This morning, as I walked round and round my own driveway, the word 'individual' sprang to mind.
'Individual' comes from the Latin root dividere, meaning to divide, separate or cleave apart.
In arithmetic, to divide is to split a whole into smaller parts. Division, put to best use, I think, is for sharing.
My husband and I often divide and share a beer. My sister and I used to divide a stick of gum when we were little. And it behooves all of us as citizens and tax payers to divide and share the considerable cost of maintaining roads, schools, parks, public spaces, national defense, etc.
But as I walk around my drive way, it occurs to me that, though we Americans have historically revered the so called rugged individual, logically neither I or anybody else is truly individual. Back in the house, I grab the dictionary to look up synonyms for 'individual:' I find single, separate, discrete, independent and solo.
Well, all I can say is thank God I'm not individual! If I were truly separate, discrete, and independent, I never would have survived, much less ever made it out of the cave.
Fortunately, I am, like every other human being on earth, an amalgam of characteristics inherited from the millions of forebears who have preceded me, starting, if you like, with the Biblical Adam and Eve or (more likely it seems to me) the little African hominid named Lucy, whose 3.2 million year old fossilized remains were discovered by Donald Johanson and Tom Gray on November 24, 1974 in Ethiopia.
"Lucy's" fossilized remains
Not only do all of us literally carry our ancestors' collective DNA on an unseen cellular level; we're also the vessels that carry their scientific, technical, cultural and linguistic development, discovery and invention.
So, as I walk this morning and ponder, it seems to me that we humans are not the result of millions of years of division as much as of addition.
As an aside, I will opine that rejecting the notion of discrete individualism doesn't make me feel diminished. I've always thought of one as the 'largest' number. Why? Because the number 'one' is whole, inclusive, undivided. Divisions, portions or slices of any whole, while more numerous, are always smaller than the whole from which they're derived. Addition enlarges.
As always, I would be interested in hearing the thoughts of others. Leave comments or contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you wish.
Be well and good luck,