Friday, May 13, 2011

Who Are You?

Who are you? No, I don't mean spoon-feed me your SIN, driver's license and health insurance card. On a deeper level, times come when we consciously reflect on the kind of person we've become. Yeah, we've always had that role model in our lives - mum, dad, Ghandi, Erin Brockovich, Harry Potter - and I'm not entirely sure about you, but I don't just scratch my head and stroke my beard at every choice or decision asking myself: "What would Jesus do?" (Those orthodox christians have us ALL fooled).

Fact is, these role models are generally subliminal. Their characters, personalities and personas are something we've tried to parallel, but try as we may, they're simply not who we are, trait-for-trait. Admiration is rarely overrated, emulation is often excessive, and worship is always unnecessary. But, from time to time, we do find ourselves at the end of a decisive moment, wondering how we came to that verdict or choice. Was it according to our beliefs? Our opinions? Our values? Was it honourable? Just? Fair? Honest? And then things get complicated - we start wondering "Where did I set out from in the first place?" We try to remember what it was we had tried to model ourselves on, and then groan in agony as we see our mistakes, or beam with satisfaction as we realize our success.

But do we really see ourselves as well as anyone else? I mean, c'mon, be honest with yourself. If you've even the tiniest bit of sense, you'll admit that you've a serious bias. And it's not just in one direction either - there are those of us who enjoy being a little lenient with our ideals, and those who insist on cracking the whip a little too much. Do we then turn to those around us? Are those judgements, the juvenile gossip and wide-spread-high-school-reminiscent stereotypes all far more accurate and honest than our own? Maybe so. Maybe you really are the brawn-over-brain jock who'll end up a balding, 50 year-old living in your mum's trailer still wearing that ratty old football jacket from senior year. Maybe you are that womanizing jerk who'll end up slapping ass and taking names for the rest of his life... playa. Maybe you're that computer dweeb who never leaves home without his graphing calculator and will likely never get laid. OR alternatively, you could be that modest, nice guy who everyone appreciates and respects - but hey, who wants to be him? That's just boring, right?

We can't objectively step out of our shoes and see ourselves without bias, but in the same way, we can't fully put our faith in those close to us to offer a clear and honest judgement. Ulterior motives are everywhere. So, then what? You can spend your entire life trying to shake off a stereotype, to free yourself from that gossip-born ball & chain - regardless of how it came to be - and still be burdened with it for the rest of your life. Why? Because that's society. That's the power of social interaction. We, humans, are creatures of communication, completely dependent on it to retain our sanity. We feed ravenously on its fickle ability to put us in the spotlight and give our fragile egos that boost they need so dearly... To be in the limelight, the centre of attention, to nurture and feed that image we crave so badly in an effort to escape our own dreary personalities - is it worth it? Instead, our directionless efforts either dig us deeper into that hole or throw us headlong into another. Even then, can we ever truly know if anyone knows us as well as we seem to know ourselves? A vicious circle; the more we try to be understood, the further from the truth (if one can even call it that) we seem to stray. We're then the puppeteer, the master, the mind orchestrating our own image - almost unconsciously.

The hunger will consume you, leave you powerless and debilitated with as much rational sense as a frenchman in a brothel. Who are you then? The creature of your imagination, the monster of the social body or a terribly wonderful mix of the two? Perhaps neither? And here's the sinker: Is it really up to you?

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