The tension between the way we feel with the way others perceive us, is one of the most fundamental conflicts that every individual experiences. We are borne into this world, oblivious to judgement and immersed in a sea of sensation and exploration, only to be confronted more and more with the jarring awareness of self. This is, as I see it, the essence of the issue of identity. That, as we grow and are increasingly overlaid with words and ideas, we become conscious not only of ourselves, but of how others look upon that “self”. This can be as our gender identity, our work identity, family or societal roles, national identities, as animals, as inhabitants of Earth, in a spiritual context… but the thread beneath it all is the same: Who am I? What am I?
Of particular relevance to these questions in recent years, is the struggle for gender identity. Those not identifying with their biological gender, or with either gender, have found their voices increasingly recognised, with Canada amending their human rights act to include “gender identity or expression” as a prohibited ground of discrimination. But, as always, there is still a long way to go and understanding of the importance of the topic is still very poor in the majority.
Parallel to these developments, the notion of “the Self illusion” and the paradoxes present when our sense of self is submitted to closer examination, has begun to enter more mainstream dialogue in the West. The belief that our sense of being an isolated ego ‘placed’ in an external world is in fact merely a trick of perspective, has been central to much of Eastern philosophy for thousands of years, but in recent decades the cloud of spiritual mystery behind the idea is parting and the logic becoming more conceivable– for it is not so unreasonable to consider that, as Alan Watts put it, “we are simply the universe trying to look back on itself“.
For this destination, I’ll be inviting you to think about and provide your responses to questions like the following:
- What ‘are’ we really? Are we cosmic pilots operating bodies, or ghosts in the organic machines that are our brains?
- What is “The Self”? Where does ‘you’ begin, and ‘the world’ end?
- How useful are our identities? Are they more creative, or destructive? I.e., do they produce more angst than they’re worth?
- Does the act of labeling genders, sexualities, roles, etc., ultimately force individuals to identify when they otherwise might not? Where does or should it end?
- Is it possible (or necessary) to develop a healthier relationship with our own and others’ identities? What would the benefits be?
Whether this topic is particularly relevant to you, or you have the most perfectly simple opinion or perspective to share, The Rocket Surgery needs to hear it. The last 100+ years of philosophy have been heavily focused on trying to form a reasonable and reliable picture of what it means to be an individual in this life, of how to be authentic and how we ought to relate with our existence– every individual’s voice on this matter is invaluable, if we are to have any hope of forming a more universal and accessible understanding free from the mental comfort zones of class, history, society, race, sexuality, gender, species…
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: whether it’s a finger-painting of your true self, or a hundred page thesis on the nature of Being, please share it with us!
As a final note, I would very much like to make it clear that the topic of gender identity is a fairly new one for me, and that while I look forward to exploring it in more detail together, I ask your forgiveness if I “put my foot in it” in any way!
I have immense respect for very literally every atom and ideal on this planet and beyond, be it the Tellytubbies, fascist American klansmen, non-binary drag queen strippers, mosquitoes, grass, Jesus or Trump: everything is just doing whatever it can to exist as best it can. If I cause offense or reveal my ignorance at all during any sensitive discussions, please be patient and simply help educate me 😉
Looking forward to it as always!