There's a picture of myself that I've always liked.
(Boy, does that sound egotistical or what. But it's a picture from my childhood, not some badly lit, vaguely obscene Polaroid where I'm flexing my butt muscles or anything like that, so I should win some kind of extra-strength-humility brownie points, no?)
The photo crystallizes for some reason some essence of myself that would otherwise remain largely...elusive.
The year is 1983. I'm seven years old, relaxing on a lounge chair beside the pool at the Aladdin Inn in Daytona Beach, Florida. I'm a wearing a Pac-Man visor and intently reading the novelization of SUPERMAN III.
Am I still that kid?
I think so.
Or he's still me.
More or less.
How do we stay true to that seven year old that dwells within us?
Which begs the question: Scott, IS there, in fact, a seven year old version of ourselves dwelling within us?
Um, I don't know.
I'd like to think so. I'd like to hope so.
I don't know why. I guess it has to do with what I like to call 'the continuum of self'. (That's kinda sorta a lie. I don't really like to call it 'the continuum of the self', this idea, because I just made UP the idea, but if I ever DID like to call this idea something, that's what I would call it. So it's not that much of a lie after all. Whew.)
How much can we change our identity? How does our self change along with it? When we say: "Oh, yes, I know ______", what does that truly mean?
You may find this simply an intellectual exercise of splitting hairs, and it most certainly is that, but I think who we are, who we THINK we are, and who OTHERS think we are constitutes some of the fundamental, I don't know, STUFF of existence.
Are you the same person you were yesterday? No, of course not. You might have told your boyfriend to fuck off, or perhaps you lost your job. Something inside of you shifted. And so your own concept of 'self' shifted, too. ("That's not like me," you said.) We confuse ourselves when we do things that don't match up to our own and our peers' conceptions of our authentic being.
An interesting question to pose from lovely, scenic Cambodia, where Buddhism is the national religion, a religion that more less advocates, in its extreme forms, an eradication of the self altogether.
Most of the expats living and working over here are well are on their way to that eradication of the self, because many of them are out and out loonies. (Present company absolutely included.) More than a few are alcoholic, hedonistic drug-users who go completely, irrevocably off the freaking rails. Ten dollar prostitutes. Five dollar cocaine. After two weeks of this, you have either entered heaven or hell, depending on your morality. Whoever these 'fun' lovers were 'back home' doesn't apply to their current manifestation.
Which brings me back to my original point. (And if it doesn't exactly bring me back very logically or eloquently, well, too bad, it's my blog and I can go where I want to! And cry if I want to...)
I don't think the dudes over here who are snorting coke and injecting whatever it is they like to inject are thinking about their nine year old selves opinion of their current selves. Not that they should be. We change and evolve, and we can't hold on to childhood, or who we used to be.
DO we change? There's a great British documentary series by director Michael Apted that has traced a series of British school children over the past forty years. The first film was called 7-UP, the next 14 UP, the next 21 UP, etc. (I think 49 UP comes out next year.) Every seven years the camera crews come back into these people's lives, and we get to compare who they are to who they were. Revelatory, astonishing, frightening, marvellous stuff. Some people change every seven years completely and totally; others are visibly, unequivocally the same people they were at seven -- more or less.
Maybe that's the only way we can quantify how we age, by judging whether we are 'more' like we were at seven or 'less' like we were at seven. A matter of degrees, I suppose.
Could be useful. Occasionally, when we're questioning our judgement, our worth as a human, to think what our seven year old self would think of our current actions.
Then you'd have a choice: Either tell the seven year old to shut the hell up and go back to reading SUPERMAN III by the pool, or listen to his thoughts on the matter.
What you hear could be...transformative.
More or less.