No Self stands alone. Behind it stretches an immense chain of physical and – as a special class within the whole – mental events, to which it belongs as a reacting member and which it carries on. Through the condition at any moment of its somatic, especially its cerebral system, and through education, and tradition, by word, by writing, by monument, by manners, by a way of life, by a newly shaped environment… by so much that a thousand words would not exhaust it, by all that, I say, the Self is not so much linked with what happened to its ancestors, it is not so much the product, and merely the product, of all that, but rather, in the strictest sense of the word, the SAME THING as all that: the strict, direct continuation of it, just as the Self aged fifty is the continuation of the Self aged forty.
It’s in the morning, for most of us. It’s that time, those few seconds, when we’re coming out of sleep but we’re not really awake yet. For those few seconds we’re something more primitive than what we are about to become. We have just slept the sleep of our most distant ancestors, and something of them and their world still clings to us. For those few moments we are unformed, uncivilized. We are not the people we know as ourselves, but creatures more in tune with a tree than a keyboard. We are untitled, unnamed, natural, suspended between was and will be, the tadpole before the frog, the worm before the butterfly. We are for a few brief moments, anything and everything we could be. And then… and then– ah– we open our eyes and the day is before us and… we become ourselves.
We don’t know when our name came into being or how some distant ancestor acquired it. We don’t understand our name at all, we don’t know its history and yet we bear it with exalted fidelity, we merge with it, we like it, we are ridiculously proud of it as if we had thought it up ourselves in a moment of brilliant inspiration.
― Milan Kundera, Immortality