30on30: On Identities

As you grow older, your identities become more complex and uncertain. Through those collected years in your arsenal, you go about defining who you are as a person. While daunting, the exercise is a natural process as you try and place yourself in the bigger scheme of things. The Why merges with the What even as the How disentangles itself through an invisible force. If you, like me, struggle at being binary in your decisions, some of the more common appendages to your identity becomes unfit. If for you, the voice in your head is clear and devoid of doubts, the identities re-align themselves automatically to present a coherent picture. Your opinions and thoughts, in other words, define your identity for you. For others, its what you do and act on that helps them apply the manifesto to you.

As a kid, I know I never thought of my identity. I would be on an anti-psychotic drug had that been the case. But, an identity I did have and an identity that I felt comfortable with. The information was too scarce to alter the “pure” form of identity I was born with. It was at an amorphous stage when distinct threads of my future identities surfaced. A life shaped by the experiences of growing up in a defined environment.  How much we loved the environment that we had erected around us! Growing older, I can’t help but contrast this with the ease with which we dismantle these environments in our quest to build a bigger, better entity of our own.

Our identities are constantly shifting and seeking inputs from the varied permeating influences. At a given moment, we are defined not just by our social construct or the religion we follow but also by the hobbies we inculcate or the professions we choose. How we prioritize them in our own minds translate these strands into pathways. Each of these paths are semi-voluntary processes that leads us towards our complex lives.

How do the saints identify themselves when they have renounced the material possessions of the world? Naturally, choosing an identity for them is a matter of availability rather than will for they have already made the choice of relinquishing their identities as it applies to the Grihastha Ashrama. Sacrifice and suffering is probably the most common aspect amongst different religions but what do these efforts signify? Aren’t they essentially an enforced concept of prioritizing a chosen identity (simplicity) over another?

When I look back, there are buckets of years when my idea of myself was constant and unyielding to the pulleys around me. Those were the years when I had already built up an overarching goal for myself and screened any unforeseen ideas of deviating away from the goal I had in mind. This shield of purpose, and of a vision, is important for it depicts how free-will is not merely to be scoffed at or rejected outright. Liberation, as is understood in the modern world, is therefore not being free from the cycles of life and death but being able to apply ourselves in such a way that we are strong enough to choose for ourselves. Purpose, therefore, is critical to identity as well.

Why the talk on identity? Isn’t identity more of a political philosophy than a personal one? What’s political is personal. Why do we choose one identity over another at critical junctures leading us to wander into completely different pathways? I am keen on understanding how the concept relates on a personal level. With the passage of time, my identities will converge to some extent. The convergence is more a matter of limited-time than concerted-effort and therefore it will be a process that’d be sub-consciously directed. A process aided also, by the realities weighing on it. The identities which we create, for we are aspirational of that, are the ones that were discretionary and therefore in the front-line when the extinction will begin. It is up to me though, to pick up those that I still believe I have a reasonable shot at. And these choices would be shaped by the identity I exhibit now. Yeah, it’s a circular error no doubt but that is expected in life. Isn’t it?

Further reading:

http://www.kenanmalik.com/reviews/sen_illusions.html

Politics of Recognition: http://elplandehiram.org/documentos/JoustingNYC/Politics_of_Recognition.pdf

Identity & Violence: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/14/books/review/14yoshino.html

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