Personae and anonymity

Those of you who have never met me could find me easily if you wanted. My name, my address, my phone number, and where I hang out when not at home are easily available. I have not made a habit of giving my full name, address, or home phone number, but I do not fool myself that I am remaining anonymous by doing so. You can find them all via the information I have supplied on my blog.

Keeping one’s identity anonymous while keeping a blog seems a burdensome chore. If nothing else, it incites the curious to discover more about you than you would wish, and have them make it more public too. I cannot imagine that after three years the readers of this blog have not framed a picture of me whether flattering or not. Heck, I even posted my picture once without explicitly saying it was me. Anyone viewing it must have guessed it me from my descriptions of myself.

What might elude the curious are my personae, personae necessarily created from the act of writing. That leaves open the question, ‘who are you?’: one of the best questions of all time. This morning, I am the man with writer’s block who reads Plato’s Meno, which was open on the table by the computer when I woke, the man drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, and the one who thinks about personae and anonymity and their relations.

We are by nature strangers or anonymous to ourselves. Writing is often a selfish indulgence in which we engage to discover ourselves or learn as much about our various personae as possible. The exercise runs the gamut between whining and complaining to profound introspection whose results might be applied universally to all of us.

I have a feeling, and it is only a feeling, the readers of this blog know me better than those who encounter me regularly in person. For instance, I do not know anyone who would sit still and listen to these things if I spoke them in conversation rather than wrote them. Part of that is my own doing, for I belong to a bar culture and society. I am not putting that culture down, but it is more amenable to emotion and assertions without accompanying argument. Of course, one shares books, the latest opinion of the theatre one has seen, political views, and the vicissitudes of love in that culture. But that is not this.

Each day, when we are free and at our leisure, we adopt a persona not forced upon us by daily chores and commitments. Today, my persona, or the one I fool myself into thinking I am, is the man reading Plato with my notebook and pen ready to write down the odd observation or most likely question. I cannot say what my persona will be tomorrow. That leads to just how free I really am. But I am not going anywhere with that question now.

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Published in: on October 2, 2007 at 10:12 am  Comments (2)  

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  1. Yes, Lynn, I probably know you better than most other people, or at least I know the “I” (of your many “Is”) that emerges in your writings here.

    This whole question of individuation is fascinating – now that we have moved beyond the idea of a fixed identity. We ought to view the individual ontogenetically, as an ongoing process of individuating itself, as an individual constantly individualizing itself, yet this requires us
    to reject any account of individuation that focuses on the individual alone, in isolation rather we must view the individual as individuating or becoming within a mileux. That is, an individual must be thought as both
    emerging from a mileux and acting in a mileux.

    So individuation isn’t a result, but an ongoing process whereby the individual perpetually constitutes itself as an individual out of a pre-individual field of singularities or potentialities. An individual is a process, a becoming. What, then, is the process through which these potentialities come to be actualized?

    Some have argued that this process takes place through a resolution of tensions, incompatabilities, and inequalities seeking equilibrium pertaining to the system of potentialities inhabiting the system.

    And yet, why do we cling to the concept of a fixed identity. Is it language that fools us again, or is it simply a result of fear of change, chaos, confusion or whatever?

    More than anything, I (oh, yeah, the personal pronoun!) tend to define the “I” as habit = comforting, predictable, but basically meaningless.

  2. Our bodies ground the idea of a fixed identity. In that sense we share notions about identity with other mammals, or at least it seems. It is difficult for me to talk about identity unless it is in physical terms. The concept of identity appears as a group of metaphors constructed from the mental maps we have of our bodies.

    How we might escape these metaphors, a rather natural way of thinking about identity, is an interesting question. The soul is a body might be the primary metaphor.

    Since we are creative beings, always fabricating new metaphors, that would be part of the process of forming new personae.


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