Re-write the statement above in 9 words or less.
(Want more challenge? There is a popular three-word version, as well as an effective two-word version I received when I gave this challenge to one of my classes.)
Dictionary re-definition is part and parcel to the long-term re-definition of a thing. Unfortunately, as moving human subjectivities, we're rare to find in the dictionary. Our own definition, then, relies on our perceptions and our assumed perceptions from others.
This definition is a core part of our world because it is the central strand to the personal narrative; the self is the story we tell through our existence, and the narrative to which all our experience and memory must adhere.
To re-define oneself is not to abandon the old self but to subjugate it to a new one. This is primarily seen in the way we change our storytelling. The self is not merely a subjective being (because even saying that subjectivity exists in a fundamental way is dicey). It's the
So, "putting on a new mask" is useless if we believe it to be a mask. However, a label or identifier is not a fake thing – it is a created, imagined thing that is nonetheless very real. Your analogy of painting our own portraits certainly hits closer to the mark of my philosophy: we alter and shape, add, remove, recolor, and sometimes completely change the perceived image.
But a "new," or alternate identity (as I understand you're asking), isn't a tangent on the primary self. It become an integrated element of who we are – a sector of being we can refer to and play in tandem with the rest of our being.
A self-reliant re-identification can be part of re-definition (changing the essential way we view ourselves and the core strands of our narrative). However, self-reliant re-definition – often the motivator for that re-identification – is, I believe, impossible. We must always rely on external means; we are walled in by our current definitions, and thus may be unable to break from our core self-perceptions on our own.
Yes, the extrinsic sources are certainly very risky and unstable. The reason it wasn't well explained is that, in large part, it's the question I was asking.
After giving it further thought, I would suggest that intertrinsic redemption may be the ideal. By working to intentionally change our own perceptions toward a directed course, but do so in a way that seeks to receive the perception from external sources, we can gain more stability in the re-definition while evading the bias. An example may be a person who wants to believe they are generous, and so begins giving – at first with disbelief, but seeking to hear confirmation of their generosity, to witness an allegedly objective reality wherein they fit cultural definitions of generosity, and understand the sensations of such acts. In time, they may be generous due to their own self-definition, but to move to that place they require the external confirmation.
Let's gaze back into the etymological origins of the word "redeem."
To deem again. Deem from the word doom, meaning to judge or form an opinion. Doom from domaz, meaning a judgment or decree. Domaz from dhe, the Proto-Indo-European term for setting, placing, or defining.
A redemption is a re-definition, an opportunity to set or place one's self differently. The Christian redemption is not a new form of redemption, but a new path to re-identification. Christianity provides a mythology (meaning the strictest literal definition: a story) by which that redemption can be achieved, and in that mythos the individual is able to transcend their being – as defined by their past – through the assistance of a being beyond normal human power.
That this being loves all humankind is not merely complimentary to this end: It is mandatory. As humans, our identity is tied to a past that's often filled with guilt, self-loathing, pain, sorrow, and failure. As we take on what may be our greatest human objective and challenge – that of conceptualizing the self – these negative states of being will invariably interfere with our potential to view ourselves in a positive light and even our ability to love ourselves.
It is our memories that establish our background, but the memories are subsidiary to our identity: The string that binds who we are is found in our name (that which we conceptualize as self), not in our past. Our names, and all that we tie to that identity, become the fiction to which our memory and experience must conform. Thus, the tradition of being "born again," or "taking on the name of Christ," atonement (meaning to become one), of losing yourself to find yourself, or of baptism (from the term baptein, meaning "to dye or color"), are symbolic acts wherein we can alter our fundamental identity: We re-define our names through the external name of a merciful and loving yet all-knowing judge.
Christianity certainly doesn't have a monopoly on re-naming. In Buddhism and Hinduism, there is a tradition of taking on a new name during initiation. Mormonism (a Christian yet distinctly non-traditional faith) gives a new name to individuals during their temple ceremonies. Jews take on a patronymic Hebrew name for religious ceremony. In all of these cases, the name chosen is a reference to an established identity which symbolizes specific values (e.g., the name of a patron saint, a sanskrit word, or a reference to a religious story).
Even sacredness (and related words, such as "sacrament") originates, not in an act of holiness (which itself originates from the term hal, meaning health), but an act of definition. "Sacred" stems from the Proto-Indo-European saq, meaning to "bind, restrict, enclose, protect." To sanctify something, then, is to bind it to a new and protected definition. Indeed, it may be that all religion is an attempt to negotiate self re-definition.
Is there something essential about our identity? Is it eternal and unalterable? Truthfully, these questions are above my pay grade. What is clear is that our conception of self is both absolutely vital and basically malleable. We use terms such as "I'm not that person anymore" in a sense that treads the line between literal and figurative. We are aware that we were that person, but our new definition of self is – according to our necessary internal mythology – a literally distinct being, tied to our former selves by experience only, rather than by identity.
So, as I look into my past, I have an answer to my most pressing question of "Can I be redeemed?" And of course, yes, I can. I can re-define what I am, and have re-defined what I am countless times before. But lacking a mythology that gives a medium of love, optimism, strength, and possibility (e.g., Christian atonement, Buddhist nirvana, Hindu moksha), those of my persuasion (i.e., non-believers) must find an alternate route to such re-definition.
So how can I find redemption without a medium that grants permission for re-definition? How can I change my conception from I am the person who is capable of these things to I once was the person who did these things but am no longer? How can I change from a definition of being essentially unlovable, broken, unworthy, and corrupt to something else?
Living in a world where we rely on an internal universe, and that internal universe relies on our conception of self, it becomes incredibly difficult to re-define what we are: The very platform on which we stand crumbles as we seek a self-reliant redemption. If we have defined ourselves as evil or untrustworthy, we may never be able to trust our self-re-definition as a good person. It may be that redemption can only come from external sources, be they lovers, friends, family, leaders, teachers, philosophers, mythologies, or Gods. By relying on the extrinsic definitions of ourselves, we are able to re-synthesize our internal definitions and re-establish an altered intrinsic self.
But isn't reliance on extrinsic definitions risky at best? It thrusts our very identity into the hands of others who will never see or understand us with the degree of detail we see and understand ourselves. Yet the worst bias we suffer from is our past identification, which is a bias that the other does not have. The other thus works as a mirror to the self wherein we can view our present self, our actions, our thoughts, and our beliefs without the weight of our former identity. It is the other who we strive for, because in the other we can see and establish our new self-definition. It is through the other that we can ultimately be redeemed.
WOOHOO! I got in. 2 poems, 1 short story. "Vaeda," "Tyrece," and "Story of a Leaf." (As always, glad to share with those who are curious.)
Total weight lost since September 8th, 2011: 19lbs
Total weight lost since December 8th, 2008: 94lbs
Let me make it clear now, though: He deserves a standing ovation. Despite the various differences I have in outlook, I can't help but respect who he was, how he thought, and how he contributed. The world wouldn't be what it is today without him. Computers, the internet, video games, 3D animation, and so much more relies on the work he did. He took himself from sleeping on the floor of friends' apartments and auditing college classes (post drop-out) to being a world leader in innovation, rhetoric, and business.
His own words, that "Death is very likely the greatest invention of life [...] It is life's change agent" are poignant and profound. But death isn't the only agent of change; people also enter the world and make their mark. Jobs was one of the most significant, and – while I certainly don't approve of everything he did – there's no doubt in my mind that the world is better for his presence in it. Both then, when he was here as a living being, and now, as the impact of his actions continues to influence, inspire, and liberate both the everyday people and the innovators of the future.
May he rest in peace.
(Re-posted from http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2114935/Rest-in-Peace-Steve-Jobs)
- RDY EnterprisesContent Writer & SEO Consultant, 2008 - present
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