My name's Dave. I'm working on it.

Monday, April 16, 2007

How Am I Not Myself?

I subscribe to the notion that we do not have one self, but myriad selves. Ignoring for the moment the simple truth that we are always changing, moment to moment (whether we grow or regress is yet another discussion), it is clear that we become different people constantly, dependent on our surroundings. You go in to work, and you are one person. You go out for drinks with friends, and you are another. Home for the holidays, another. The associations, antecedents and consequences of our experiences change us in ways so subtle and effortless we can hardly imagine them, and it happens in a heartbeat.
As a former theater geek and (aspiring) writer, it appeals to me to experiment with acting out different characters/versions of myself. I give in to my eccentricities and switch in and out of roles constantly, observing what I am capable of when I let go of my predominant ideas of myself.
Beyond the whimsical play-acting, I've noticed a few recurring characters that have become the primary players in the past months. It's gotten to the point where I can feel myself slipping into them almost at once. Sometimes I am military Dave, all business. Sometimes I am the devil's advocate. Sometimes I am a kind man. Sometimes I am not. I almost feel inclined to explain this to people lest they get the wrong impression: no, no, don't take offense; I am simply cold Dave at the moment. Warm, friendly Dave is elsewhere.
The more aware I am of each character, the better I can play to each one's strength. Each one has a particular skill or use; a particular set of circumstances that they thrive in, where other parts of myself would crumble. I'm at the point where I can occasionally summon them up; more often the change is brought on by external factors. But imagine being able to command them precisely, effortlessly! To deploy them as you would a team of specialists. But this begs the question: if each is a facet of the whole, is there some presiding 'higher mind' that serves to guide the overall process and/or keep the whole damn thing in check? To keep the characters from fighting amongst each other? I feel there is. What is it? I have no good answer.
I have read that contradictions cannot exist by the nature and essence of existence. That when contradictions appear, it is because one of our underlying assumptions about the nature of things is wrong. I agree with this in a sense; certainly you can pin a man to his character, and the better you know him the more easily you can tell when he goes against it (in books more than real life, perhaps). But is it really a contradiction? Man seems to be the exception to the rule in the natural world: we are machines, but our humanity is displayed when we deviate from reason and consistency. We are animals, but it is our acting against nature that sets us apart from the rest. The fact that is within us to set our own parameters and realities is a marvelous realization. As if we were each a robot constantly redesigning itself; refining its OS to better serve its ever-changing motives and needs. We discard what was once useful, and learn new methods for new situations. I find this a most liberating thought.
Walt Whitman wrote: "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes."
Yes. Multitudes. So where is the contradiction?

Sophe Lux - Marie Antoinette Robot 2073 (A Rock Opera)
Thom Yorke - Analyse