On Needing to Identify Ourselves

Dear quarter lives, 

Everything, every interaction we have, almost always begins with us introducing ourselves. And so, it becomes engrained within us, that whenever we go out into the world, even just outside of ourselves within our own families, we must differentiate ourselves, we must be us and they them. I am me, and she is her. So we have boundaries and things that separate us from one another, like names, like appearance, voice, and many many other things amongst which are our beliefs, our religion, our lifestyle, our movement practices, our career choices, our views on money, politics, the economy, the environment, our views on love. And so it happens to be that in order to really be able to identify ourselves, we must be able to differentiate ourselves. And the better we can separate ourselves from the world, the better we can identify ourselves. But like all that exists in life, balance is key and even things like identification can go so far as to isolate us. Because to have community and to build connections, we must share some commonalities, be they our language, our history, religion, beliefs, shared tv shows, a shared sense of humour, all these are things that bring us closer to one another. And just as it is important to separate ourselves within even our own families, it is important too to find that which connects us and binds us to them. And so it is with our friends and our communities.

And so there appears to be a fine line we must carefully walk between our need for identification and our desire for connection because both tug at us in opposite directions; one requires of us to distance ourself from the world and the other requires us to lose ourself in it. Neither extreme is healthy. On one side too much identification can cause us to feel a deep sense of loneliness, as though we are alone in our existence, as though we are living our own reality far, very far away from everyone else. And this isolation, this loneliness, can come because we feel we are so different, so identified, so unlike everyone else, that there is no space for us in the world with “everyone else”. Because in our minds “everyone else” is the same and we are— different. 

Now let’t talk about what happens on the other end of the spectrum, on the end where one has forfeited completely their desire to separate and just meshed themselves completely with their surroundings. These individuals who let go of their own identity become part of a larger collective. And to belong to this collective, whether it is a family unit or a political faction or a football fan club, one must check themselves out as a separate individual with separate wants to enter into those spaces. And ironically for the collective to exist, it must identify and separate itself from other collectives. And so it becomes, that in a community setting too, we must still adopt an identity, but it’s not an individual identity that belongs to a single individual, it belongs to everyone who is part of the group. In the community, the individual identity must dissolve so that the group identity can emerge.

 Let us zoom out for a moment, and consider the whole world, the whole earth, as one unified large community. Let us consider ourselves for a moment gone. And let us then consider ourselves here as Gaia, as Mother Earth herself. Let us for a moment create this space within us for sharing. Sharing ourselves with our home. Sharing ourselves with our fellow living beings, and sharing ourselves too with all the beings that have ever lived and died, all the beings whose remains made our lives possible, let us share ourselves. Let us share ourselves some more. And now that you’ve shared and shared, even though for a “good cause”, it is for our collective “HOME” after all. But how do you feel? Do you feel depleted? Or do you feel energized? Do you feel like you need to speak and hear your own voice, just to make sure “YOU”, the separate You is still here. Or do you feel relieved that you no longer have to worry about your own worries and instead can carry the burdens of the whole. Do you feel sad for all the losses our Great Mother has endured? Or do you feel numb, unable to allow yourself to share in the pain, because you know you will get lost? Whatever your answers were, they will have said something about how comfortable you feel letting go of yourself and sharing or the opposite how hard it is to let go of yourself and instead find comfort in clinging tightly onto yourself. There is no right or wrong. But there is always a tendency we have. And we all spend our lives finding our balance, going through periods that literally pull any identifiable floor from underneath us, and so it is important to know which way you are inclined to move in a crisis so as to be mindful not to steer too much over into one extreme over the other. 

I, myself, know that I seek identification when in a crisis. I want to immediately know who I am, where I am relative to everyone else. In a crisis, I know if I’m not mindful, I will isolate myself. I will retreat. When I feel lost, the way I know how to find myself again is by separating myself and constantly identifying myself relative to the world. Others when lost will only know how to identify themselves through the crowd. They will reach out, they will connect and they find comfort in others. Again, there is no right. What I try to practice now away from right and wrong is more of a conscious balancing, and that means if I’m used to dealing with something a certain way, I’m open to trying to deal with it differently. I’m open to for example finding myself through community and connection instead of identification. I am open. And this opening can be for a moment, it can be for a whole day, or perhaps it can be my new way of being, who knows. Perhaps if I can reassure my mind that it is in no danger by merging with a collective for a bit, perhaps if my mind is quiet, I will find that this is what my body has been calling for this entire time. And it is true in a sense, our bodily desires all ask us to merge with the world. Our bodies hunger for food and sex, and thirst for water and love, so perhaps this identification-connection dynamic is one whose balance requires us to harmonise the relationship between our minds and bodies. Each must surrender leadership and vow to work together and lose themselves for the good of the whole human — for the good of YOU! 

May we all find ourselves, alone and together. May we all hear our own voices as we take part in the collective SONG. 

With love and always for peace, 

Shahinda Abdalla 

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