The Drama of Identity

There is nothing in Life more interesting than the question of who you are. We live the phenomena of personal experience daily, and varying levels, but how many of us take a moment to question it? When we ask each other in passing, “How are you?” – far from a casual connection between acquaintances, this could be the most difficult question ever posed to mankind. In all actuality, how am I? How did I come to be? How did I wake up this morning? The great lesson of this mystery is to address it with humility and surrender. The question doesn’t need to be answered – if it ever can be – in my view, the questioning itself opens the door to deeper being and further reaches of the mind.

On a daily level, it is remarkable the facility with which we all manage to assume different identities in different situations. Unwittingly, we are all master shapeshifters – our identity, on at least an immediate level, is dictated by the interaction with another person. I do not know I’m a student until I’m presented with a teacher, or an employee with a boss, a son with a father, a friend a friend, a citizen a country. All of these responsibilities and more are opportunities for ourselves to define our identity in light of the context. In any given day, the average person runs the gamut of personalities. In psychology, a dysfunctional person who experiences anxiety with this constant flux of identity is said to have multiple personality disorder. On a less severe level, we all experience multiple personalities – however, instead of disorder, this is the very fabric of behavior which society requires to maintain order. Adaptability is the hallmark of a healthy economy – and it’s each individual’s ability to adapt – that is, to recalibrate one’s experience of self – that is remarkable.

Now, we must define what we mean by personality, identity, role or mood. After all, one could argue that we don’t have many personalities throughout the day. “What I experience is me! It’s really me!” You could say I experience many moods throughout the day, but I still know who I am. Likewise, I could assume different roles throughout the day, but I’m still me deep down. But how can we say such things with certainty? On what level do you define what you mean by the word “I”? I suppose the answer to the question reveals itself through itself. In other words, the level in which you most easily identify indicates the level in which you allow yourself to experience Life.

One who identifies with their moods is held prisoner to the sway of emotions and is victim to circumstance – saying “I’m sad” or “I’m happy”. One who identifies with their role, or status in society, will cling to what other people say of them and may try to climb the political leader – saying “I’m poor” or “I’m rich”. And the one who identifies with the spiritual self will embrace, and times endure, the human condition – maintaining a general’s view of the battle of Life. and continuously exploring the mystery of identity. This is at times called the “I Am Consciousness”.

Of course, this is just a small sample from the myriad set of ways in which humans identify themselves. Deep down I do think there is a Truth to this mystery, and it is something akin to the following infinitely inadequate description:

We are all nebulous clouds of ontological amoeba imbued with the gift of self-reflection. Sprung onto this earth and encapsulated in flesh, we each experience the spectrum of daily existence. Our soul, if that’s the appropriate word, is an entity devoid of any identity, save for a semblance of identifiers which enable it to have the individual experience. All other identities are added later from the gestation period to human maturity – all imprinted on to this magnificent, fluid-like, formless and limitless being. The plight or prize, whichever the case may be, of this angelic entity, is to sit ever serenely behind the eyes of the person you call “me”.

So, next time you see a friend, acquaintance, or stranger and ask “How are you?” just know that you will never receive the full reply.

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