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Reflections of a working writer and reader




An unpublished teen, a best-selling author, a reader, a pianist, a cat wrangler, a biker chick, a marxist horror-writer, a psychologist, a rational man and a political animal are just some of the phrases I’ve come across today which pretend to identify the people who hand them out.

“Nothing matters more than who we are in the world, where we have been and where we are going. The issue of identity is at the heart of our society and involves everyone.” These are the words of the Virtual Poet-in-Residence to the National Poetry Day, Jackie Kay.

Whenever we meet someone new they want to know who we are and what we do and where we came from. With these clues they can begin to identify us. They’ve already done the scan: they know if you’re wearing Prada or some kind of leather pouch on your belt. They know if you paint your nails or dye your hair or wear designer trainers whatever the social situation.

And at the same time, of course, you are doing the same calculations about them. Just enough, perhaps to put you at your ease, or to make you feel good and edgy.

Both parties are leaking identity. Each of them wants the other to see them as they see themselves, as though that were a static commodity. Not something that is in constant change.

We often forget that we wear masks and that behind the layers of mask there is a core that is disguised because it is too vulnerable or too powerful to be unleashed upon the world.

4 Responses to “Identity”

  1. Ah John, so, with this post you’re back. That’s good. Very good. These insights into your mind were what made this one of the really good blogs in the first place.

    jb says: Thanks, Bill. Compliments are always gratefully accepted. And it’s good to have confirmation that the old mind still works. When it’s not going walkabout, that is.

  2. bhupinder says:

    I second Bill. Bill – very well said. LoL

    >because it is too vulnerable or too powerful
    because it is too vulnerable AND too powerful

    jb says: Yes, Bhupinder, of course it’s an AND.

  3. Kelley Bell says:

    Very nice John. I love the last line.

    jb says: Thanks, Kelly. Thinking more about the process of perfecting our masks. Sometimes a mask will slip and you catch a glimpse of what lies behind it. How surprising is that? Someone you think you know quite well, and then suddenly someone else, quite different, is revealed.

  4. Mikeachim says:

    I’ve always felt that individuality, being unafraid to be unique, is in a lot of way countercultural.
    There is all that pressure going in the one direction, away from individual identity and towards mass identity, and personal anonymity.
    Being able to pigeonhole people, stick them into a mass category, is something we’ve been taught to feel easy with. Every single one of us doesn’t fit in these pigeonholes, but we play this game anyway.
    No wonder everyone feels mixed up when the media tell us to Break Free and Be Ourselves and so on… about mixed messages.
    (/ end incoherent rant.)

    jb says: Thanks for the input, Mike.  I suppose it’s never easy being who you think you should be, especially with all the pressure to be who everyone else thinks you should be. At this stage of the game I don’t believe we make many absolutely free moves during the average day, but trying to be conscious of freedom, learning to watch ourselves reacting this way or that, allows us, perhaps, to be more free than we would be otherwise. You can decide to do something tomorrow that you don’t have to do. Something that is completely unnecessary. Just take a moment or two out of life, a slice or two of time that wouldn’t belong to you otherwise. Just do it. And then the next day do something else. Let it build up. Let it build. . .