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12 May 2003 @ 10:24 am
Essay I'll probably never get around to finishing...  

The difficult thing — the reason humankind has always and no doubt will continue to invent and practice various rites of passage — is that we never really feel different, or, at least, not in any really discernible way. I think back and remember, for example, riding on the ferry to Port Townsend with Jerry & Suzle in 1979, sitting on the beach at Monkey Mia with Susan & Gavi in 1999, standing in my apartment in the Bozo Bus Building and turning the crank of my Gestetner 230 to print RUNE 39 in 1974 … I remember those moments, and as I remember, the guy doing those things — the “me” in those memories — is, well, you know, me.

There are ways in which this is if not wonderful then at least a very good thing. This ongoing sense of self — the fact that for most of us there are no gaps, no disconnects — enables us to realize and integrate our whole lives. Who we are “now” — at any given moment — is informed by the whole of our experience. Of course, this information gives lie to that feeling of not-differentness; at 53 years old, I have had the opportunity for many experiences which have in great part formed me — which, in combination with some basic “me-ness,” have made me who I am. Intellectually it is obvious that I am not the same person I was when I was, say, 40 years ago … or even last week! Emotionally, however, it is a completely different story. Emotionally, it is the same me all along.

The problem of this, of course, is that life and society and human interaction require and expect and allow different things, different behaviors — whole different modes of behavior — based more or less on our age. Some of these things are simple facts of biology and habit: hey, me knows how to ride a bicycle, me does it all the time, me regularly rides from St. Louis Park to Shakopee … how come me is so unstable and uncomfortable and easily winded on a bicycle? Oh yeah, it has been about 32 years since I was riding a bike regularly. Others things are less obvious — people simply respond differently to the same set of behaviors exhibited by a person with sandy-brown hair than by one with grey and brown hair.

Um … thought gap … fragments …

I know from this that the woman who looks out of my mother’s eyes now — now that she’s in her mid-80’s — is the same girl who looks out at us from that high school photograph, from that one standing by a swimming pool with me and my dad in the 1950’s…. I know that some day I might be in my mid-80’s, and that I will look out at the world puzzled because my legs don’t seem to work so well and because people are treating me funny.

I dunno. I guess I have to chew more on these thoughts….

Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
Current Music: John Stanley: Six Concertos in seven parts, op 2; The Parley of Instruments, Roy Goodman
Skylarkerskylarker on May 12th, 2003 08:45 am (UTC)
That's a coincidence. I was thinking about these very things recently. I commented to a friend about being the same person throughout life, and she said how she'd commit suicide if she thought she'd never change. I realized that we were thinking of identity in very different ways. There's something (Point of View?) that stays the same over time, but there are ways in which we grow and learn, and certainly our circumstances change. I visualized it this way: seeing a single life from a perspective outside the dimension of Time, in which the Lifetime is the verticle, and consciousness at any point in time is the horizontal bar of a cross. The horizontal illuminates the whole world at that point in time: the surrounding circumstances, relationships, and community. At any point on the vertical what is illuminated will be different in detail from any other point, but the vertical bar of the Lifetime can be seen as a complete whole at whatever point one may be along it.
Stephen Leighsleigh on May 12th, 2003 01:27 pm (UTC)
I think a lot depends on the viewpoint. To me, from inside the body, I'm the same person because I've experienced the continuity of my life. I can look back and see, yes, indeed I have changed somewhat, but I can also remember all the interconnections and alterations and accidents and willful change, and from that viewpoint it's all a coherent, smooth process.

To someone seeing me at ten year intervals... wow, I've changed! From the outside, that viewer has to make the leap from the Steve she remembers from a decade ago and who has inhabited her memory, unchanged, unti the instant she sees me again... and then all ten years of physical changes strike all at once.

The mental changes can take a little longer to perceive, but it's the same situation: are you inside or outside the changes?
Peter Hentgesjbru on May 12th, 2003 01:37 pm (UTC)
Having but brief thoughts on the idea, I think my perceptions are quite different than yours. I think back on the me as a child, the me as a teenager, the me as an early adult and the me as I am now and I can see some very different things about those people. I am no longer anywhere near as shy as I was as a child and teenager. I'm also not as irresponsible as I was as an early adult.

Where I see myself now is as, thankfully, the sum of most of the good parts of all those people. I have the playfulness of me as a child. I have the passion of me as a teenager. I have the drive of me as an early adult. I have the wisdome of my experiences at the age I am now. I don't have seminal events that mark the transitions and there are some things that have stayed with me across the boundries. (For example, I've felt about the age I am now for about 20 years.)
Haniahaniaw on May 15th, 2003 06:22 pm (UTC)
I don't really remember feeling like a "real" person until my early twenties. Obviously there was a "me" there before that, but I can't connect emotionally to who that was anymore. Most of my memories before age 20 are very abstract. I can recall that an event occurred but I don't really remember how it felt or what it was like as it happened to me. It's almost like I saw it on TV or read about it.

I remember having a really powerful moment of self-awareness when I was about 22. I finally felt like I knew who I was and that my life was real. It feels like the me that I found then is still the me that I am today. Obviously I have more knowledge and experience, but I still feel like exactly the same me. (What a convoluted train of thought!) Except of course for the creaky knee joints and other physical reminders that I ain't so young anymore.