October 29th, 2007


identity: who are you? not what's your name, not what do you do -- WHO are you?

Who are you? How do you answer that question? How do you define your Self?

A while back I watched Anger Management, and though I thought it went overboard even for an Adam Sandler movie, it had some interesting social insights (which is why I like Adam Sandler movies. You're rolling your eyes most of the time, but occasionally there's something that makes you stop and go "huh! didn't think about that before." Well, it works that way for me anyway).

There's a scene where the psychologist asks Sandler, "Who are you?" and he starts to tell what his job is, and the psych cuts him off and says, "I didn't ask what you do, I asked who you are." Sandler gets more and more confused and frustrated as he is unable to answer that question without talking about what he does; he doesn't know who he is, separate from his actions. This made me wonder -- how would I answer that question?

I've been thinking about it more and more; how identity is separate from actions, yet most people define themselves by their actions. "I'm a (insert career here)" or "I'm a (insert sexuality here)" or "I'm a (insert art/hobby here)." But if I lie, that doesn't make me a liar; if I dance, that doesn't make me a dancer. If I cry a lot, that doesn't make me a depressive; if I often smile and laugh, that doesn't make me a happy person. If I have sex with many people, that doesn't make me a whore; if I refuse to conform in any way, that doesn't make me a freak. I don't believe in stamping people with their actions. What you do is not who you are.

I am a PERSON, and so are you, and actions are an expression of self overlaid by our current level of maturity. The more mature we are, the more our true self shows through our actions -- but unless you are extremely mature, only you (and those practiced in observing you) know when your true self is showing, and even then, it's just a feeling, a sense, an emotion -- nothing concrete. So you can't look at a person and tell who they are by their actions. It takes time and practice to be able to see through the actions to the true self underneath. If you have not invested the time and energy to learn to see a person, you have no right to try to define them with some sloppy label -- and if you have invested, there is no way you would try to define them by their actions.

Of course, this leaves me at a loss when I'm trying to describe a friend. "Oh, she's so amazing, she's just incredible..." and there really aren't any words that will describe a spirit! So I flounder about and try to think of actions that they do that show their true self, and I am left feeling SO dissatisfied, like I have just shown a black & white blurry photo of a sunset. It shows NOTHING of the true self -- that's something you simply have to experience for yourself. I think when Angelina said that she wants to taste everyone in the world, she meant she wanted to taste their spirit. She might have meant it sexually also, but of all people I think she most understands the euphoria of truly seeing the glorious wonder that glows within every single person. Before I die, I too want to taste everyone in the world.