There was a temptation for me to start this essay off with something like ‘what is identity?’ A cheesy, corny passage to come off as some sort of philosophically gifted student of life. Although, the truth is, none of us is qualified to understand the fundamental metrics of life’s true quantum. Even though many of us act as though we know it all.
Philosophers and great thinkers ponder the idea. Treading a thin line between what it means to be, egocentrically channelling a command to convey to their audience that they have all the answers without disclaimers.
Identity is like a stress ball that, although malleable, retains its form. Some of us maze paths in teenagerhood and young adulthood between cultures and tribes bending to find our way and identity. And by venturing into the vacuums of tribality, we are merely stammering into a world we feel we are a part of, much of this true through the habit of being influenced through listening and observing and becoming.
Much of this belonging can be put down to a few things. One is that we fear loneliness and divide from other humans. So much so, modern and ancient peoples adopted animals into their lives, not only to perform tasks such as hunting and to keep watch but for companionship and love. What came first? Nobody knows. But to allow animals into our lives is an act of companionship. These are the depths we humans are willing to traverse, that we adopt alien species into our tribes in order to find acceptance and harmony.
Identity has evolved many times. From scent to clothing, flags, housing, food and now electronics to some degree can categorise people into certain tribes.
State-controlled religion, in the sense that probing outside the norms of internationally accepted parameters, has moulded a number of people into an identity woven community. Whereas, in my opinion, religious text remains and should remain the same, but an understanding of scriptural definition should continue to evolve. Not to change it or fit national, patriotic narratives of society, or societal laws, but until the correct and right conclusion of its definition is satisfiable with evidential support. This must happen without cultural and ethnological interjections which can skew understanding of true definitions.
We are often temporarily lost in the idea of what identity means, sometimes feeling indifferent within our circle of friends and family. This is because individuality can be manipulated by deviational influences such as pop culture and political ideals altering our state of consciousness and belonging over time.
What it says in your passport or the boxes we tick on ethnic diversity surveys are now optimised to make us think of who we really are. Even if ethnicity were not considered before, adulthood’s relentless probing of origin through governmental administrative checks can prompt us to feel irregular.
Formal documents can feel as though they are pigeon-holing us into a versus state and can depend on how you look at it. No matter the colour of your skin, you will have an identity and background, underlined even more, if like me, your skin colour is not white.
The complexity of identity is so, that we talk about it so much, but lack answers. But, I feel, this is because the thread of its dominion lies in the fact we share much of the same ancestry, history and DNA. So much so, that humans are vertebrates which means we are either closely or distantly related to most other creatures with a spine.
We can ponder the mysteries of life, our identity and form close bonds with others who share the same. But to engage fully with life in the meantime opens a support system with other people who are as diverse as the rest of us. Many are unaware like the rest of us.
Maybe there need not be an answer to what and why identity is so or is. Identity simply is something that exists out of the ether. Intangible and melodious. The spirit of community togetherness and cohesion that builds family and friendships. Asking ‘why?’ might be better than the answer. Because its mystery bonds us all through journeys and stories that came from them and their discoveries.