Who am I?

Don’t define me by my gender. Don’t define me by my age…my sexual orientation…my religion…my work…hang on, hang on, where is this taking me?

When we identify ourselves with a particular group, we are then identified with their views and outlooks. Which means that even if we hold some opinions that differ from the mainstream of that group, others will still assume that our views are the same as that mainstream.

This may mean that outsiders think we hold views that they are bound to disagree with, because of their perception of that group, whilst members within the group will often expect us to hold the same views as they do. Thus, we risk being shunned by those outside the group for views that we might not hold, or being regarded as heretical by members of that group who suspect that we do not hold these views as firmly as they would like.

Oh my goodness.

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We might like to think that we are freethinkers, but as soon as we allow a label to be attached to us, we begin to voluntarily put boundaries on our own thoughts.

Don’t label me!

Don’t label me!

Don’t…

label…

me!

In Steppenwolf, by Hermann Hesse, the narrator comes to realise that his character is not simply that of an educated, cultured man, which is how he has always thought of himself, but is made up also of hundreds or even thousands of other personas; the wild and bloodthirsty wolf of the steppes, that gives the book its title, the philanderer, the ascetic, the drunkard, the heretic, the hero and the coward, each one, to a greater or lesser degree, is a component of his nature, and he has to learn to accept all of these different parts of what he is if he is to become a complete person.

The trick to life is learning to accept that we are complex creatures, so much more than just a label, and to be kind to all of our many selves.

The only label, therefore, that I should allow to be attached to me, simply says ‘Me’.

Created Worlds

When we are reading a good book, we inhabit the created world of that book. Be it Edwardian drawing room murder mystery, an entirely imaginary science fiction world, a foreign country or a distant time, the well-written book draws us effortlessly into that world. Even when we have finished that book, it lingers in the mind and retains the power to draw us back into that world.

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We may yearn for worlds that we shall never visit, or times that we will never experience, but reading a good book gives us the closest experience to this that we may ever have. Fancy the dangerous world of the secret agent? Then immerse yourself in a James Bond novel and live that life. And all without the danger of taking a bullet when your guard is down! Wish that you could enjoy the refinement of the nineteenth century upper classes, with balls and dances, romance and country walks? Jane Austen is the girl for you. Middle Earth; there must be thousands of people who secretly inhabit Middle Earth (beware of the conman selling holidays in Mordor though! Sorry, that’s an in-joke. See my previous post if you want to know more). And how many people close their eyes and pilot a rocket to an alien planet? Lots of us are waiting for ‘Space Tourism’ to become a reality, yet novels have been offering that experience for almost a hundred years.

Films can also do this, of course, but because we read at our own pace, and rely more strongly on our imagination, I feel that books can do the job better.

And for the writer, it is all this and much more. Whilst he or she is creating, editing, researching and planning their book, they begin to breathe, eat, sleep and dream that world. Truly, books are the poor man’s World Tour, or passport to danger or the High Life.

The joy of creating the world that one would like to inhabit, or perhaps even the one that one fears, is one that money cannot buy, but costs the writer nothing.

We can kill off our enemies, discover new worlds, create amazing societies or have an affair with the most exciting partner.

We are a lucky bunch of so and so’s.