We spend a great deal of our time, our lives, trying to define who we are. Identity. The great I am.
We draw blood. What blood type are we, what does it say about us. Hunter, gatherer, wanderer. Old blood carried through the veins of the earliest known human all the way to us, or new blood created over time through an evolutionary alchemical process. We slice, dice, dissect, and swab, looking for answers. Genetic genealogy. Tracing our ancestral heritage. Searching our DNA for clues. We create family trees. We belong to tribes. We join groups. Form sects, clubs, secret or open, as open as any gathering of humans is ever going to be, someone always has to be left outside so that others can be inside.
We invent endless tests to locate ourselves in the scheme of things, in the hierarchy, caste, class, education, creed, skin, and on and on and on.
Someone recently asked me if I was Italian. Am I? Well, no, and yes. I don’t know. Not by nationality. Not by birth. Yet, by familial blood ties, I am. But, then again, my parents, and their parents, etc. come from lands which were invaded throughout history by a motley crew of liquorice allsorts. If I put a slice of me on a slide and looked at it through a very strong microscope, I would probably see a million plus little people from a myriad of tribes, cultures, and countries. I’m a chimera. I prefer it that way. I used to long to have tribal identity so that I could define myself using others, but I gradually began to see the benefits of not belonging to anyone or anything. It keeps me flexible and openminded, as openminded as a human can be.
We take personality tests. We type ourselves. We psychoanalyse. We draw up astrological charts. We cast runes, tarot, and seek answers from those claiming to be wise and knowledgeable. The list is infinite because we keep finding new ways to define and decide who we are. Yet still, as much as we pretend and believe we know, we keep searching, questioning, answering, then challenging those answers, debunking them, and starting all over again.
I was also recently asked what Myers-Briggs type I was. Short answer – INTP – The Thinker. Long answer – INTP, but not always. The description is fairly accurate, but not all of it fits. It’s a bit small, tight, and when I put it on, it ripped so bits of flesh are exposed and sticking out of it uncomfortably. I took the test several times on several different sites just to make sure. Partly because it is very easy to cheat on personality tests once you know how they work, and which answers to give to get alternative results. Partly because my personality tends to change with my moods. Partly because I get very argumentative with tests, some of the questions are vague, or limiting, and I often have answers which aren’t allowed or have not been considered by the creator of the test, so I tick whatever box I tick in frustration and rebellious annoyance. Partly because many years ago I took the test and had a different result. Partly because tests are very dull, especially when they are long, and there is just so much information about myself which I am willing to divulge, before I become cagey and elusive. That’s probably a personality disorder of some sort… Avoidant, Schizoid, Paranoid…
So many natural traits seem to be considered disorders. In fact, I would say most personalities are disorders or disordered. But why consider this a bad thing, a negative. We are creations of nature, and as ordered as nature sometimes seems to be, it is a force which embraces chaos and disorder. In many ways, chaos rules. We are motes on a speck hurtling through infinite space. We live on a spinning rock made of… do we know what Earth is made of, do we really know what lies beyond the layers which we have so far managed to penetrate and explore. Does that not reflect ourselves too. Do we really know of what we are made, what the thing is which causes us to be alive and function. Sure there are many theories, scientific and otherwise, as many as there are, and have been, minds to think about it, investigate, experiment, and conjecture. But no one knows for certain. Not if they’re honest. Belief is another matter entirely.
And belief, in many ways, is what identity is all about. Who we believe ourselves to be, and who we believe ourselves to not be.
This post was inspired by a friend of mine who is a big fan of astrology. They’re very savvy on the subject, but they have some glaring blind spots which, I have to guiltily admit, make me chuckle. Mostly because I share the same blind spots. This friend is a beautiful example of their natal Sun Sign, but they refuse to acknowledge that power, because they don’t like the sign their Sun is in. Instead they focus on signs, elements, and planets which aren’t as dominant as their Sun. In some ways they would like to be someone they are not instead of embracing who they are. Why. There are many answers which could be offered, only they know the truth. Just like only I know why I do what I do.
I used to be better at defining who I was not, rather than who I was. In fact I focused most of my energy on who I was not. It obsessed me, and the obsession devoured me. Then, one day, it spat me out. I have come to realise that many of the things I thought I was not, I am, and that the few things I thought I was, I am not. That’s life. That’s being human. That’s the paradox.
So, Who are you, or who are you not?