once a cells differentiates, can it change? This is the fundamental concept of stem cells. If you take a stem cell, you can pre-select and define how and what you wish it to become. You can grow a new kidney or a heart….of cells that can be injected into a diseased organ and the stem cells repair and restore.
Is there an equivalent psychological phenomenon? Once we “grow up”, once we mature, is our personality, our motivation, our ambition, our self-awareness fixed? Can humans change? A pessimist says no. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Once you’re set in your ways, you can’t really change. In the face of despair, we recriminate ourselves: we buy into the idea that we can’t quit smoking, can’t lose weight, can’t run a marathon, can speak a foreign language….can’t change our path.
I am not a pessimist. I’ve never believed there was one way, one path, one avenue. I argue that even after you chose a path and set about upon the road of your life, you can change. You CAN change. Change comes from within. It is a choice. It is free will. It is the greatest, most divine blessing bestowed upon mankind. We get to chose. A lion is a lion, a predator, a ferocious beast. A lion cannot be a lamb. A lamb is fragile, new, weak, vulnerable and often prey. A lamb cannot be a lion. But David can slay Goliath. A boy with a sling shot can fell a giant. I believe in the agility and malleability of the human heart. Once the heart decides to change, the mind MAY argue. Certainly, the mind will throw up every manner of logical protest, appealing to reason and intellect. “Think about what you are doing!”, the mind will say. And a weak heart will fold and let intellect rule. It is what breaks a heart….except hearts cannot be broken. They are small, squishy things that bruise easily but they don’t break. A mind breaks, fractures under the pressure of reality but a heart keeps beating. Even the most insane person can weep with sorrow or giggle with joy. The provocation may be a complete delusion, but their heart FEELS.
True change, true evolution, true reformation, true contrition, true LIVING is a fine balance between the mind AND the heart. A man cannot live by bread alone. He must have water, too. And as he walks through life, when he assesses, with logic that he has arrived somewhere that he dislikes, that he has become someone he considers a stranger, when he finds himself alone or surrounded by people he distrusts or fears…….it is his HEART that screams at him to CHANGE. The proverbial angel and devil sitting on our shoulders are less diabolically opposed. I prefer to consider their debate one of reason and feeling. Do you trust your GUT, your instinct, your heart? Or do you trust data, facts, logic, reason? Putting all of your eggs in only ONE basket is folly. It is a fusion of the two. No great endeavor ever achieved by an individual of by human kind has ever been an act of pure logic OR pure passion. It is the passion that makes of pour our nation’s resources into putting a man on the moon. But it took logic and science and reason to built the rockets that got us there. Ditto for Mars. Ditto for Everest. Ditto for the submarine, the hang glider, the souffle, meringue, cheese. wine………It is science and art. Beauty and reason. It is the essence of a life lived fully.