We read a lot now about and are bombarded by news stories about “Identity Theft.” We hear about it as a modern phenomena and its usually associated with computers. When I hear this I chuckle.
We are not the first generation where the deeper questions of identity and life’s purpose have been pondered, but the old question has been exacerbated by the speed and mass confusion of modern societies.
There was once a farmer who had to go to market in a big city. Up until then he had managed to live all his life on his farm and in the small town he called home where everyone knew him and he knew everybody. Now he had to go to a city where he feared becoming lost.
He sought the advice of his city cousin and showed his naiveté when he asked, “I’ll probably stay in one of those big city inns where everyone sleeps in the same room. I will go to sleep knowing who I am, but wake up among all those strangers, and how will I know who I am?
His cousin who was prone to tease said, “When you are at the market, buy a banana and before you go to bed tie it to your toe with a piece of string so when you wake up you will know who you are.”
The farmer thought about it and then asked, “but what happens if somebody unties the banana and steals it while I’m sleeping. How will I know who I am?”
It’s a simple story of a simple farmer, but how many people do you know who depend on a banana — a degree, a certain home address, or prestigious title for proof that they are someone of value. If our identity in this world can become nothing but an appendage to be manipulated, adapted to outer circumstances, or stolen then we are in danger of losing it or having it stolen. Most advertising is based on the notion that people don’t know who they are inside. They need some product to have an identity.
A true identity must be grown from within; not attached by a string that is easily severed or lost. We must ripen from the seeds God planted in our soul at birth and sown within. We grow from the roots that are firmly connected to the tree at the center of all life – God. What is truly our identity is never an appendage or label placed by on us by society, but something that cannot be taken from us or be stolen away.
I loved this one, re identity. Our Sufi friends spend a lot of time considering identity. One model discussed is how we may hold a perception of the person we fear we are (of no value, stupid, etc.) and wrap that in a self-developed identity geared to protecting us from who we fear we are and from the world we perceive as dangerous to us. Some call the former our “Shadow” selves, and our teachers show us how to do shadow work to help release it, requiring an ongoing effort. The false self that we create for protection tends to isolate us from self-knowing, intimacy, and personal growth.
We humans tend to be so concerned with our imperfections, and yet we are all imperfect. It is through our imperfections that we grow and become more human…. But unfortunately, most of us grew up in families, worked in settings, and had friends that had (or we perceived they had) rules and expectations that only reinforced our fears of inadequacy. I fully agree with you that it is important that we do our own exploration to discover who we really are, and then to embrace that “identity” as truth to be further developed.