Saturday, September 3, 2011

Thoughts on identity while watching "My Dinner with Andre"

I can’t spend my whole life with another person or even seeing particular people on a regular basis – because even if we are supposedly interconnected, and our actions have consequences upon each other, we are still separate, we are still bodies, and I find this disturbing and it’s hard for me to get over this fact.* (And even if we were pure energy and just “being,” well, we would just be being. It wouldn’t be anything special. It would fail to change the fundamental manner of existence. We are always being, even if we are doing, it’s just that the doing scribbles over the language-less being. We are.)

I intrinsically get uncomfortable with the idea of always being with someone. I think it may be that I know that I won’t be understood.** I’ll always be understood as a particular personality, not my full personality, and it’s not even like I necessarily have a full, concrete personality – I’m improvising. But if I’m always with someone, they will see me in one way and then I will have to conform to that way, either consciously or subconsciously. It’s just like idea of breaking habits – relationships are habits. There are shorthands that never go away. There are grooves for dialogue, tracks for actions and conceptions of being and identity.***

We have no core of identity, but we do have a region, and I would like to explore that full region. I would also like to expand that region, either by being in an open enough space so that I may expand, or by consciously changing, or improving, if you will, my habits. And if I am always dragged back to the same modes of behavior by the anchor of another person, my ship will never be able to move out into the sea. And of course, without people, we don’t really exist. It’s not that we have to be observed to exist (we don’t) but if we are all over the place – if we are everywhere within that region and nowhere in particular – it can be very disconcerting and we don’t or won’t know how we behave. We rely on others to tell us who we are. But I would rather rely on myself to know who I am.

*And you could say that a full personality comes from all of our niche identities – friend to this person, friend to that person, family of these people, etc. – but we, as it has been said, cannot multitask, and we can only ever be one aspect at one time, and this is something I object to. I want to be taken as everything at once, and because it is not only impossible for Person A to perceive Person B as Person B perceives Person B, but also because it is impossible for people to hold another person’s full region of personality in their mind at once, what I want is impossible, and so I retract. Only in my own mind can I come closest to the full spectrum at once, but this doesn’t count for anything because I haven’t been validated, no one has testified to my existence. And so you make a choice, on a moment to moment basis, between the loneliness of not being validated, and the loneliness of not being understood.

**Either the other person’s perspective won’t be able to perceive, that is, overlap with, my own perspective, which is the worse of the two, or in general I’ll be predicted but not understood. And I can’t even understand myself, so of course another person won’t be able to. When I say that one is predicted, I mean that we often confuse “knowing” someone with predicting their behavior. And this goes into another thing that I'm saying, that being limited to certain expected modes of behavior is a kind of death.

***And then of course there is the situation where you like how the other person acts and they feel the same way about you, but then one or the both of you change. And of course we are always changing. It is too tenuous. A life of constant transformation and transition is difficult to live. And so is a life of apparent stagnation and sterility. And so it is a stalemate.


  1. I have "+1ed" this myself, which in a way allows me to validate myself, but of course this does not mean nearly as much as somebody else validating me.

  2. I think you feel the same way a lot of people do, I just don't think quite so many people dig as deep to get to the root of why.

    Interaction creates a sort of Venn diagram with two people crossing--the shaded part in the middle is like a third party. Not *all* of you is going to ever be able to cross with another person--but I don't think you want it to. On one hand, you're afraid of losing your identity to another person, but on the other you're afraid that the person only sees a part of you. It's almost two contradicting fears.

    I'll probably have more to say on this later, but that's my initial reaction.

  3. Thanks for the comment---and the validation!

    I almost wish it *were* a contradiction, but I don't think it is. The person takes away your full identity by only seeing one small part of it. But as we've discovered in my addendum---the fact that you can never fully know someone means that you can always find out more.