Friday, August 9, 2013

Addendum on Identity

This is a follow-on note reflecting on the blogpost “A (not so) short reflection on International Living” and the notion of Identity.

I mention at one point in the content of the blog about identity and that I am referring to identity as ‘knowing where you are from’ and go on to talk about knowing your tribe, your community, etc. Clearly this is an important aspect of identity; a lens through which to view it or perhaps better still…. a side angle view on a shapeless notion but I didn't set out to give the intention that these are the only locators of identity! I want to elaborate briefly here on the idea that identity is pre-determined and pre-conceived: we are born with it and we will die with it a sense of ourselves that only we own and know, our character.

In the blog I insinuate that identify is greatly influenced by our experiences and our environment, where we grow up, the people we meet and I stick to this idea. This is particularly relevant when extreme events occur in people’s lives that ‘shape’ them and are reflected in who they are and often what they do. Events don’t have to be extreme of course…for example I can say that my parents’ unselfish giving throughout their lives or my Asian travels through the ‘80’s (which had their extreme moments) shaped who I have become and gave texture, color and shape to my identity. Of course a near-death experience, giving birth to a child, a visitation by another being, a trip into the 5th dimension, these extreme moments will clearly add qualitatively to ones identity.

In brief then I concur, we are born with an identity, it is the basis of our individuality and our conscious naissance. I believe the influences on it begin even in the womb and that the emotions of the mother are transferred and experienced by the infant. I think it is clear that identity evolves with our experiences, it morphs, it develops, it does not stay the same in its expression but it does remain the same in its essence; that with which we began.

I ponder.....where does that leave my 'third culture' sons when they are asked "so...where do you come from?" born in Malaysia to a French mother and Canadian/British father having lived in Malaysia, Lebanon, Ecuador and now Nepal they are not yet savvy enough to say..." as if that's important". So the link to where you are from is relevant to their identity, at least as children and I would posit not entirely irrelevant to world-wandering adults either. Interestingly they normally answer they are from Canada...but then so do I and I was born in London, England!

I would suggest that the shifts and changes in life that challenge us on all levels (mental, intellectual, psychic, emotional, spiritual…) be appreciated as occurrences that, when brought in some way into the individuals’ personal experience, augment the process of the evolving identity. Key is full awareness, appreciation, gratitude and a positive outlook so that the experience, best understood in the present moment, enhances identity and brings us towards self-realization and understanding. Anything less and you sell yourself short on your life experience. 

It is little wonder when the world around us seems to be devolving into the shallow, superficial, soulless and aggressive realm of greed, selfishness and the commercialization of the imagination that identity becomes lost and the means to discovering it become less and less apparent or accessible even while it becomes more and more required. In this era we see a surge of interest in yoga and meditation as people seek to lighten their burden of being...they are seeking to know who they are, find their identity perhaps so they can love themselves and be happy, which is after all the ultimate quest of human existence, or is it?

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