I have always been interested in exploring how external circumstances inform and influence individual identity. Who would we be and how would we behave if our circumstances were different? What impact does our particular culture, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, childhood experiences and social class have on us?
Experiments such as the Stanford Prison Experiment reveal how outward appearance and social context such can trigger or suppress certain aspects of our inherent nature. It also reveals how easily we default to prey/predator when placed in new, unfamiliar situations, a format, many reality TV shows would later utilise.
It is interesting to me to explore how perhaps the onset of life changes and challenges such as sickness, suffering, hardship or deprivation effect our sense of personal identity. When external layers of protection such as success, health, wealth etc are peeled away who are we? Do we have an essential true self or are we simply a construction of socially defined personas?
I believe, we certainly do have a true, essential self and I hope to write about it in more detail in more depth in a future post.
I also believe that suffering can reveal that true self in all its glory and ugliness.
It is easy to be apathetic when things are going well and life supports our paradigm. So many things scaffold our sense of identity. But who are we when those things are stripped away?
It doesn’t take much
movement to disturb the blinds
flood light into the basements
awaken you at midnight cold and shaken.
A lone wolf on the brink of starvation.
It doesn’t take much
to dialate the appetite,
raise the hackels,
bare the teeth.
A small inconsistency,
a few too many sleepless nights,
the one unsolvable sorrow.
Suddenly you don’t belong,
there is nowhere to lay your head
and all debts are called in.
The dream you were self reliant,
capable, in control,
will fall away
like cinderella’s gown.
When you learn to stand
on your bare soles once more
you will never again welcome the dawn
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