You Don’t Have To Be You All The Time
Being a citizen and a consumer all the time sucks. We’re social animals and being disconnected hurts
It’s striking how little you need to exist. Every day we slip in and out of multiple family, social, and cultural identities, but then reduce ourselves to a government ID. And yet if you examine a day, just one ordinary day, it’s striking how little you exist at all. Just look at me.
From the moment I wake up, I do not exist at all. I’m just a door-opening appendage for the dog, and the dog needs to pee. Lilly doesn’t know my name at all, I have no idea how she sees me. Am I a packet of smells, an occasional yell, a scratching machine?
I have no name to this dog at all, and this is how humans spent 99.999% of existence. Just because we started giving ourselves structured barks a few million years ago, suddenly that is reality? Who am I to say the Beagle’s inchoate perception is incorrect? I’m the one picking up her shit.
My next identity is a relationship. Appa! Are you awake Appa! I’m up, putha, give me a minute, let me brush my teeth. Then the kids are banging on the bathroom door again, to tell me some dumb shit which they must tell me, because I am just an extension of their identity. They still don’t get the sense that what’s important to them might not be important to me. But again, who am I to assert perceptual hegemony? I’m the one still washing their butts.
Adults are supposed to be kings of the world, the fully-formed avatar of individual identity. In my experience, however, it’s just a lot of janitor duty. I don’t feel like I’m the king of shit, unless you mean literally.
Most of the day and, indeed, most of existence is like this. We are relationships. We are husbands, parents, coworkers, comrades, enemies. We are defined by other people, defined with other people, and yet we cling to one identity.
Since the Buddha people have been telling us this is illusion, that it just leads to suffering, but it sure feels real, especially under Capitalism. Capitalism requires (and thus creates) proof of this singular identity. And that somehow overpowers the evidence of our everyday lives. We think that we are our bank accounts, our…