I’m the King of Jubilee Jumbles

artist Nayland Blake natters on about art and other things

Posts Tagged ‘identity

The oracle speaks…

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If you want to be free, get to know your real self.
It has no form, no appearance, no root,
No basis, no abode, but is lively and buoyant.
It responds with versatile facility, but its function
Cannot be located; when you look for it you become
Further from it. When you seek it
You turn away from it all the more.

– Rinzai ( d.867?)

The above quote comes courtesy of daily_zen. The above picture comes courtesy of the Manhattan Bridge. The emotions below them come courtesy of nothing in particular.

All at once a number of people I know are confronting the “real self” phenomena: which is my real self? what makes a “master”? when do I start or stop being gay? Many of us in so called marginalized communities have a complex relationship with the notion of identity. For people told that their way of being is wrong, it is natural to take refuge in the positive assertion of a singular identity. But any assertion of identity as somehow true, a true thing, leads one down a path where one ultimately ends up subservient to that identity. These days I try to think of identity as a tool, a tactic rather than as a possession. Many times I hear kinky people talk about “my dog, my little girl, my Dom, my slave” when they are talking about themselves, as if there were a cluster of separate individuals living inside of them. It may work for them but it doesnt work for me. It might help if each of those terms were followed by the word “way”: my slave-way, my puppy-way, etc. Then at least they would seem “lively and buoyant” as is stated above.

In a friend’s journal they asked the question “what makes someone a master?” One response is they are a master when someone calls them “master”. “I am I because my little dog knows me” wrote Gertrude Stein. I disagree (so did Stein as you’ll see below). Naming someone as a thing doesn’t make them that thing, even if they may wish it to be so, because people aren’t things. That is to say that a thing as a mental category is unchanging, and people continually run into trouble when they attempt to treat mutable experience as if it were unchanging. I say a person is a master when their actions are masterful. When they are moving “the master way”. At any moment that can stop or change. All day long I train people to become “Masters of the Fine Arts”. They don’t just become one when they are handed their diploma at graduation. So then what am I doing? Helping them to recognise the opportunities for masterful action in what ever situation they find themselves. I help them to move with “versatile facility”. I don’t believe that you do that by declaring one true path and belittling those who stray. (I guess that’s one more reason I’m not old guard)

I can see the argument that without stable identification it’s hard to trust a partner. But I would counter that between intimates, the ways in which mastery or submission are expressed are infinitely subtler than flagging right or left. Those broad semaphore signals may get you across the threshold with a stranger, but they aren’t much use when you need to take action.

I’ve always had a shape shifting way about me: changes in hair and weight, racial passing and confusion, blurred sexuality. It’s very common for people who knew me at one point in my life to not recognize me a few years on. I hope to remember that that’s an asset.

and now, since it’s so fun to read here is Stein’s Identity A Poem


Written by naylandblake

January 10, 2007 at 3:49 pm

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