Archive for the ‘musings’ Category

Identity

by wil — Apr 2, 2011

I’ve been reading some books on Buddhism, Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction, and last night I stayed up late reading Foucault For Beginners. Then I watched Catfish — and all together they’ve got me thinking about identity.

You often hear people say things like: Facebook is just people putting up a front, a one-dimensional, edited image of themselves that doesn’t really reflect their true nature. And I think that’s largely true, but it’s not limited to Facebook. It happens all the time. On your resume, you probably don’t mention how you thought your last boss was an idiot and how you used to call in sick every couple of months just so you could enjoy a few three-day weekends. And you probably fix yourself up a bit when you go out to lunch with friends, don’t you? And you don’t share every thought that passes through your head, do you? And you probably think you’ve got your foibles — you’re not perfect — but basically you’re a pretty decent person with good taste and a sense of humor. You probably think you’re a bit above average. Or perhaps you’re feeling bad about yourself — you’re no good, talentless, whatever…. Either way, these are all just shorthand identities you’ve created for yourself.

As Tyler Durden says, “You are not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet.” But you’re also not who you think you are. You’re not the image of yourself. You’re not your upbeat attitude or your depression or your quirky sense of humor or your conservative values. You don’t stop becoming you if you change your mind or stop identifying with the Democratic Party. You’re just you. Right?

But if you’re not any of these bits and pieces, these projections/reflections of yourself, what are you? What’s left? Maybe you’re a bit of who you used to be and a bit of who you want to be. Maybe all you are is a bunch of projections and reflections.

I don’t know. What do “you” think?

My favorite 19th-century thinker

by wil — Dec 2, 2010

The human race as a whole largely agrees as to what it shall notice and name, and what not. And among the noticed parts we select in much the same way for accentuation and preference or subordination and dislike. There is, however, one entirely extraordinary case in which no two men ever are known to choose alike. One great splitting of the whole universe into two halves is made by each of us: and for each of us almost all of the interest attaches to one of the halves; but we all draw the line of division between them in a different place. When I say that we all call the two halves by the same names, and that those names are ‘me’ and ‘not-me’ respectively, it will at once be seen what I mean.William James, Principles of Psychology

Being

by wil — Nov 22, 2010

I discovered the radio program/podcast, Being (formerly Speaking of Faith), a few months ago, and it’s rapidly become one of my favorites (alongside To the Best of Our Knowledge and This American Life). The latest podcast features an interview with Thupten Jinpa, the Dalai Lama’s longtime translator.

I found this bit particularly memorable:

[T]he fact that…actions of affection, actions of love and…caring, do not make headlines is because we take them for granted, which suggests that we expect people…to behave in that manner. The fact that killing and violence makes the headlines is because we don’t expect…normally…people to behave in that manner and, when they do, we are shocked….

[The Dalai Lama] is suggesting that, by not being critically reflective, we sometimes let ourselves [be] driven by headline news, and the sad…byproduct of that is that people become cynical, thinking, “Oh, we’re such [a] horrible species.” Whereas, he’s saying…the opposite. The fact that they are sensational, that they are news-making, means that somehow in some way we don’t expect fellow human beings to behave in those manners. So these kind of things are very powerful actually. I mean, he’s questioning many of our everyday assumptions and he’s saying, “No, don’t take them for granted.”Thupten Jinpa, “Translating the Dalai Lama”, Being