Our brief discussion on the topic of self and identity the other day has really stuck with me. A concept as routine as this surely wouldn’t present a whole lot of problems in discussion, right? (sorry for the irrelevance to kierkegaard, just wanted to throw this out there.)
As college students we are all, or at least have once been pretty much obsessed with our identity. We are all striving to fill or even become certain criteria. High school, for example, encourages the individual to do things like join clubs and make good grades, for the purpose of developing a veritable identity that may be written down and either rejected or accepted. Students are urged to participate in order to gain membership in groups, whether it’s the soccer team, the debate club, or eventually college. The same trend exists within college as well. We are all striving to be someTHING, whether its a doctor, or a business woman, or even a philosopher. But when asked who you are, does one simply answer with their respective list? Can one really summarize oneself with what basically amounts to a job application? After all, it is theirs, is it not? Even on a less formal level, such as shared interests or hobbies, they don’t necessarily represent who we are. I know that I can’t be summed up by my involvement in the track team. I hope that I’m more interesting than that. As Dr. J argued in class, it is an insufficient description of self to merely attach oneself to a group. One has an identity before they join a fraternity or the basketball team, don’t they? I’m pretty confident that I had a valid identity before I started running track in ninth grade. It is also insufficient to rely on measuring self in facticity. That is, physical characteristics or facts are an inadequate representation of self. Something that is so peripheral must ultimately have minimal effect on ones’ self.
So how do we express (or even achieve) self-conciseness? It seems that our language doesn’t even allow for this. I know that, given the restrictions that I’ve set forth, I couldn’t explain just who I am. I couldn’t sit here and put myself onto a blog, only my thoughts and ideas that maybe express who I am. Perhaps that is the answer; our ideas and beliefs make us who we are. Maybe it is our creativity, our willingness to change, and our wisdom that define us. It would seem then, that ones’ “who” is not to be told or explained, but rather shown.