Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Fragments of Identity
Living in the western world, the culture, the traditions of this hemisphere are forced upon me. I am compelled to encounter all that this way of life has to offer if not accept it without question. I see them for who they are, but they cannot see me. They are blinded, and I am invisible. They have not set foot in my country, stood on the streets of Calcutta and inhaled the fragrant sandalwood and smoggy exhaust, or witnessed the otherwise widely distorted rituals of my land. For all I know, they still view my people with an attitude of "benevolent assimilation," hiding under the pretense of "civilization." Ellison's invisible man once remarked, "Why, if they follow this conformity business they'll end up by forcing me, an invisible man, to become white, which is not a color but the lack of one. Must I strive toward colorlessness?" Physics would say otherwise. The absence of any red, green, and blue light yields black, and 255 pixels of each color produces...white. Common sense would suggest the opposite. Regardless, black is beautiful. But what is to be made of the contradiction? Perhaps, it all trails back to the debate between science, logic, and reason vs. intuition, instinct, and imagination. Which set of entities can we trust, rely and depend upon? What constitutes illusion anyway? Could nirvana, moksha, samsara be considered illusion simply because it rests upon the idea of rejecting the material world? Is this truly delusion or an appeal to a higher way of thinking, living, being? Trying to sum up humanity, with its inherent dichotomies, still seems an impossibility. If the realization of humanity be the prerequisite for self-discovery and identity, perhaps the entire effort is a gedankenexperiment. Maybe the whole quest for self-actualization is just another ploy to turn humans into perpetual motion machines, to "keep those Negroes running--but in their same old place." Perhaps it's just a series of endless circles, designed to keep us ignorant of the futility and vanity of all our endeavors, no matter how earnest or noble. Or maybe I just think too much. Even the invisible man eventually gave up his habitual manhole of a dwelling...perhaps he fell into a rut, like Thoreau. "I've given up on giving up slowly; I'm blending in so you won't even know me apart from this whole world that shares my fate...I'm stuck inside this rut that I fell into by mistake...I'm begging you to be my escape."