Check out this photo. That’s you several decades ago. Well, not exactly you, but let’s say there’s a pretty remarkable resemblance. What you’re looking at is a zygote, a fertilized ovum, a one-celled organism. This, however, is not a science essay. It’s more along the lines of a self-introspection. I’d like you to meditate upon this zygote (that is, if you don’t happen to have your own photo of one in your wallet). Reflect on the fact that many years ago, this was essentially what you looked like. Then, imagine this one cell dividing innumerable times until it reached the complexity of your current human body, all 37.2 trillion cells of you.
It’s mind boggling isn’t it? It’s a little like one of those laying-on-your-back-looking-up-at-the- stars kind of experiences. If you think about it too deeply, it may almost become a little frightening. Or alternatively, it may expand your awareness beyond how you usually think about yourself.
How on earth is it possible that this unbelievable transformation took place? And, not in the abstract, mind you, not in the third person, but in terms of your own individual experience. Naturally, you weren’t conscious as a one-celled organism (although there are some profound thinkers who would disagree with this), but still, this zygote, or something very much like it, was your solid state reality roughly nine months before you were born. And think about this too, as you reflect: that George Washington, the Buddha, Hitler, and the Pope, also looked almost exactly like this when they first started to exist (in fact, if there were a line-up, it would be impossible to tell who was who). What does that say about human differences? About human potential? What does this say about existence itself?
Keep coming back to this photo (print it out on glossy paper and post it on your bedroom wall). Keep thinking: ”this was me.” And think also: ”if this was me, then who am I now?” Some thinkers don’t even believe in the existence of an individual self. Does reflecting on a zygote help you connect with a personal sense of self, or does it instead make you think about yourself in more cosmic terms? Alright, that’s enough preaching. Now back to your meditation on a zygote.
If you’re interested in learning more about your pre-birth state or about the other stages of your life, then get my book: Thomas Armstrong, The Human Odyssey: Navigating the Twelve Stages of Life (Ixia/Dover).