Le paradis n'est pas artificiel …

July 31, 2004

Some Esoterica on a Monocultural Identity

Some time has passed since I've written here; indeed, some time has passed since I have written at all. When it's been this long, I become cynical about the idea of writing; the drive to do so is primarily existential anyway, for I am not one of those lucky writers who thinks they've been born with a high purpose or gift to humanity. I need for my writing to be relevant to both the world and to my life, and at overwhelmingly busy times, poetics are vaguely offensive to the practical side of me, which must take charge.

For life upon return to Vancouver was at first a burst of business, the effects of which were aggravated by the wear of a combined fourteen days on the road in a month and a half. Blaine and I raced around for a week without the time to rest or pace ourselves, and then suddenly it was four a.m. Friday, and Blaine was stumbling out to a cab, headed to the airport and New York.

On the same day the upstairs family moved back to England. It was hot outside. There was an unpredictably unnerving quiet. And in that silence I confronted a new sense of irrelevance to the world, of my social nonexistence.

I have just been untethered from seventeen years in a school system that centrally defined my outward identity. For most of that time I was able to maintain both a feeling and a business of being a more complicated and socially relevant individual, through activism, active writing, etceteras. But when a ludicrous series of complications struck like lightning thrice over the past three years, I became overwhelmed by the demand for a practical and obsessive focus. It was then that I became definitively a Student, and other expressions of my social person fell away like the tail from a frightened lizard.

By the end I was often doing more than a full course load, and struggling a lot with the institutional side of things. I was busy and engaged at university — if not intellectually, then socially. The exaggerated task of getting out alive became foremost on my mind — the writer in me needed a snorkel to keep her head above total disdain — and I wore that desperation/determination fully. I walked around as a Student and only a Student and, unfortunately, though I resented that monocultural identity, that's exactly what I had become.

It is only now that the monoculture of this identity has fruited and been harvested, that its importance to me is exposed. I relied on it. It was always both something and nothing to me because although I knew that I was not really just a shiny apple Student, I still relied on that social skin to walk around in, to make myself seem relevant in the places I walked.

It's funny to think that the throngs of other city dwellers can see me as much as a student today as they ever did. My feeling of an apparent business was of course but an empyreal emperor's cloak; I would have known that then as well as now if I'd had any damned time to think. I was ignoring it in order to function.

For institutional identities, however consumptive, are not real social identities at all; we just engage in them as such, though they are merely preoccupations, somas, excuses. They are the business of nothing real. The real questions that remain are of which identities are genuine at all, and which of these are strong and capable enough to be foremost in our lives, and to allow authentic and relevant social people to persist. It's terrifying that many (most?) young graduates' responses to leaving behind the Student is to become the Career Person or some variant of such. The institution very often takes all; people's ingenuity and idealisms disappear. While I was the Student I uselessly resented doing and being nothing else, but now I feel the strong desire to not only build something real and relevant of myself, for both my community and myself, but also to awaken in other people their own drive for personal reinvention with integrity.

At this point I ran out to see the fireworks. Incidentally, Sweden kicked China's butt — lots of gushing champagne-works; well choreographed puffs, squiggles and starbursts; surprising colours; and a finalé shamelessly reliant on those-ones-shaped-like-saturn.

I promise not to enter into esoterical rants all that much more often, and welcome any distraction anyone can offer from thought.

Posted by Delire at July 31, 2004 10:03 PM
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