Dentity


"Holding that question seemed worthy of me, but finding the answer, deadly."

Who am I? ranks near the top of the list of Fundamentally Unanswerable Questions (FUQs for the acronymic among us). Since FUQs remain presumed unanswerable, they pose a particular challenge. FUQs never prove to be Fundamentally Unaskable Questions, though, and we tend to ask with the same spirit that governs the old Seek And Ye Shall Find conundrum. Seeking without finding remains a common experience regardless of what the homilarians (people who promote the indiscriminate application of homilies) might insist. It simply does not follow that an answer exists simply because I can ask the prompting question. Part of maturity might include the growing ability to distinguish between FUQs and the fundamentally answerable ones.

Declaring a question fundamentally unanswerable does not render it unconsiderable, though.
Cyberneticist Heinz von Forester posited that FUQs are the only sort of question worthy of human consideration, for the fundamentally answerable ones might be shunted off to some machine for resolution. The difficulty arises when the humans fully worthy of considering a FUQ, mistake their responsibility to be definitively answering, deciding what the answer should or simply must be, declaring with unwarranted certainty that they know or are hot on the trail toward definitely answering. Equally troubling results emerge from the infinite search arising from the presumption that some definite answer certainly must exist out there somewhere and the frustration resulting from the inability to find that answer. Definitively answering a FUQ renders you a rube. Endless searching for THE answer can turn anyone into a fool.

Considering differs from definitively answering. It seeks insight rather than resolution, deeper understanding rather than simple, immutable knowledge. I suspect that the primary identity crises emerge within those who thought that they had definitively answered the Who am I? question only to stumble across some strongly disconfirming insight. The happily married man who catches himself weeping through a family holiday or the successful businessman suddenly ruined by some arbitrary change to trade policy. Every human exists as a bundle of contradictions which seem to resist finite distillation. I might convince myself that I am what I claim to be but my inherent contradictions inevitably, unavoidably, eventually stumble me.

We exist, the biologists insist, not as isolated islands of identity, but only in relation to what might just as well be an infinite array of supporting players. That loving husband requires some sort of wife who possess a mind of her own which sometimes seems to discourage whole-hearted love from any quarter. The successful businessman might need an amenable economy he has no control over. Who I am at any moment depends upon who and what those multitudes of bit players contribute to my being and not simply my own attitude. Those bit players seem essentially out of my control. But won't I float identity-less if I cannot crisply spout my thirty second elevator identity speech? Perhaps, but only perhaps. If you've bought into the delusion that you have decisively answered that FUQ, or, having not yet answered, are passionately pursuing the answer you presume to exist to be discovered, you might already be insisting upon the identity crisis you'd hoped to avoid. Considering doesn't require a definitive response. While considering might well encourage a search without end, that quest need not be frustrated by the inability to end the search. Ever deepening insight might well fuel a satisfyingly infinite search, albeit one never intending to definitively conclude. Maybe it is all about the journey.

I am largely invisible to myself except in brief glimpses, flashes of recognition separated by longer periods of mystification. I mostly have no clue who or what I am. Some days I seem to stand on top of the world and other days, smushed somewhere beneath it. Who am I this time? might serve as a somewhat less than FUQ, one that neither insists upon a permanent answer nor an end to the search. Who I might conclude that I am today need not encumber my need to conclude something different tomorrow. My identity swirls around me like a reassuring fog, fully capable of both confirming and disconfirming my former notions of myself as well as my aspirations about who I might one day become. I am here, now, not there/then or somewhere else/when. When I was there back then I thought differently about myself. I have no reason to believe that somewhere else/when won't likewise gift me with some fresh and similarly temporary identity. In my eulogy, mention the fact that I never figured out who I was. Holding that FUQ seemed worthy of me, but finding the answer, deadly.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved











blog comments powered by Disqus