“Not all in a moment, then, will the narrator be finished with the story of our Hans. The seven days of a week would not suffice, no, nor seven months either. Best not too soon make too plain how much mortal time must pass over his head while he sits spun round in his spell. Heaven forbid it should be seven years! And now we begin…” Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
Honestly, I had no idea it had been so long since I posted an entry. Certainly not seven years, but long enough. The above quotation, by the way, is one of my most favorite literature quotations of all time. The whole book is layer upon layer of symbolism and meaning. Deciphering The Magic Mountain is not unlike attempting to decipher Torah, in my opinion.
But I’m not here to talk about that.
I’m not really here to talk about anything of any consequence, except to say yes, I’m still alive (thank G-d), and yes, I’m slowly but surely rehabilitating from the auto accident, and I’ve been deep into the business side of writing lately but not much at all into the creative side of it.
I’ve been mulling over the topic of identity for quite some time now, and it may wind up being the foundation of my Jewish and writing blogging for the immediate future. Not so much identity versus anonymity – how well can you ever really know someone else? No, I’m lately fascinated and simultaneously frightened by the process of discovering one’s own identity.
Fear not, lest you think I’m about to turn my blog into some voyeuristic therapy session. There’s Dr. Phil for that. But at the very center of our lifelong pursuits is our ultimate desire – perhaps our ultimate need – to discover who we truly are. And I’m ambitious enough as a writer to hope that perhaps something written here will resonate with a reader, or inspire a reader, or somehow touch another person’s life and lead him or her to another clue in the search for identity.
“Be happy: it’s Adar!” goes the saying. But as much as I want to feel that way, I’m not. I’m feeling withdrawn and focused on the internal. Simple social interactions that normally energize me are currently leaving me exhausted. I have a very annoying urge to clean. (That urge shouldn’t kick in until after Purim, when I start looking ahead to Pesach and all the cleaning and kashering that stand between me and liberation.)
I feel driven to purge my environment from all the clutter, the chaff of modern life. I recycled six bags of compressed, shredded paper from old files. And I have the sense that ridding my environment of things that distract, delay, or divert me from my purpose is as much internal as it is external.
Identity. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly who I am. But I can start with the recycled shredded paper, and eliminate those things that I know I am not.
I’ve come to the conclusion that identiy in all its multiple facets (Jewish identity, female identity, blog identity, public identity, private identity, and on and on) is a precious thing. Because once discovered, or even during the process of discovery, it is also to be protected with good boundaries.
Those of us who grew up in an environment that taught us to craft our opinions and perspectives to ensure another person’s happiness often find that our identity is obscured, our motives questionable, our boundaries blurred. And in my experience, it seems that the very definition of vulnerability is exposing too much of one’s identity.
The Internet seems safe, distant, some Otherwhereness beyond a computer screen. But it is not. It is a portal into our lives, and if we are not careful, a window that insidiously bypasses boundaries and reveals an identity we perhaps didn’t intend to share. At the same time, it can be a tool for connection, for change, for leading us along in our journey.
Identity. Boundaries. Trust. Sounds like a primer in infancy and child development. And maybe that’s the point.
If Purim is the time when we pretend to be that which we are not, we have to have some idea who we are first. And then disguise it. And then get together with others who have disguised their identities, in an often-raucous event where alcohol is frequently invovled at some point.
Identity. Boundaries. Trust. Purim. Maybe that’s the point, too.