TED Conversations

James van der Walt

Social Entrepreneur, Ugesi Gold

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Age old question: Who am I?

The question is simple. Who am I?

Science has proven every 7 years you have a totally new body. Not just your cells are replaced. It’s been shown you don’t have a single atom from your original body. So it's obvious your body has nothing to do with your sense of self.

Next consider your memories. These change over time too. Consider your emotions during a hard time. When it happened, you hated every moment but as time goes by, the pain lessens, and you may even see the good that came from the experience. So what changed? Surely the event didn’t change. Was it your perception?

How about your logic and your way of reasoning? Surely, that is unique! Unfortunately, it's not. Think of what you now know and how you see the world - then think back to your childhood. Your reasoning, goals and ambitions as a child do not remotely resemble your current state of mind. Yet that child is still you.

What if “who you are” is related to all the connections between all these aspects? What if you are the story that connects all these different moments together? This reasoning is flawed too. Consider a biography versus the autobiography of someone’s life. Sure, there are many common elements, yet even this is subject to a point of view. Who you consider you are and what others think of you might be very different.

This led me to look for the core that is "I". This further led me to the idea of using the Law of Projection. Simply put, projection is the act of taking away a level of complexity, while leaving the core image intact. For example: A photo is a 2D image of you. It's lost a lot of details about you but you can still identify yourself. If you concentrate the "I" even more you can look at your name. It's 1D yet still you.

Now the law states you can project again to 0D. Here "I" is both infinite and nothing. Is this the real me? I'm everything and nothing at the same time? A paradox, just like everything else? A fractal pattern. What are your thoughts?


Closing Statement from James van der Walt

After the long chat it became clear that we are just a choice. Each person has their own opinion of who they are and what their purpose might be. The only important thing here is was you choose well. If you decide on what "I" is then at least make sure it's something you are be happy with.

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      Oct 29 2011: (cont) ME. MYSELF. full stop*
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          Oct 29 2011: That is why being compassionate is so important. Helping others IS helping you. And there's no such thing as a selfless act. There can be only one ;)

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