For this post I am drawing on a few ideas I wrote about in Defining Identity, Flexibly Part I. (In which I talked about the difference between permanent and impermanent identities, and also the difference between national and galactic identities. I was going through a time where I was very interested in understanding how different national identities influences the politics and ethos of different regions of the united states, so most of my time was spent explaining that, and applying it as a metaphor for inner thoughts and beliefs.)
This leads me to question to what extent we are a result of our surroundings and to what extent we control our conscious evolution.
I was given the rare opportunity to be born on the east coast, the son of two New Yorkers and then, when I was 10, relocating with my family to Memphis, TN. I specifically remember the day when my first buddy down here convinced me to wear my hair down and stop slicking it back the Sicilian way that my grandfather had taught me. After that I played a long game of trying to fit into Southern culture. I found music, which was quite liberating given the nature of the open-minded people who frequented the local jam-band scene.
But when I really wanted to follow my natural creative tendencies, I hit resistance. My band mates kept wanting to play the more traditional Southern rock tunes that I never really resonated with. At the time I also heard Dubstep for the first time, and wanted to incorporate more electronic elements into our music, but my band mates resisted. I spent many, many years clinging to the idea that I could change them somehow, when really I was simply too frightened to let go of a creative relationship that no longer served me.
I remember back in 2010 I was coming back from a gig with Mojo Possum (one of my “possum” bands: the other was called “Copper Possum”). It must have been past three in the morning; so I was playing in bars til past three and getting up for school the next morning – looking back I let myself indulge this poor self-care routine because I thought it was cool to “burn the candles at both ends”. This was at a time when I knew that I had stopped enjoying playing in Mojo Possum, yet I was clinging onto our weekly thursday gig at Newby’s because I didn’t know of another way to make money. Earlier that week I had found a walking stick that terminated in a “Y” shape and leant it up against the side of my rental apartment; I thought it looked cool and intuitively felt like it was spiritually significant somehow. When i arrived at my house, lo and behold, situated squarely between the two branches of the “Y” was a large American Opossum aka “Possum”. This was no ordinary Possum though; most Possums will hiss and defend themselves if approached. No, this one just hung out there, looking around like a buddhist monk, seemingly content to hang out on the stick. When I approached it, though, I could see that it was very sick. I stood there with the Possum for a while, wishing that I didn’t have to experience such an obvious sign from the universe that my time with Mojo Possum was coming to an end.
Permanent vs Impermanent Identities.
My time as a blues musician is what i consider an impermanent identity, but I can still play the blues. My time as a student was an impermanent identity, yet i still retain a good amount of the information that I absorbed in that time. The only permanence that I feel like I experience in this case is the permanence of being myself as a changing and evolving being – which, paradoxically needs to include what I’ve learned from previous identities.
It’s almost that, in order to get the lessons from an impermanent identity, we need to pretend like it is permanent in order to let it sink in. We must fully commit to playing that part, like an actor in a movie. In order to play the part well, we need to be convincing. By the way, only choose parts that you are interested in and that you know you can do well. Sometimes it can be hard to see for sure which one that will be, but trust your gut – trust your intuition. You can do it! You can make the right choices for you! But when it becomes time to let it go, don’t cling to it. Just get the lessons and move on.
Nature Vs. Self Nurture in Identity
I use the term “self-nurture” to imply that as a conscious adult one has the ability to nurture oneself (not implying only self-care, but also consciously seeking out the nurturing of others in a self-directed kind of way). Our nature, one could say, is our roots and learned programming. Most people go through their entire lives without questioning who they are, or why they do the things they do. Behavior is learned, and so many want to take advantage of that process through self-directed learning.
I would put forth the idea that by combining nature AND self nurture, we can be a more complete human being: ourselves.
Here’s the gist of it: until you take control of your life, of your growth, of your habits, then you will be operating based on your conditioning: whether it be familial, societal, or something else. You will grow up thinking that you are just a cog in a machine that wants you to do something. True, there will be many ideas and paradigms imposed upon you. You have the choice to accept or reject these paradigms, but most, especially as children, decide to accept it. Where growth stops is when, as a conscious adult, we choose to continue to blindly accept the story that is imposed upon us. It can be a conscious choice, in which case I totally respect the choice of that individual. It just saddens me to see people give up their divine creative gifts to become what society, or family wants them to be.
Here’s a wake up call: YOU have the power to make a choice and start living life more consciously. Grow. Educate yourself. Improve your skills, happiness, and awareness. Surround yourself not just with positive people, but with people that are real with you and, when asked, can tell you what they see, both positive and negative. It can be hard once you start questioning things that you may have built dreams upon – such as a car, house, a spouse, and a couple kids maybe. You can still have those things if that’s what you really want, but let it be your well-informed choice, not just a default.
I think that many people, myself included, have fallen into the trap of thinking “Oh, here’s what society/my parents/my culture wants me to be, so I’ll be that.” and then wonder why they feel unfulfilled. Again, I’m not speaking to the people who have found fulfillment in following these paths – I am speaking to those who feel like there’s something more that they are missing. And what is it that is missing from the equation? YOU are! You, as a fully realized human being, resplendent in your full potential. YOU, as a spirit in a body, creating a unique signature in all that you do. YOU, living happily, taking responsibility for your life, and realizing your dreams.
So where do you start? You have to want it. You have to realize that, in order to grow and develop yourself – your soul – you will have to stand up for who you are. Stop surrounding yourself with people who hammer you into something smaller than you are. Stop agreeing to someone else’s dream for you, if that’s not what you want.
If you’ll join me in this journey of self-discovery, I can help you to deal with the consequences – which is a greater self-understanding, and taking more responsibility for every aspect of your life. Complaining only helps in that it helps us to identify the parts of our lives that we need to be taking more responsibility for. This isn’t just a short-term goal or mission – although it can include short term goals. I’m in it for the long game. I’m in it for the self-enrichment with ideas, knowledge, understanding, so that I can cultivate my soul and create myself as a divine being here on earth.
What are the tools, what are the rules of this game? Essentially, if it works, it is true, and the rules are that you must be in integrity with all life. I wish I could more clearly define the “rules”; maybe that’s another post for another time! But suffice it to say that most spiritual practices agree on a few different aspects of what divinity is – it’s likely that the “rules” (or guidelines 😉 ) that span cultural and continental divides are the ones that will take guide you to your true self.
As always, efficacy is the measure of truth.