Monday, July 18, 2011

The Identity Principle




Do you know who you are? I read this question in an article recently...It's a question worth asking.

My immediate response was that if I ever said that I knew EXACTLY who and what I "am", I would think I'd stagnated and better get myself in gear...or that I hadn't given it enough thought;).

But then I started to turn the matter over in my head (as I tend to do), and I think that it's not as simple as the media might have us believe.

Much is made in our current society of identity (and yes, that prepositional phrase is intentionally placed creatively). We ascribe to a sort of Identity Principle, wherein we admonish others - and are ourselves admonished- to find out "who we are" and to proudly proclaim as concrete that knowledge, once we have acquired it.

To a large degree, that concept is positive. And, in principle, I agree...and disagree.

Self-examination is a good thing. But much like external inspection, soul perusing must lead to reparative ACTION. You wouldn't stand before a mirror all day, eyeing your tousled mane, and say, "Well, nothing to be done for it, this is who I am."

Indeed not. You would get yourself a comb, rectify your ratty locks, and move forward with your day.  I propose the same principle must be put into place when we discover our internal selves are at 6's and 7's.

Humans are complex, and "who they are"- fluid.  I am not the same woman I was 5 years ago, thank heaven, and 5 years from now, God willing, I will not be the woman I am today.
So perhaps I'd amend the phrase "who you are" to "who you are RIGHT NOW."

That speaks to what is marvelous about the fluidity of humanity, in that there is always hope that if you do not like "who you are right now", you can set about becoming who you CAN be...working towards who you WANT to be.

Will you always achieve it? Decidedly not.  But our society, inasmuch as it is a proponent of the Identity Principle, is also an advocate of the Fix Your Shit principle.

Are you an addict? Rehab.
Survivor of trauma, abuse, etc? Therapy.
Underemployed, unemployed, simply inquisitive? Education.
Fat? Gym.
Old? Botox.
Etc.
Etc.
Etc.

As in the Identity Principle, the Fix Your Shit Principle has its pros and cons, which can be plainly gleaned from just a glance at this short (and astoundingly glib) list. But it is just as valid. If not more so.

Melissa Etheridge sang, "The only thing that stays the same is change."  History corroborates her story, and the lessons we learn from those changes are perhaps what make us, dare I say it, "who we are."

On the one hand, the upended fixtures within the kitchens of our characters prevent many of us from cooking with gas. So we remain undernourished, content to feed upon the bread & circus of modern life. And we justify our own soul-starvation with the balm of "this is just who I am."

On the other end of the spectrum, we have those who have forgone their own cookery altogether to dine at the expensive 4-star narcissistic eateries of the ego, where they nibble at the self-indulgent dainties that never satisfy them.

(Do I like a metaphor or what?)

But perhaps this all leads to the real issue, which is how do we define "who we are"?

I would posit that the popular definition is:
Our occupation, our appearance, our likes, our dislikes-
Our tastes.

But at the end of your life, will you reflect on those things, or will you consider yourself in relation to others- who you helped, who you hurt, who your loved? And will THAT be what you finally take with you into eternity as "who you are"?

Perhaps I've gone 'round the bend. It wouldn't be the first time.

But hey...that's just who I am.