Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Pursuit of the Self

Truth be told, we as humans spend a vast preponderance of our time not knowing what we are. At the ultimate level, whether we pound our chest against the notion or not, we're animals. The human machine is a squishy contraption of myriad chemicals and the human mind, like the mind of so many hundreds of our ancestors is focused on the day to day. I'm not trying to figure out who I am. I'm trying to figure out where the power bill is coming from or how I'm going to find the extra few bucks on the side for the hobby budget. I'm trying to figure out the next steps to my education, or the most expedient way to relax, chemically speaking. Should I hang out with my friends and fuzzy the stuff I don't want to think about right now with ethanol or should I stay at home and play the game specifically engineered to keep giving me a dopamine high so that I keep giving the designer their monthly pound of flesh?

Ultimately though, the one question I can never answer effectively is who I am. I mean, I know my name. I know my address. I know my job title, my various screen-names, nicknames, terms of endearment or disenchantment, and all the rest.

But who am I, really? Who are any of us?

I'm a person. I believe that, because any other position seems absurd on the face. It's an assumption, because I don't know what it means to be a person. Certainly, all humans are persons, but are all persons human? What about persons that aren't human? I mean, I have a pretty good handle on the seperation between fiction and reality. I know when things look, and feel, fictional. But that doesn't make good characters like Ender Wiggin or Paul Muad'dib any less people in my eyes. They have emotions, at least in the sense they are given them by their writers - and as a writer, that process seems more natural than you would think. Sometimes, a character's reaction will surprise you, even though you wrote it.

Okay, so I don't know what a person is. But there are billions of other people, and the category you fall into doesn't determine who you are, or so they tell me. What is the essence of my identity? What makes me me?

THese are questions I think most people never answer. Maybe their just the result or focus of the curious interaction of manic-state mentalities and generally anxious behaviour. I can be defined in that way. I'm the mousy guy in the corner who's always worried his lastest mishap ruined the day - and those mishaps are fed by such concern.

But that's not me, at least it's not the essence of me. Characteristic, maybe. Just as momentary outbursts of anger are certainly characteristic, to the point that my nickname around the workplace has become a workplace colloquialism for such moments, regardless of who has them. We're a kitchen. Fires burn hot in our blood.

It's funny to me that I always identify as a cook. Even during my hiatus, I introduced myself to people as a cook first, and whatever I was second. Cooking is the one art form I feel I have genuine room to learn in. I mean, my writing can always improve, but I'm unaware of any new techniques left to explore.

You can't say that about cooking. There's something new under every rock. But that's digressing.

Am I a cook, though? Are we defined by our occupations? Or am I a writer because we are defined by our hobbies?

Most people with mentality, with my constant worrying that I am the subject of the latest vaguely-directed complaint or that in spite of all precaution that driver two cars back has every intention of mounting the curb and running me over, try to avoid labels. I spent a goodly portion of my childhood refusing labels. Eventually, I flatly refused to socialize, except with a very small, very select group of friends. I've never really changed the dynamic. I have small, insular groups of people with whom I feel comfortable, with whom I can show myself.

And yet, that self is always different. Maybe we don't have personalities, or those personalities are multi-faceted. Maybe time can change people faster than you'd think.

I'm not sure I'll ever really know who I am. I'm not sure I'll ever really know anything.

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