I want to thank Sherri Martin, without whom this blog post would not exist. I have, for reasons I am not quite sure of, put off writing this post for quite some time. I have thought about it much, even discussed it with a few people, but have not brought myself to compiling a post and sharing it. Before getting into the heart of the matter, I would like to share Sherri’s observation. Everything I am about to share goes back to this.
“While driving through Cincinnati one day last week, a billboard caught my attention. A man’s coming to Riverbend that impersonates Elton John… I can’t shake the feeling of sadness for a man who is a professional… at being someone else. I wish I could remember his name… the poster child for a universal problem.” -Sherri Martin (Facebook, 07/04/11).
I have spent much time, as I am sure most of you reading this have, trying to figure myself out. People are complicated, wondrous, beautiful messes. Part of this journey, I am convinced, is this exploration of who one is. No species that I am aware of, has any fully cognitive concept of what they are, but humans are the only one’s who have the ability to know and wonder at this. I keep feeling my gnosis, the intuition of every cell of my body, telling me to simplify. The Holy Spirit is communicating this through each fiber of my being. I long for a time when life was simple. I want to go back to the garden.
Since it has not been afforded to humanity after the first beings to have the option of a less complicated life, I keep coming back to this question. When all else is stripped away, who am I? Not who I should be or who I would like to be. I have spent too much of my life living like a impersonator, trying to be someone I’m not. What an insult to God. Is His divine creativity not enough to create a wonderful, individual, me created in His image?
I have the privilege of currently going to a Grad school that requires each person to write an essay during the course of each semester on their identity. I have recently submitted mine. It is always a strange thing to write this essay, and when I was writing it at the end of the last semester, I could have never imagined how much it would change in the span of some 6 or so months. Writing it this time was eye-opening. I am very introspective and self-reflective, but to have to put it down and release it into the world, first to only an advisor and a friend, but now to anyone who should want to read it, proves not to be an easy move. Here is me on paper. This is who I am behind everything else I hide behind.
On an Identity Essay
Who am I? This is a question simple enough, although it is one that also plagues many, myself among the ranks. That is the question behind the topic of an Identity essay. Surely, that is what is being implied, but how can I answer that question? Who am I when? Or is it more the question how do I see and/or perceive myself? That question is difficult too and certainly would be followed by my wondering as to what day, time, very breath I take is this referring, because it really does change that often. By the time I am done writing this paragraph I will have changed my perception on any number of things about myself and who I am, and to tell the truth, most of this will not even come on a cognitive level. It will not even register anywhere near the forefront of my consciousness, and the best attempt I have at retrieving it would be to go through some intense introspection when I have some privacy (certainly not in the confounds of this essay), but by then it will be buried under so many things it would be almost fruitless and certainly treacherous and not worth my time to go back in to find. So where is this concept of identity getting me? While I am seemingly deflecting the question(s) implied, what am I hiding, because if I cannot come out and start sharing with whomever may read this when it is finished, both now and over the span of the life of this essay, I must be hiding something, right? Or what if I have nothing to hide? What if that is the real problem? I want to be mysterious, to have some kind of great deepness of mysterious, muddled darkness about me when everything I am is translucent? To put it in terms that are familiar with the people of where I live (I will interject here that I come from the land that was once the home of the Miami Indian tribe, now of Oklahoma, and these terms are in their language), what if I want to be Talawanda (cloudy water) when I am really Sandusky (clear water)? Then again, who is to say that this is the problem I have at all?
It is in this back and forth of questions and meanings that are at constant war within me, even when I am not trying to express any certain facet, much less the entirety of myself, with some form of other, when I had a discussion with some of the people who know me best. Although one has known me longer than the other, in the grand scheme of my life, neither has known me entirely that long, and by know me, I mean to know of and participate in my existence. These two, however, are among perhaps the only people I would trust to really tell me much of anything about myself, in general, although there are few exceptions, and so a conversation was birthed. How does one know who they really are as who they are is constantly changing? I have oft pondered this, and have circled back to my earlier assessment of what exact moment does one want to know of my identity? This is where I finally came to the conclusion that I cannot talk about identify as a finite thing, although there are some parts of it that are unyielding and unchanging, and I am fine with that. As a whole concept or entity, however one chooses to see it, there are some broad things I can comfortably talk about in relation to the essence of my being. Some lessons that seem to be true and some more universal while others are more personal. Thus what follows is what I learned while trying to construct some sort of identity essay about who I think I may be at any given moment in time.
I AM FLUID
Well, for the most part at least. This is universally true I believe, although there may be certain mental handicaps that would prevent this from being an absolutely universal statement. I have covered this much in my introduction, but will expound upon it slightly more here. There is a great line in the song “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve that often sticks with me. The line simply states, “I’m a million different people from one day to the next.” I like this statement, although it is broad, and in a minute, I will seemingly contradict that notion, although I will then explain how it is in fact not a contradiction, but how it and the this concept are in fact related. This came up in the conversation I mentioned earlier. Who one is, at least in how one plays their part (which brings up the question is identity a performance, or is it who one is when he or she is not performing?) changes depending not only on the performer, but the audience for whom one performs. This adds to the notion that identity is fluid (although contingent on the idea that performance for others also plays into identity, which I will assume for sake of argument). The other way that identity is fluid is that, at least for myself, and seems to be the consensus among those with whom I have conversed on the subject, that the inner essence of being also changes. There are many reasons for these changes: age and maturity, more or new information, experience and any other number of factors. I am not the same person who I was when I was five, although there are a long list of many interdependent factors as to why that is true, but I am not the same person I was a few hours ago, I am certainly not the person I was a few weeks ago. Next week I hope I am different, and for the better, than I am today writing this. Identity is fluid. I am fluid. I change and my identity changes with me.
I AM DEEPLY ROOTED
Although I am fluid and am undergoing change, I am also in many ways deeply rooted. While the part of me that is seen, the part that is above the surface, so to speak, is fluid, moveable, changing, my roots are deeply planted. From some core things, ideas, ways of being, nothing can shake me. I have one friend who calls me tree because of this. There is a saying that I love, “don’t be so open-minded that your brains fall out.” Now, this is used many times against there being any open-mindedness in a person, and I am open to many things. I have, however, also had periods in my life, and mostly, I would say now, because I really did not know who I was (although this is not exactly true. It was a more testing of my roots against the winds of change that were viciously whipping against my fluid trunk in which I was swaying so hard almost to the point of breaking). I was the person this saying was warning against. My mind was so open that there was no room for conviction. I was on whatever side of any given issue that I felt the person who I was talking to was on. This was, however, not just for the sake of performance, or to suck up to people. Genuinely, I was so unsure of who I was and what I believed that my worldview would change depending on who I was with at any given moment. What really has helped, however, is as much as I am like a tree, I am also like a hawk. I posses high levels of introspection and like to think that I have keen observation skills of the world around me that allow me to think differently and be differently than other people. This is what eventually allowed me to pull myself out of the pit of too much open-mindedness. Now, I have struck a balance. There are the root issues, the things I will not bend or waiver on and then there are the trunk issues that, given a well put together argument, I may be persuaded to change my mind about.
I AM A CHILD OF GOD
Though I list this last, this is the most important distinction I can make. Even deep roots can be uprooted and trunks can snap when harsh winds come, but this is a truth that abides forever. There is nothing that I have written in this essay, or anywhere else in any paper in my life that is not under jurisdiction to this fact. I thought for a while about not including it. The biggest reason is that being a Christian is not one of the most popular distinctions one can have many times in life, and in many cases, for well warranted reasons. What I cannot do is be the official spokesperson for every Christian of every persuasion who ever lived and to make amends for the horrible things that have been done to any number of people and things done unjustly in the name of God or Jesus. I do not have that kind of time on earth, nor do I feel that is what I am being called to do. What I can do is live my life in such a way that it makes other people have to rethink their popular misconceptions of Christians. This is the core of the core. To take a line from e.e. cummings, “Here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows higher than soul can hope or mind can hide…” This is my identity, who I am, who I always will be, and the core of me, no matter where the roots may spread and the branches may sway.
In the end, this is all I know that I know that I can say. To borrow a line from Oprah, this is what I know for sure:
I, Seddy Bear, am, always have been and henceforth will be a
My wonderful friend, Tiffany Beard (http://timobe.com) once again reminded me of something in her brilliance. She brought up a scene from Alice Walker’s Temple of my Familiar in which one beatitude that was created was, “Blessed are those who know.” I have thought much about this. If I were writing my own beatitude, it would be a Shakespearean mash-up: “Know thyself and to thine own self be true.” And thus, the challenge I present to you. Spend some time, perhaps a little each day, getting to know yourself, and never stop knowing yourself. Don’t smack God in the face and cheat yourself out of the beauty that is this brief vapor of life, by trying to be someone other than you.
Check out Tiffany’s essay, “30 Day$- Journaling and My Relationship with Money” here: http://www.createwritenow.com/journal-writing-blog/bid/56724/30-Day-Journaling-and-My-Relationship-With-Money
This post is dedicated to Sherri Martin, Tiffany Beard, and all of those who know.