Identity

I was in an art class a few weeks ago discussing the topic of identity. This particular little thing took me a lot longer than everyone else it seemed and seemed to consume my thoughts at home with a need for just the right felt tip pens to finish it off. It was a breathe of fresh air after being confronted with weeks of writer’s block and a near total lack of creative and philosophical inspiration. Perhaps it’s true what my old friend from university said that I miss the visual creativity and my subconscious is crying out for a return to the media. Or perhaps it was a precursor to a conversation I had days after beginning this project with someone I care about very much. This person, following a mental break, reflects and makes art from what they were feeling at the time, finding it near impossible to verbalize feeling like a ‘snail mushroom’.

Strange how an oversized doodle is the only thing that has brought me any real creative interest over the past fortnight as the days become shorter and the nights become a little more restless each day. What then, can I learn from my own expression of identity aside from being a big nerd with a thing for sci-fi?

I ask myself this, in the stoic sense: what purpose does my action serve? Or perhaps, when it comes to writing on philosophy or creativity, what does my inaction serve? My mind moving from one little project to the next, drifting through thought processes in a fever dream of obscure fleeting ideas. I am comforted, however, as should you be, that everything in a rut has been experienced before and will continue to be experienced by the human nature. Which is almost ingrained in our identity as Star Wars references are ingrained in mine. I tell people all the time who claim to be feeling alone that they are not truly alone in what they are feeling as otherwise words would not exist for it in the first place. Obviously, feeling like a ‘mushroom snail’ is a little more niche which requires some other advice for that one but you get my point.

We drift through this existence always, as I have been drifting in my own. I think back to the advice from a friend: where is your action. I ask myself this, but then I ask, what is in my nature to act for and what does that mean for who I am? It’s something we all need to ask ourselves, isn’t it? Who we are before we act. Or perhaps alternatively, it is what we chose to act upon and how we act that defines our identity more than our innate being itself.

I was reading a few weeks ago that events and personality traits formed from events leave markers on DNA and can be passed through to offspring. So if a person is identifiably callous, the child shall have traits of callousness. It seemed a bit questionable and sparked another internal debate about condition versus nature. Going back to my own pseudo-theory that:

Biology + Condition = Person

So I look to my doodle, one that I seemed to spend so much time on when I could have been mind mapping ideas for short stories, full length novels and screenplays. I see perhaps only 2 things within it that relate to biological function rather than condition. Those being: the representation of sexual identity and the constellation of Taurus, showing my birthdate (vaguely). Or perhaps, I am being cynical of my own development, claiming to be a being entirely made of other people’s creations and influence. Perhaps the stack of books under my coffee of the philosophers and spiritual leaders are a biological factor. Perhaps human nature is instinctively driven to search for meaning, for the divine path, for the harmony with The Way and all of its manifestations. Perhaps that’s the point of this very minor exercise, to reflect on that fundamental truth that all things we experience as human beings are in our nature to experience and come together as ultimately the collective human identity as well as the identity of the individual. Each element representing a deeper complexity from the strange fascination with the unknown represented by Cthulu to the desire to explore and find purpose in the stars with the U.S.S Voyager.

Or perhaps, it’s really not that deep and doodling at work to stop me from counting the ceiling tiles over and over again is just that. Who knows, give it a try for yourself, let me know what you find. If anything to save you from counting ceiling tiles.

Undefined

I had a shower thought this morning, something that seemed to come from nowhere:

The world does not define you.

It’s not an entirely groundbreaking thought but its something that I couldn’t let go of as I was washing my hair. The world, all this stuff does not define you, it exists purely as contrast to you. Hate or love is pure contrast and the impression is leaves on us is not a thing at all just our own perception of what is and what isn’t. As human beings we make this world what it is, we define it. We define it in both our own enlightenment and ignorance. The world owes us nothing in the same sense the weather does not owe us to shine brightly when we want it to. Even the actions of other living beings, other fish in this ocean, do not define who we really are. Their actions, like all the other corporeal stuff, is simply contrast to our own being. It’s what makes us individuals, that contrast that keeps us a unique shade amongst it all.

Sure, we pick up bits of characteristics from here or there but only as far as we all allow. We are not defined by those things, are we? Are you defined by your mother’s eyes or your best friend’s temperament? No, of course not. The world has become good at making monsters, sure but the truth is more so that the world is very good at empowering darkness and drawing it to the surface. It’s like colour theory: the brightest colours makes the darkest ones pop.

We as humans shape the landscape as our collective action and attitude shapes society. Subsequently, it could be said then that has an impression on us. For example, no one is born with racial bias but it is a taught behavior and what is that but an impression that the world imprints? I say, it’s not an impression that’s forced on an individual but one accepted through adoration of the holder of the belief. A son will adopt the philosophies of the father through adoration alone, whether it be what the best football team is to the finer points of race hate.

You are not defined by anything other than yourself and what you allow yourself to be defined by, whether that be philosophy or title.

You either accept a thing such as a name or colour of your hair as defined by genetics, or you do not and you reject and take action to correct the course as best suited to your own definition of self, your own nature and highest good.

Such as bad weather does not define your day, other people do not either. There is such great freedom in knowing how free you really are from the definitions of others and the wider world if you just find the comfort in your own soul to accept that.

“Failure to read what is happening in another’s soul is not easily seen as a cause of unhappiness: but those who fail to attend to the motions of their own soul are necessarily unhappy.” – Meditations 2.8

Even when you say that you don’t want to be like someone or something – or that you do – it is not an impression that leaves you with this assertion but the contrast between you and the existence of the other thing. And, in this contrast, there is a balance of what is you and what is not you. What separates you from others, in the grand scheme, is a razor thin line of difference as we are all beings of the same biology, history, atoms and so on. What you actively embrace in those similarities and differences define you, by choice in your actions, right down to the unconscious thought.

Your past does not define you, your future does not define you. All you are and all you will ever be is what you accept yourself to be in this moment, right now as you read these words until the next moment comes.

The only opinion on definition of your own self that matters is yours. In the end, it’s the only thing we can ever truly say we own. As we exhale our last, the only thing we take is our selves. And who that is, is entirely up to you.

Z3N0

Tending to a Garden

I was talking today again with a friend regarding dysphoria and my own views of gender identity within myself. It was a discussion that I am accepting of my presentation and express femininity how I like, reaching a balance within the soul, of yin and yang being my constant duty of care to myself. It’s not troubling, this feeling yet it is disquieting to think it took me nearly a quarter of a century to notice my own reflection. With a genderless soul and comfortable presentation, in this life I am to be contented with how things are and accepting of change in the next. I’ve had conversations like this before, its the curse of constant self reflection that everything is under scrutiny even the most fundamental building blocks of my own identity. Is it not the duty of a stoic to look within, reflecting on the impressions of their own life?

In this conversation, I likened this progress and growth akin to gardening:

“From wasteland to Greco-Roman perfectionism, it takes time and maintenance and effort and I’m happy with that.” – Z

I shared my thoughts with another confidant, who provided another perspective on things:

“You cant water your plants everyday for a year but if you take a break for a month or so they’ll start to die. It’s not a process that’ll ever be finished but one you’ve got to keep on working at (and let’s be honest tending to an established, flourishing garden you check on everyday is easier than one you’ve neglected where you’re having to revive each plant every few months when you pick up that motivation to care for them again). But also you’re going to have a few plants that die off regardless of how much time and care you put into it. Concentrating on those losses which are essentially irrelevant to the bigger picture of what you’ve achieved just distracts you from how much of a beautiful garden you build from the ground up.

… If you have a row of plant pots each filled with different seed; some beautiful flowers, some plants toxic to humans and some useful for life such as food and herbs. It doesn’t matter how perfect those pretty flowers are if you’re using your time and resources to water the seeds in the the toxic plant pot, the only fully established plant with the most deep seated roots you’re going to get it in that of the toxic plant. Because, by giving it your time and resources, you’ve allowed it to grow and and in doing so you’ve not allowed the others to flourish because it’s taken all of those resources from you and you have nothing else to share with the others. … Not all toxic plants are awful to look at, a lot are the most ethereal flowers you’ve ever seen or the most colourful berries but they will still harm you regardless of how desirable they are to us.” – X

Aside from being in awe and overjoyed with the privilege of seeing this new perspective, I was also reflective on the words. It’s true, we can tend our gardens all day long but craft a garden of death, of nightshade if not careful enough to see what we sow. It’s also another indictment that truest wisdom is not just from the books of the ancients but within conversations with each other. True, not every conversation will bear such rich fruit but once in a while we find ourselves a golden apple tree in this murky wood. My advice to you, gardener, is to take a seed and plant it in your own psychic grove. Or at the very least, hug the tree and hold on with all you have, awaiting the fruit to fall and nourish you. For a diverse garden, at least, of healthy flora, of sage and lavender smells.

Sit in your garden now. Observe how your progress and sip some sangria in the sunlit with a warm contented smile.

Z3N0

A Strange Dysphoria

Recently I took part in a training course investigating autism and gender identity. It was extremely comprehensive and educational. Scientifically it is a fact that around 1-3 births in a 100 have non-binary chromosomes determining biological sex which impacts gender identity later. It also means that we are inherently as a species far less black and white as we like to admit when it comes to our own identity. Who knows, perhaps people can exist with biologically female traits as a male their entire lives and never notice nor think about it. This course focussed on how to support young people with autism and their concept of identity and gender which, for a neuro-divergent individual. These people statistically, are seven times more likely to identify as transgender than neurotypicals. It was all very well and good, I thought, to educate ourselves and turn the spotlight on them. I thought instead, I would turn the spotlight inwards onto the operator to examine, in the stoic sense, a thing at its root. The thing: my own perceptions of identity.

It made me uncomfortable because it was such a new feeling. It was like going to the gym and working a muscle untouched before.

I enjoy feminine things. My perfect night is a face mask, foot rub, a Hugh Grant movie, a chat about life, and pizza and wine. I feel a strange alienation when I see same-sex romance on screen, particularly between two females that’s not some sexual need but a feeling of spiritual absence from myself. It’s a longing in my skin and feeling of something lost, something I had but longer have in this existence – a loss of something indescribable. A strange sadness, and something that I’ve never felt before and cannot put a name to. I’m lying, I’ve always felt it, but I’ve never looked at it.

The soul is genderless, the rest is just a vehicle. Why wouldn’t I feel somewhat female at my core? Yin and yang resides in all of us – the male and female. The balance of that is the source of our chi in the Taoist sense. It’s not a new concept.

It’s not a superficial surface feeling of insecurity about my hobbies nor a sexual inadequacy, it runs deeper into my marrow. I’ve just never stopped to look at it before.

I spoke to a close friend about this who is non-binary who explained to me that they have heard about similar feelings before. That it’s a specific kind of sadness. I boil down my experience of sexuality and gender into a catchphrase: “ass is ass/it’s all meat and mucus” yet as my friend said:

[They] have been comforting for you to say, because the help things feel less complicated. But I prefer to say that, for me, attraction is a science? It’s always more about chemistry than biology.” – X

Another friend was said simply that some are more in tune than the true soul than others.

“Only you know who you are and how you define yourself but, you don’t have to. You don’t owe an explanation to anyone.” – Y

Simply: I am.

It’s less about what more about who. Who we are, not what we are.

For me, I am a human being. Biologically male and with a male gender identity. Do I need to feel more to be me? I am who I am, whether I inhabit this body or another. I am still a human being, experiencing all that is allotted to me by nature to experience. Perhaps it’s my time to look in this mirror and accept what’s there within and without because my feelings of a strange dysphoria (whether this can be truly described as dysphoria) are a part of me and a part of me I can accept. I may not fit conventionally into the box of a machismo hero yet that’s ok. I look back over what I’ve done in my past, and my theatre of arrogance and all I see now is someone desperately trying to live up to a patriarchy in which I exist on the fringes of.

I accept my exterior, I accept my interior. I am a human being. This skin of mine, while my soul may feel wanting if I let it and it craves for renewal: I wouldn’t want it any other way. This mind and soul of mine, as complex and seemingly labyrinthian as they are: similarly, I wouldn’t be me without them. For others, the experience is different, and unliveable. It is theirs and not mine and that’s ok. We all walk different paths in this life and live different lives but we all born and die the same way. We are all one in our collective experience of humanity from our first breath to our last. Despite all the labels we may attribute, perhaps the truth is that we, as expressions of the divine, are far too infinitely complex to ever be tied down or put into boxes.

“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.” – Meditations 10.16

It goes without saying if we are to be nit-picky with semantics, when the Romans reference “man” I say: “human”.

Z3N0