So many of us believe our identity is formed by what we love.
But what do we mean by “identity?”
What do we mean when we ask “Who am I?” Most of us are referring to our personalities – what we love, what we like, whether we’re introverted or extroverted. And we become passionate about these things because our culture tells us they are vital to who we are.
Sure, we all have personalities, quirks and preferences. But I don’t think those are intrinsic.
So much of our personalities and preferences are learned behaviors that can be unlearned. They are important, but when I talk of identity, I want something concrete – beyond “who am I?” and moving toward “what am I?”
Our culture is humanistic in orientation. We default to humanism in a lot of our thoughts without realizing it because we’ve been saturated with it our entire lives.
Humanism assumes a kind of atheism and, without burdening atheism with a moral judgment, there’s an inescapable logical result when you take it down to its philosophical foundations.
If there is no god(s) and naturalism is right, then the only thing preventing us from doing whatever we want whenever we want are societies, and if you don’t give a fig what other people think about you or what the repercussions are to what you do, then there is nothing to stop you from flaunting society’s conventions.
It’s a deep rabbit hole, but if there is only naturalism, then morality is only a social convention we’ve all implicitly agreed to.
There is nothing inherently “wrong” or “good” about anything; we’ve just all come to a consensus that some things are good and other things are bad.
And in our individualistic age, who is to say that society has anything right?
Most of us seem to rely on majority public opinion on any given topic, but we see people screw things up all the time – so what if the lemmings all say one thing? Who says they know what they’re talking about?
Nietzsche was right – triumph belongs to those who have the will to seize it, to bend the world toward their desires. The Sith have their revenge.
A common response to this kind of thinking is, “Dude, don’t be an a-hole.” But, seriously – if naturalism is true, this isn’t thinking like an “a-hole;” it’s thinking like a winner. Like someone who is freed from the chains of convention and realizes life is what he or she makes it.
This is only thinking like an a-hole if naturalism is false; you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.
This is why you see so many people with identity crises – we don’t know who the heck we are because subconsciously we think humanity is just another animal who happened upon the universe, so, our “identity” is whatever we want to make it. A lot of us wake up one day thinking, “Wait, what am I doing? My life is about an office job, an unhappy marriage, ungrateful kids, and debt? Nah…I choose, uh…..this [insert idol here].”
Like it or not, we all worship something because we all look for something for our life to be about – our identity.
And when culture tells us our life is about “me” and whatever I want it to be about because there is no greater meaning other than whatever it is I want, then suddenly my opinions and preferences become so much more than opinions and preferences – suddenly I’m heavily invested in them because these are mine, and that’s all I have.
This must be who I am, this must by my identity, how dare you question it?
There is, however, an alternative.
Perhaps our identity as humans is found by realizing we are here for a purpose; that there is more to the universe than meets the empirical eye.
If we believe that we have a purpose, suddenly all sorts of things stop having a death-grip on our self-conceptions.
Suddenly I don’t identify myself by my race, my gender, my sexuality, my opinions, my preferences, my personality, because I realize they aren’t who I am (maybe the world becomes a little less polarized? God, we could only hope).
They aren’t my identity, because my identity is only wrapped up in what I was created to be, and maybe – since we are all human – in some sort of important way, we all have the same basic identity.