By Daniel Rigney
Amoebas (pictured here) are single-celled organisms that move and change shape through time. They were originally called proteus animalcule, taking their name from the mythic Greek figure Proteus, the shape-changer. Later they were given the name amoeba from a Greek word meaning “to change.”
If we think of people metaphorically as amoebas (and I'm not saying we should), we might visualize ourselves as floating blobs of protoplasm that grow by absorbing morsels of food (or experience) around us and making them a part of us as we continue our lifelong search for more nourishment.
Through this continuous interaction with our environments, we (like amoebas) continually transform our surroundings even as we are transformed by them.
Amoebas are not perfectly rounded or symmetrical or identical to each other. They're oddly and diversely shaped, and they grow outward from their origins in irregular directions. Thus each amoeba, at any moment, has a unique dimension and form, and each has a growing edge, and perhaps a shrinking edge as well.
Are we, like the humble amoeba, continually growing – sometimes in promising directions and sometimes not, sometimes toward others and sometimes away – and changing form as we absorb and digest the morsels of our experience?
Amoebas grow and move and are transformative by nature. An amoeba that stays the same size and remains in the same place forever is really not much of an amoeba, if you ask me.
But then I’m not an amoeba.
P.S.: Some varieties of amoeba are social, especially when resources are scarce and cooperation is essential to their survival. Social amoebae have been observed to “cheat” their communities on occasion, but also to engage in acts of “altruism” and self-sacrifice for the common amoebic good. Social amoebae sound a little like another species I know of.