Bite Sized Philosophy: Large questions, small answers: after some failed attempts to get a concise and coherent article together on this topic, I decided to (best) portray it as it best reflects my identity: scattered, disjointed, all-over-the-place, and poorly edited
Identity is a slippery subject to try to describe, as new facets of who we are can continue to surprise us. You may sometimes find, to your chagrin/surprise, that you enjoy some movie your kid made you watch despite being vehemently opposed to rigid plastic toys. And in understanding the sharing of entertainment and the discussion of stories and our faithfulness to those stories, we are given examples of people who do good for reward, people who do bad for reward, and people who do good and bad because they just enjoy it. That’s a real motivational factor: it feels good sometimes to do bad. It feels bad sometimes to do good. It would be easy to say that the core of someone’s identity is the participatory relationship between the growing child and the culture in which their ideas about what it is to be such a person is most prominent. You can affirm identity through the acceptance of the cultural standards and beliefs and find what solace there is to be found in that, or alternatively, reject the standards around which your community or city has gathered to hold up as examples of what is good and what is bad.
A person’s character is defined by many things, but this is a bite sized article, so I’d say five factors (to be brief.)
1) What we want to be
The part of our identity defined by who we want to be is usually based on the idea that if we are as somebody else, whom we see loved and praised, that we too, being like them, will be similarly loved and praised. And by adapting to that, copping to that identity so to speak, you take on the role for the purpose of attainment, for the purpose of getting something for it all.
2) What we don’t want to be
When we see someone’s name being slandered, when we hear talk of a boy’s father never having spoken to him, we think that we wouldn’t want to be such a person, to be more warm and caring towards our family, to the extent we don’t become like those we learned to hate on our own or were intentionally groomed towards hating: we see the ideal of ridiculousness in many different societies and they differ: the ideal is presented as a means of advancement, be it financial or emotional, but the ideal of good is held as an example of what the rewards for such behavior will be. Respect, admiration, money, love or sex, some parts of who we are, the instincts towards these comforts is very real, and the idea of what we don’t want to be shapes our responses to these things.
3) What we are
What we are is an amalgamation of concepts we’ve adapted and tried to work towards one way or another, to one goal or another, what we are when we aren’t doing anything; but this, what we are upon our birth is a deal played by a cardholder whose deck we couldn’t shuffle, and I think that one should not form too rigidly around the reward-ideal, nor reject out of spite the traditions of one’s community and country in the rebellion of youth against the sculpting of the older and wiser when we feel the hands running across still drying stone. We want to have a say in who we are. Individuals are named, they get titles, and songs! We aspire toward this because we mistake admiration for love and appreciation for respect.
4) What other people think we are
This is ultimately the only definition of our character that can be considered (almost) free of self-bias and ideal-confirmation: surely, what others think of us is largely based around what ideals toward good or ill we aspire, but the opinions of other people are, I am sad to say, often beyond the meddling of our clumsy attempts to improve our image. But, as long as every day is a push up the hill, a little bit more of the climb, a little bit more of what makes you an individual is being defined. You’re defined by your choices, your actions more so than your beliefs, though they do play a part in action and reaction, you will be remembered —
5) How you will be remembered
This is the final block of character building in the traditional identity model, the id, the ego, and the super-ego (Son of Jahjel), and the idea of legacy is a great motivational factor in keeping me going. To get the daily grind going, to keep moving the rock up the hill, the idea that to be remembered fondly is a consolation, that to be appreciated is a validation, and to be loved, ultimately, or to be hated, push us towards sociopathic tendencies or altruism, selfishness or selflessness. I can’t speak for all people, as I am not all people (spoiler), but the greater motivational factors in my life have been more focused on long-term goals: the attainment of knowledge and understanding, to me, are worthy goals in and of themselves. Any pursuit with such goals, whether you fail or not, is worth the difficulty of its pursuit.
As I try to keep these articles under 500 words, and this piece is already pushing 900, I’m going to just say: identity is a difficult concept to concisely define, and to me, the most difficult question to answer broadly.