I used to be a vegetarian. I thought that defined me.
I used to lift a lot of weights and try to get hyooge and pound protein. I thought this embodied me.
I used to be a manager who wore tucked-in button down shirts and khakis. I thought I was finally whole.
I did some extended travelling. I thought I had realized myself as an adventurer.
I was so sure about them; yet, they all faded and died along with many other “identities.”
Because none of the roles we are expected to play, or the identities we are expected to embrace, are big enough. Or maybe, they aren’t small enough? Or maybe, just maybe, we don’t need them at all?
Let me sound this out…
Our identities are not big enough in the sense that we are all bi-pedal, talking animals, hurling through infinite space, well on our way to dying. I mean, if we really think about that, how absurd do the roles we play and what we fret over seem? How could being a khakis wearing manager be that important in this scenario? Sometimes we think trivial things are important however: we are not our social media accounts, our special diets, or our soon to be outdated beliefs.
Our identities are also not small enough for the same reason: we are bi-pedal talking animals hurling through infinite space well on our way to dying! I mean, talk about insignificant! How can we live under delusions of control and grandeur that tell us we are the most important things that have ever happened?
So maybe we don’t need our identities at all, or, at least we should consider holding on to them a bit more loosely?
Here is my concern…
People seem less concerned with evolving, acquiring knowledge, and developing skills and strategies to live “exceptionally well in a shitty world,” and are more concerned with jumping onto respective bandwagons to forge a new personal identity.
But wait! You are a Paleo eating, politically charged protester, non conformist-yet conservative on Tuesdays. You have covered every angle, your opinions are unquestionable, your identity is sound and impervious.
Here is the problem with this.
First, how many things have you been sure about, committed to, that look ridiculous now? New circumstances require adaptation and evolution. We often need to make room for our entire personal capacity, to freqently adapt, rather than clutch the dogma of any one particular perspective, belief or identity. Those which will not hold up to the inevitable ebbs, flows, and changes in life.
Two, we should be concerned with figuring out or, remembering, how to live best in this incomprehensible scenario that is our modern world-rather than pretending our social roles and identities are more important. I am not saying to be Mr. or Mrs. altruism and think, “save the world.” Rather, how can the evolution of our knowledge and skills create something new for us, and the limited amount of people we can effect here and now?
So this is what we need:
One, to become epistemocrats. To question our own knowledge, at least periodically. To let new knowledge appear and yet not grasp it as the one undeniable truth. To test it personally. To not make it our identity upon which it is strengthened through criticizing others.
Two, to remember that there are things worth fighting for, there are words that should be spoken, and stances to be taken. Yet, creating an identity out of them, holding them too tightly, only serves to weaken them over time.