A post originally from 26 Sep 2003. Clear weight given to the role of conditioning (without calling it that) in life. Reality is all matter and no spirit. I'm probably closer to the opposite these days.
I am made of stardust. My body's materials and the way they behave at a fundamental level are basically the same as the stuff that makes up the entire universe. That these building blocks, created in solar fusion furnaces and spread via the explosion of supernovae, exist at all is pretty impressive, but in me they come together in an awe-inspiring display of order.
I am a vehicle for my genes. This matter is all put together according to a genetic programme, constructed of DNA and resting at the core of each of my trillions of cells. That programme evolved through many generations, so my programme was shaped by the fact that my ancestor's programmes were successful in getting themselves passed on hereditarily. Its complexity is hard to imagine, with 3 billion 'bits' of information; yet it is written using only four different characters. It shows acres of common ground between me and the rest of the life on earth, yet my specific programme is unique.
I am a product of my environment. The programme is written to be responsive to different environmental inputs, so the 'me' that has resulted flows from my accumulated interactions with the external world and how those interactions have switched on and off different parts of the programme. Some of those interactions are physical, some involve the exchange of ideas. Many of them directly involve other people.
I am a part of nature. I have no soul, no mind that is not ultimately traceable to the physical activity of my brain. There is no 'I' free agent that somehow stands aloof from the causal laws that affect everything else in nature. At any moment, I am wholly defined in natural terms. Embedded in the divine organisation of my material lies not only the genetic programme but also an entire history of thoughts, actions, accidents and events that define potentials for future decisions and actions. Complex? Yes. Astounding? Yes. Supernatural? No.
I am moral. I define the good, the right. Nature's weave does not contain it. There is no God to command it.
I am a unique instantiation of Life, Sentience and Self-Consciousness, uniquely placed in this time, navigating a unique set of gates and hurdles, sharing with a unique collection of other persons. My causes reach back to the beginning of time. My effects flow to its end. I am a special knot in the infinite and eternal web of Being.