Who Are You? / Where Does Personality Come From?

Hey! Happy Tues…day…every…

Is today Tuesday…?

F*ck it, sure. Happy Tuesday, everyone!

If you can’t tell, ye olde headspace is a bit frazzled this fine Tues- weekday. So, the way I figure it, it’s the perfect time for a (Oh, yeah, and I didn’t have anything prepared for today because of work on the house. Anyway!) healthy freestyle rant essay!

I’m still pretty hung up on the topics in last week’s post, so I’m just gonna wax pseudo-philosophical and armchair Bro-Brain it up with some questions I had when I was eight. Sound good? Sweet.

I remember sitting in Mrs. Thompson’s third grade class room staring at a cow brain in a jar (for real, I was stoked when she said we were getting one) and the thought crossed my mind: “Where do our personalities come from?” You could probably see the pretty straightforward line of thinkin here, yeah? Our brains hold most of our thinky-stuff – memories, facts, jokes, emotions, lies we told our parents so we wouldn’t get in trouble – and so if that cow’s brain was in that jar, looking exactly as you’d expect from cartoons and old timey movies, then am I looking at that cow’s personality, too?

Like, obviously not the cow’s personality being expressed (uless that cow was lazy and really liked to swim but go nowhere), but looking at the vessel for its…well, its everything. And then I turned the question inward: “Where does personality come from?”

Now, clearly, this is a deep-as-fuck kind of question, and we could spend an actual book here (like the many that already populate the shelves of Barnes and Nobles nationwide) if we wanted to. But I gots shit to do and can’t mentally spelunk that deeply with what time I’ve got. But, I remember the timeline of that thought process as I’ve grown went roughly like this…

Personalities are held in the brain. Well, I mean, they are…aren’t they? But…is it…well, is it a thing that can be…held? That can be contained in that squishy little sponge of gray matter? And why are some people funny, others are serious, and why do I like Gundam figures, but not tomatoes (so on and so forth)? And if you had twins that were born at the exact same time, to the exact same parents, and lived in the exact same house, going to the exact same places, and knowing the exact same people…how and why would they ever be different?

Clearly, this is the point where you shoehorn in the age-old “Nature vs Nurture” debate, right? I think I’ve come to the conclusion that that question is entirely just a thought experiment or thought provocateur (if we’re feeling fancy) than an actual question. Because, and yeah, opinions will differ on this I guess, but, it’s obviously a mix of both. I guess the point of the question is just to determine where you personally place your line as to the ratio.

Because, yeah, Nature definitely has its part, undoubtedly. Some people just straight up have certain predalictions and preferences, personality traits and characteristics. But you don’t just go through life, having experiences and encounters without ever changing and altering on some scale (Enter: the debate over Dany’s decisions in the GoT finale – bring it, nerds! This is a hill I will die on. She had every reason IN THE WORLD TO- nevermind. Another time. Maybe. Or not. I don’t know. Anyway…).

But then, went my twelve-year-old brainy brainy after watching Fight Club, who are you? Or, who am I?

“You are not your job.” – Totally. Your job is just what you do, it’s how you contribute to the tribe. And that might change any number of times for any number of reasons.

“You are not your bank account.” – Well shit, I would hope not. Because that’s never been mighty impressive. But still, yeah, of course. This one’s silly.

But then, expand it a little…”You are not your name.” – Hey, Robert, Wallace, Sarah, etc! These things are just… the sounds we make or the squiggles we draw to express who we mean or who we’re addressing. But there are a million John’s, Tessa’s, Fred’s, and Abigail’s. It’s just…a label. It’s handy, you can like yours (I like mine), but it isn’t you.

During a religious studies course from years ago, I remember my professor mentioned how Plato felt about just existing in a body (and if I’m wrong, blame either my memory or Mr. Thompson – I know, another “Thompson”). Apparently, he likened it to a cage. A cage you, the mind, were just occupying until it died. A cage that could and would occasionally break down. And that got me thinking: “Yeah, you can’t be your body, either. If you break your arm, for example, it’s not like you lose part of you. Even if you’re an athlete and that means you can’t play your sport anymore, you aren’t any different, just your capability.”

That’s where Identity enters the mix. “Who am I?” Not “what,” or “how,” or any other of the five question types. “Who” in a way that isn’t answered with your name, or your job, or your sex, or your relationship to family members. Your personality. Who. Are. You?

Maybe if playing football is part of your identity, or you’re the “tennis guy”, and you suddenly sustain an injury that keeps you from doing that, then yeah, you lose that part of yourself. (For example, I used to do parkour but after a few injuries and “life thangs” eventually stopped. And it was weird, because to a fair number of people, I was “the parkour guy” or the “dude that can flip,” and when that was gone, there was an adjustment period, I won’t lie.) So, you lose that part of yourself, kind of…

But…do you really?

No.

Like, yes. But no.

See what I mean?

Anyway, the closest thing I’ve come to that’s an acceptable “answer” (in quotes because, ah, well you get it by now), are best illustrated by the two following sources:

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
I mean, spoilers if you have any interest in the game and haven’t ever played it, but that’s about all the warning I’m gonna give for an eight year old video game in an overdone seri- anyway!
At the end of the game, Number 16 (I think was his ID) has this big heart-to-heart with Desmond, and, with arms outstretched and his face to the sky, he drops the line, “What are we but memories? Huh!? The stories we tell ourselves!”
Think on that shit…

Set it? Cool.
If you’ve been with me since the beginning, you might remember the short I put up with the same name. And I always liked it, and it’s stuck with me, because there’s something about it that resonates. It checks a lot of boxes. “You are not your job.” Check. “You are not your bank account.” Check. “You are not your name.” Check.
We’re just…that. We are our life’s story. What’s the one thing you leave behind after you die? Your legacy. Your memory. People’s memory of what you did or how you impacted them or others. You are the things you do, the places you go, the stories you tell, the people you take care of, the hand you hold out to help, etc etc.

Some Philosopher’s Playlist I Listened To That One Time Yeah, I get it, less of a catchy title. We could always call it, “Some Philosopher’s Playlist I Listened To That One Time: Reloaded” or something, but anyway…
In it, and I think I’m going to butcher the quote since I’m just spit-ballin’ here, some unnamed older gentleman says something like the following:

We all go through up’s and down’s. And once, when I was on one of those down’s, I kept having a thought. It was the same, persistent thought. ‘Why does this always happen to me?’ And when I realized that I had that thought before, something occurred to me. I am not the thought. This thought is not me. And I wondered, how many thoughts, and how many people everywhere each day, have thoughts like this, thoughts that are not them? And it occurred to me… I am not the thought, I am the awareness.”

Okay, if I had you take a moment to let the first one sink in… Absorb that. “I am not the thought, I am the awareness.” Speaking of parkour (from earlier), one of my coaches, Brett, made a deceptively insightful comment one day that I overheard: “You know, you can’t control your mood, but you can control your attitude.”
Now, marry the two thoughts. You’re not the thought, you are the awareness. You are the consciousness, the phenomenal, inchoate, ethereal experience behind your eyes, behind your thoughts. Your thoughts aren’t you, they occur to you. Your mood/emotions aren’t you, they influence you – you, the one behind them.

So, I don’t know, in conclusion…take the above and just…mill on it. Like Izzy from Gray’s Anatomy once said: “My mom always said, ‘Trust the man who claims to seek the truth, but doubt the man who claims to have found it.’”
And I need to maintain my credibility ’round here.

Anyway, thanks for brain-wrestling with me.

Catch you Thursday.

Ciao.

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