I-den-ti-ty!?

By Maxjulian

March 8, 2007

Category: Uncategorized

18 Comments »

Who are you?

What are you?

What is your primary identity?

What ethnic, racial, nation-state do you identify with?

Or do you identify with none at all?

How did you learn who you are/how to categorize yourself?

How does having/maintaining an identity detract/support one being their authentic self?

When we confront people as labels or categories, how does that affect our ability to see them for who they are?

Is having a simplistic, hand-me-down identity a form of ‘security,’ and a strength or an ‘escape’ from the anxiety of growing into something beyond the flowerbox you were planted in? Or both?

Do you ever ask yourself who and what you are, who and what you are supposed to be and whether you are being your truest self?

Krishnamurti says that the drawing of lines, of distinctions in one’s mind has and does create all of the conflict, all of the war on the planet

What say you?

Speak now or forever hold your peace

18 Responses to “I-den-ti-ty!?”

  1. I think about identity a lot. Clearly, I walk through this world shaped and shaping by the visibility of my ethicity, race, gender… So there is that very profound aspect of identity as dictated by the outside- which impacts the inside and self… I am shaped and benefitted by the privelage cast upon me and that I have internalized as a product of this culture…

    At the same time, I also feel that I have a substantial part of my life where I have a diffuse identity- on the edge, but not fully in, two different worlds… Currently, I feel like I hold a passport to the world of privelage, but am not a fully engaged citizen in that world… yet I in appearance I am…

    More and more, I feel a lack of internal allegiance to an identity politic as defined by the outer world… I feel a woman out of place, out of step…

    I am not very articulate about this – just to say, that right now I feel like I live between the lines…

  2. identity is a double-edged sword for me. it puzzles and mesmerises me at the same time. i find it central to what i do everyday and how i feel and even how i form opinions about materialistic and abstract things.

    what is my identity? maybe i will never know and maybe i am just a product of random haphazard occurences.

  3. Aulelia: Great ‘fro by the way! Just saw your pics. Beautiful!!

    And yes, it is a double edged sword. I am ME, but I’m forced to choose between many things that I am. I choose truth today. I know who I am, but I am not limited to what other people think I should be. I/we are all bigger than other people’s expectations/needs for us. I ain’t people pleasin’ nobody but me from now on…one day at a time!

    BWB: to me, the greatest obstacle to human beings becoming human beings are all of the external noise, training, brainwashing, coercion that masquerades as education or upbringing. Not for a moment are we allowed to be our natural selves. Consequently, we are forced through round holes like clay, forced to conform. Many of us rebel against this forced conformity, but too often, it begins and ends at rebellion, as opposed to making a moment by moment decision to be real, authentic. We become stereotypes instead, adopt attitudes/stances, in whole cloth, adopt compensatory personnas that destroy our authentic selves just as expertly as the slave master’s regimen.

  4. Max – “Not for a moment are we allowed to be our natural selves.”

    how true this is.

    for me, identity is a constant struggle, to find who I really am among the multiple pressures: who my friends and family think I am and want me to be, who society says I am because of my physicality, who I am as a result of social discourses and interpretive tools like language and culture, and then who I want to become. The question of who-I-am becomes lost in the din sometimes.

    My comment turned into something too long to post here politely, so I’ll just make it into a post of my own and link back.

    thanks for the thought-provoking questions!

  5. […] Jump to Comments Max just wrote an interesting and challenging post about identity. I responded, but my comment was becoming mammoth, so I decided to just make it into […]

  6. […] Jump to Comments Max just wrote an interesting and challenging post about identity. I responded, but my comment was becoming mammoth, so I decided to just make it into […]

  7. Very thought provoking!!!! Although I know who & what I am, sometimes when I look in the mirror I do not understand my reflection.

    Bygbaby

  8. Dang, Max…way to make people think and all…

    Who are you? The sum total of my experiences given name and body.

    What are you? Human, as much as it occasionally annoys me.

    What is your primary identity? Challenger

    What ethnic, racial, nation-state do you identify with? Eurasian American

    Or do you identify with none at all?

    How did you learn who you are/how to categorize yourself? Trial and error with a healthy dose of thought and experience.

    How does having/maintaining an identity detract/support one being their authentic self?

    I am not sure it does, except in the eyes of other people.

    When we confront people as labels or categories, how does that affect our ability to see them for who they are?

    People like, often, for things to be easy, using labels is easy, but it makes it hard to see the people behind the title…but, alas, sometimes easy is just…easier.

    Is having a simplistic, hand-me-down identity a form of ’security,’ and a strength or an ‘escape’ from the anxiety of growing into something beyond the flowerbox you were planted in? Or both? It’s safer to do what you are told and be what you are told, but it is not strength.

    Do you ever ask yourself who and what you are, who and what you are supposed to be and whether you are being your truest self?

    On occasion.

    Krishnamurti says that the drawing of lines, of distinctions in one’s mind has and does create all of the conflict, all of the war on the planet

    What say you?

    Very possible, but it does keep things interesting.

    Speak now or forever hold your peace

  9. I think everyone’s a harmony of those imposed identities, the ones that Krishnamurti recognizes as line drawing or boundary creation. Certain experiences come exclusive with different identities, but the goal for each person is to study how it converges to make them who they are. With that said, it’s often unproductive to rely on a laundry list of societal classifications and customs to give a full picture of who a person is. The contradictions or anomalies will put others off more than foster recognition of what we share as human beings.

    As emotional as I tend to be, I always have trouble pinning down an accurate representation of who I am into any given medium, and while I could go through the laundry list or give you a bunch of things I’ve produced and things I’ve done, I still don’t think they’re quite right. I think that the most accurate picture I’ll be able to give is after I’m dead, when people can read their own artistic liberties and biases into what I tell them. Until then, I don’t concern myself with trying to wrestle it all down.

  10. theFS,

    Nice. . .very nice. This is what I meant when I told you I thought your blog was thought-provoking.

    Hmmm. . .what is my primary identity? I’d say it is a tool (or set of tools), both self-defined and defined by others (constructed), that my ego uses to make it’s way through this life.

    As far as more personal details, we’ll start w/ what people obsess w/ most in this country. Ethnically, I identify as a bi-racial mix of Filipino-American and African-American physical and cultural heritage. A fixed or single racial identity has no meaning for me personally.

    I was born and raised in America, but I don’t really identify w/ it or any other nation-state. In all honesty, I find our current system of nation-states (born out of a bloody, war ravaged, white/ European history) to be regressive, destructive, and unnatural. I do identify with the geographic regions I have lived in most of my life in – PacNorthwest recently, and Midwesterner, originally. Other components of my identity in no particular order – my middle-class upbringing (and grandparents working-class origins), my political views (primarily anarchist bent), my spiritual views (raised Catholic, but now rooted in more eastern yoga and buddhist practice) and also, of course, my gender, sexuality, age, family (especially when they’re around), education (for better or worse), and all manner of assorted interests, passions and values (all of which are informed by the above). In addition, this identity is always shifting and evolving over time, and I am okay w/ that.

    How did you learn who you are/how to categorize yourself? – by living life, primarily, and thoughtful reflection.

    How does having/maintaining an identity detract/support one being their authentic self? – That depends on how you define the “authentic self.” For me, that self is a spiritual one, divine and ever-present. It can’t really be explained, but only experienced, and total idenitification with the “surface” qualities can blind myself from its presence.

    When we confront people as labels or categories, how does that affect our ability to see them for who they are? – Labels and categories are necessary for perceiving and navigating our world, but when we limit other human beings based on them we, again, blind ourselves to their authentic nature, and make any kind of true connection with them impossible.

    Is having a simplistic, hand-me-down identity a form of ’security,’ and a strength or an ‘escape’ from the anxiety of growing into something beyond the flowerbox you were planted in? Or both? – I would be hard-pressed to call simplistic identity a strength – though it can seem like that for certain people, at certain points in their lives. Eventually though, we must learn to grow beyond it, in order to evolve as creative, vibrant people. Otherwise, our minds become trapped in the same, tired ways; and it follows that our communites, institutions, and society calcify and fall into dysfunction and decay.

    Do I ask myself who I am? Constantly – until I come to my senses, blink, take a deep breath, and chuckle. 🙂

    What say you?-
    I think that anti-guru, guru, Krishnamurti, was on to something. 😉

  11. Who are you?
    –I am Jo, Jocelyn, Jo-chan.

    What are you?
    –I am a scholar, singer, wife, sister, daughter, friend. Creative, passionate, fiercely loyal, hesitant, reserved, outlandish, capable. Tall, emotional, spendthrift, language connoisseur. I sing out loud in public and

    What is your primary identity?
    — Ooh, a nebulous thing. I want it to be ME, but most often it is Student, Academic, or Geek.

    What ethnic, racial, nation-state do you identify with? Or do you identify with none at all?
    — Anglo-American is probably the closest. I don’t always feel like I’m anything at all, especially when I’m not feeling particularly “American”.

    How did you learn who you are/how to categorize yourself?
    –In comparison to other people, starting with my sister and mother.

    How does having/maintaining an identity detract/support one being their authentic self?
    –If I am only one thing, then I cannot be all things that I am. If I am all things that I am, then I cannot be easily classified.

    When we confront people as labels or categories, how does that affect our ability to see them for who they are?
    — I am blinded by the category, so that I miss all of who that person is.

    Is having a simplistic, hand-me-down identity a form of ’security,’ and a strength or an ‘escape’ from the anxiety of growing into something beyond the flowerbox you were planted in? Or both?
    — I have used identity for security, but this was also to my harm. I was constantly watching that other person for cues as to who I needed to be. By trusting in the identity instead of myself, I lost who I was while I was being somebody’s girlfriend.
    –When I allow myself to be fully who I am, there is no anxiety anymore, but a much more reliable strength from a much more stable source. When I am truly myself, then I realize that the flowerbox doesn’t exist.

    Do you ever ask yourself who and what you are, who and what you are supposed to be and whether you are being your truest self?
    — Often, but I am easily distracted from it. My greatest downfall is getting caught up with what other people think of me, and letting judgments rule my decisions, that may be phantoms in my perception only, instead of listening to what my truest self has to say.

    Krishnamurti says that the drawing of lines, of distinctions in one’s mind has and does create all of the conflict, all of the war on the planet.

    What say you?

    — He’s a wise man. It’s the divisions that I perceive to be there that keep me from participating fully in humanity, and that keep me focusing on the differences rather than the commonalities.

    Speak now or forever hold your peace
    — Done, and furthermore, posted to one of my blogs, http://nowthis.blogspot.com/

  12. Hey, thanks to everybody for their responses. I can’t go through them point by point, but I appreciate them and will read them again.

    Peace

  13. eye-den-ti-ty!?

    you call: Who are you?
    I’m daniela, pleased to meet you.

    you call: What are you?
    Female human with unknown expiration date, currently been here for 36 calendar years.

    you call: What is your primary identity?
    Mother, lover of James; member of clan.

    you call: What ethnic, racial, nation-state do you identify with?
    Italo-Australian, Tasmanian-Venetian …

    Or do you identify with none at all?
    Yeah none mostly … but often I do notice it, but only because I see it in the mirror, meantally I block national ID … but my spirit doesnt vibe with Tasmania … and my heart moves when I set foot in Italy … I identify with it through my daughter, because she is a bit different to me … oh, and when I see photos of my husband I see a ‘nation’ that’s not mine, so I see mine in his reflection.

    you call: How did you learn who you are/how to categorize yourself?
    Before my father died, I just made it up as it came along, like a personal mythology, a privelage of being white and middle class. But after he died, I learned (like a truck to the frontal lobe) that I’d subconsciously used my father as the foundation upon which I layered my sub-identity. When he died, so did I, at the foundation. This sounds grim, but it became (eventually) a very beautiful thing to learn. Dad’s death made me human. His death made me understand being ‘Daughter’, so then I eventually became Woman. Loving James brought another restructure of ID. Daughter-Woman deconstructed and I became Wife, with a struggle, but the water calmed. When Rita was born, Wife elevated, Daughter inverted and Woman was reborn assuming place as my foundation. When my mother died, I became Mother to-the-bone. When I last looked, though, aside from all of the above transient truthes, I was girl of about 8 who smiles like a child and walks like a warrior. This skin fits (thank goodness, cause it was looking pretty iffy there for a few years!).

    you call: How does having/maintaining an identity detract/support one being their authentic self?

    My authentic self is never a static nature. So I dont seek to maintain it or use it as a tool. Mostly I just watch it and take care that it’s being taken care of by choosing peeps in my life who let me stay strong, be weak and fight the bullshit my way; warts and all, mistakes-a-lot and faith-by-the-tonne.

    If I close my eyes, shut my ears, and gag my mouth and chart how my body is moving (just daily motion) there lies my authentic self telling me what is needed. This is (I’m going off on a tangent here) why menstration is important to me. It demands manditory sence rest ie, less talking, time at home alone, sleeping in, feeling the pain, smelling the change etc. If I charge through life in the days preceding menstration like the bull that I am ordinarily, then I find conflict both within and without. As long as woman take artificial hormones and no rest during their cycle, they will never hear the whispers of the authentic self (told you I was going out on a tangent). Dance is another way to support the expression, enlivening of the authentic me. If I read how I move, not judge how I move, I can tell if the layers are getting me down, the weight of society winning the
    race, the thoughts in my head blurring my inner logic … (this is a biggie-topic, best left for another time but thanks for provoking my memory on the matter).

    you call: When we confront people as labels or categories, how does that affect our ability to see them for who they are?

    It affects it entirely. Can’t see anyone or anything when it’s behind a sticky label. Labels have a place, but a wee place, mostly because language is, at times, a false friend. “Pick a label, use it to better yourself, and throw it away, then relabel, if you gotta, for goodness’ sake only” I say.

    you call: Is having a simplistic, hand-me-down identity a form of ’security,’ and a strength or an ‘escape’ from the anxiety of growing into something beyond the flowerbox you were planted in? Or both?

    Both. Interesting question. I think most peeps become anxious when faced with the challenge/oportunity to grow out of where they came. A soul who says YES to individuation is usually someone who I might/will/do call friend because this is a person who seeks and I dig that. Boxes = snore-material.

    you call: Do you ever ask yourself who and what you are, who and what you are supposed to be and whether you are being your truest self?

    I used to; lots. I’ve got this faith in intuition now days, she’s a fine companion. However I do know that being more compassionate and active in my community is something that we are all supposed to be. I’m still working on that.

    you call: Krishnamurti says that the drawing of lines, of distinctions in one’s mind has and does create all of the conflict, all of the war on the planet

    What say you?
    I’m not so bothered by the drawing of lines, as long as they aren’t made with a permanent marker; pencil is better. I’m not so bothered by conflict either, but the constance of conflict shits and hurts me and all living things.

    you call: Speak now or forever hold your peace.

    I cry: Peace! (please).

  14. yo, freeslave, i offer my response below and have posted your questions (and my answers) on plezWorld as well… thanks for making put on my thinking cap on a Saturday afternoon!

    Who are you? most people call me plez, i’ve even been called plezure! those who are linguistically challenged, are afflicted with mild speech impediments, or are hard of hearing will call me anything from pledge to fred to thez to clarence (i never quite understood the last one)!

    What are you? to make things easier on everyone, i just say that i’m black. some say african-american, but i’m not a hyphenated type. i am also a husband, a father, a son, a brother (in more ways than one), an uncle, a lover (not a fighter), a pragmatist, an occassional elitist, a worker, a producer, a rabble rouser, and a hell of an engineer!

    What is your primary identity? i don’t know. the times that i can actually look at myself in the mirror, i just see me looking back. but i can’t say that i strongly identify politically, religiously, ideologically, or any other -ly that i can think of.

    What ethnic, racial, nation-state do you identify with? i am a black american.

    Or do you identify with none at all? asked and answered.

    How did you learn who you are/how to categorize yourself? i hate to label myself, but will not bat an eye to label someone else! i was shaped and morphed by my environment – in total. and since i’ve had various environments and influences, and since i was shaped (in part) by all of them, it is very difficult for me to categorize myself. i was born and raised in New York, but have spent the greater part of the last 30 years in the south (Virginia and Georgia). most of my close friends and relatives are black, but i’ve also had a fair number of white, asian, hispanic (and other) influences in school and work. i was “raised in” the Baptist Church, but of late, i’ve been more strongly influenced by the spiritual rather than what was manufactured for the Bible.

    How does having/maintaining an identity detract/support one being their authentic self? being a Black American, or i should say, trying to be a successful Black in America, one has to be able to quickly and effortlessly switch between life in the Black community and existence in the mainstream community. i would be the first to say that i’ve probably lost a great deal of myself while constantly switching between the two. am i the self-loving Black man or the consummate corporate cog? i am realistic enough about myself to know that you cannot be both!

    When we confront people as labels or categories, how does that affect our ability to see them for who they are? unfortunately, we label people to make it easier to deal with them in that environment. until you get to know someone outside of the environment that spawned their label, you will probably never get to know them or see them for who/what they really are. think of interactions with co-workers, your boss, or other students at your school; you only know those people from your interactions in that environment. you will probably see them in a totally different light, if you were to move the interaction to another environment.

    Is having a simplistic, hand-me-down identity a form of ’security,’ and a strength or an ‘escape’ from the anxiety of growing into something beyond the flowerbox you were planted in? Or both? you gain “security” in being able to quickly label someone; you can quickly place the “proper” barriers around your interaction with them (this is where prejudice comes from). it is the fear of the unknown that keeps us from growing (or venturing) outside of our flowerbox.

    Do you ever ask yourself who and what you are, who and what you are supposed to be and whether you are being your truest self? nope! i’m sure the answer would scare the HELL outta me! *smile*

    Krishnamurti says that the drawing of lines, of distinctions in one’s mind has and does create all of the conflict, all of the war on the planet. What say you? if that was what Krishnamurti really said, then i agree with him/her! think of our Civil War, think of WWI & WWII, think of why we are in Iraq, think of all of the strife in the Middle East and Israel. we all have drawn the proverbial “lines in the sand” about what we think of those other “labels” AND what we will do to them if/when they cross our line.

  15. Plez said “am i the self-loving Black man or the consummate corporate cog? i am realistic enough about myself to know that you cannot be both!”

    Simple but very, VERY true. We can never be both but many don’t realize that. I feel like one has to consciously hold their truest self in their hand like an egg in order to protect our tender selves. The world is constantly attacking the hand that holds that egg trying to knock it out of our hand, encouraging us to be something, anything but that.

  16. It took me a long time to write some sort of response to this. You wrote it nearly a month ago, but I didn’t want my thoughts to be rushed. It’s such an important topic.

    I wrote them here, if you’re interested.

    http://topperstap.blogspot.com/2007/04/i-am-privileged-white-girl.html

    Thank you, so much, for this blog.
    ~Dani

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