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Friday, May 17, 2013

How We See Ourselves

Sometimes it seems as if life in the beginning of the 21st century is an endless job of self-definition.

To a large degree, it's fueled by commercial interests. Everything from the car you drive to the toothpaste you use is part of that package called 'you', and using the right ones will make you smarter, better-looking, more popular, and more successful at everything from business to sex.

Beyond that, there are deeper and more fundamental assignments that we place upon ourselves. Some choose a warrior's identity, some that of a sage.

A writer of my acquaintance calls herself a wise elder; another is happy to consider herself a crone.

This process has been going on for a long time - probably as long as there have been people. But it does beg the question - why do we fight so hard for a definition?

Why can't we just be? (Why, yes, I AM from the 60s. Why do you ask?)

'Just be-ing' might be defined as letting our actions do the talking, and accepting the character definitions placed on us from without.

We might not like what we get. The warrior's heart might be masked, and stigmatized, by a bookish exterior. Wisdom might be obscured by a West Texas accent. How can anyone who says "y'all" be smart?

On the other hand, what if, as an adjunct to 'just be-ing', we tell the rest of the world where they can put their definitions and pigeonholes?

Sounds tempting, and liberating, but we do have to interact with the rest of the world, and a perpetually upraised middle finger is not really the most salubrious greeting. (I know - I've tried.)

Is there a middle ground, where we choose our persona but elect not to flaunt it, instead tailoring both our appearance and our actions to our desire, but refraining from talking about what we hope we are? Opera non verba - deeds not words?

What do you think?


  1. People think my husband is a hick, he doesn't care about clothes or fashion and he wears the UGLIEST winter coat. But, hey, he's warm. They see him and think, "hmmm, trucker? Maintenance man?"
    He is fine with that. They also get freaked out when he sends an email from work and find out that he's a scientist. The standard response is "you don't look like one".
    Good, he likes it that way.