Seriously. I believe in the malleability of personality. Of course, that may not be our ‘nature’, but then, if it is, then it’s by definition the unchangeable, incomprehensible core notion of selfness, which makes the question kind of useless.
One of the classic ‘things that upset Alex’ is people saying ‘I can’t change that, it’s just the way I am’. It’s most often heard in arguments in which someone is being hurt by their partner. I’m fairly certain I’ve said it before, and it’s one point in a long list of reasons why I hate myself.
And the thing is, it is possible to recognise it as a lie. When you say ‘that’s just the way I am’, you are attempting to close yourself off to the obvious nature of the universe.
Has anyone ever seen or heard of anything, beyond the realm of the spiritual and unprovable, that lasts forever and never changes?
Even stars burn out and explode. Even universes are expanding. Even rocks erode.
Nothing is permanent and fixed. Especially not life. Especially not people.
Once you recognise that the nature of the universe is change, impermanence and constant flux, you can hopefully extrapolate down. As above, so below. Humanity, along with anything else, is change, impermanence and constant flux.
As an indivudal, we are a story that links together an infinite array of people that we are, from one instant to the next. We tell a story to keep us coherent, to make our past fit our present fit our future. We join the dots.
Sometimes we make that story so rigid that we think it is all we are, we become trapped in the old patterns of our lives, and become rigid. At that point we are unlike life.
I’ve heard it posited that reincarnation is a metaphor for this. We are not born as a new person when we die (or at least not just). We are dying every instant, and in that same instant, we are reborn anew. I’ve similarly heard karma described as the notion that everything we have done builds us to where we are now, but what we do now is the only thing that builds our future.
Every moment is an opportunity for change.
The question, as written, comes from a computer game, Planescape: Torment, you should play it, but mild spoilers follow. The protagonist is nameless, and immortal. Fixed and unchanging in one sense, but without memory, and digging up traces of his past. It becomes clear that he’s lost his memory repeatedly, and is being toyed with by an antagonist, trying to work out what can change his nature.
You discover past lives as killers, and others as noble goodness.
As a player, you can play as any sort of character you like. The answer that the game provides, on a meta level, is that you can change the nature of a man.
As below, so above.
You can change your nature.
Change is nature.
Illustration by Helen