The obsession with identity is a defensive, therapeutic reaction to the stresses of social disintegration. We pull our scattered selves together by affirming rigid identities through tribal politics and by playing with the scraps of disparate cultures. No one is black, white, gay or straight. No one is fundamentally right wing, left wing, conservative or liberal. Or a nerd, a vegan, a powerlifter, or a powerlifting vegan nerd. You’re not red pill, blue pill, alpha or beta.
And no one cares. No one asks but everyone offers. The trauma of someone else forming their own idea of you through shared experience is unbearable. It’s better to prevent organic judgment by prematurely ejaculating brands.
I overheard a man at my café asking about our beans. He wanted to know how they were processed. Immediately after asking he said he was a geek, as if it mattered. He couldn’t simply ask a question, he had to drag his stupid identity into a casual conversation. If he had gone on to ask about roast profile, about extraction percentage, if he had talked about refractometers and tamping technique then a clearer picture would’ve emerged and it would’ve happened naturally. He couldn’t stick to the context of the conversation, he had to seep irrelevant information.
Every thought, word and act must be referred back to its source. You did this because you’re that. You like these things because you’re this kind of person. We don’t allow stray thoughts, occasional interests or incongruous details to complicate our interactions. Agreeing with one thing a person says welds you to his cause. If a leftist says something smart but you’re not a leftist then you can’t agree with him. Hating Trump means you must scowl when he says something sensible.
It’s not possible to hold a racist belief without being a racist. You can’t make a misogynist comment without being a misogynist. Comedy and art must conform to the latest standard of sensitivity towards the suffering other. The suffering of others is hilarious. Our own suffering is funny, but we must take it seriously and hold someone or something else responsible for it. You will reject the policies of your enemies even when they benefit you. Sharing success hurts more than compromising an ideology.
The self is formed through relationships. The solidity and strength of your relationships determine the coherence of your self. You’re not a collage of consumer choices or a discrete series of experiences. Your life needs continuity to have meaning. I’ve strained my eyes looking for who I am within. It’s slick, shuddering meat on the inside. It’s running ink, an oil spill I can’t scrub clean. I’m out there, in my connections, in the landscape, in other people’s memories. It’s impossible to live only for yourself. Don’t try it.
I drove from Northern Indiana to Indianapolis early sunday morning. The moon had sunk into the tar pit sky and the interstate was empty. I could’ve driven off the surface of the earth. I could’ve fallen asleep and driven straight into my grave. The radio didn’t help me stay alert. Music does nothing for me. All modern music is noisy; even the softer rock sounds like people tripping in a room full of tin trash cans. But the noise isn’t stimulating, rather it’s depressing. However much rage, yelling, aggression or sexual desire modern music conveys, it puts me to sleep, it pulls on my eyelids. It’s all Nyquil.
I’m awake in the interim hours, between awareness and oblivion, between reasoning and dreaming. When other people are waking up I’m winding down. When others are relaxing I’m tense and toiling.
Still, I’m grateful for my family and my beggar’s wit. I read many professional writers and feel superior to them even though I don’t have a place to live. My narcissistic consolation…