We are a perpetual line of those who came before us and we are a snapshot of those who will come after us.
Take this work for example.
Yes it is old, it is a depiction of a time we can no longer see. What happened to those people portrayed here? They died. But their descendants remain in a form similar to them, with similar features. Humans are formed from genes like other living beings.
If we saw an animal in the picture, a dog, we would have no problem asserting that there are other dogs that descend from that dog and can carry their genes. That dogs, are vehicles of dog genes, which are transient, that what is perpetuated are genes, that are transmitted over time.
But with us, the thing statement might seem misleading, because we think that we are unique, that we have a personality of our own, unrepeatable, that we have in our heads things that others do not have or have in the past, and we could add that they will not have in the future. In addition, we dress differently than our ancestors, we speak differently, we think differently, we live in a different technological world.
However, like most things, it is an illusion.
What we have in our heads, the way we dress, the language we speak, how we express ourselves, the technology we use, it doesn’t matter to biology. Between life is life, between generation and generation we do things, yes, but that is transient. Technology itself changes, language varies, dress evolves, but humanity (the human, what is manufactured by genes) remains in time in the form of people who are born and die.
I came to this topic from a discussion over lunch with a friend. She felt that, who she is, is unique to this time and place. But I argue that we are not. There are experiences that drive and define us but we are built up from pieces, their history is long and diverse, and yes uniquely combined but perpetual.