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Only humans struggle with identity

Human beings are really curious creatures. Many of them spend a lot of effort trying to prove that they are nothing more than a rather sophisticated animal. They are then responsible only to some system that they invent and for which they will decide the consequences.There are, however, some very interesting attributes that really defy explanation. One of the most interesting to me is every person’s desperate search for identity. No other creature on earth struggles to define individual significance and to communicate that to others. There are some general circumstances that help us define who we are, such as family, ethnic background, gender or geographical location. I am an American, western Colorado, rural male of European descent, but that is just a starting point. My effort to find identity goes way beyond that. Each person is a unique individual, or one of a kind. We somehow feel the need to make a statement to others about our identity by the things we build around our life. If I walk into your house, I instantly know a lot about you. The pictures on the wall, the flowers, the colors, the books, the lighting, the carpets, the music and a myriad of things tell who you are, or at least who you want me to think you are.Then, as we go deeper, we find out about your hobbies, your education, your specific passions, the things you despise and hate and the list goes on and on.I believe that one of the greatest challenges, emotionally and spiritually, that youth of today face is that desperate search for identity. If you come from a broken family where your origin and ancestry is unknown, you start with a problem.Drugs, sexual relations, criminal activity, weird clothing, punk music, body piercing and tattoos are overt expressions of a desperate search for individual identity. Even the person we marry is a serious validation of our identity.The drive for success and power is an effort to fill that mysterious inner drive to be someone special and of value. Failure to succeed in these areas often leads to a downward spiral of self-destructive behavior, and an effort to justify this condition by blaming others, embracing victimization and destroying others out of bitterness and frustration. Over the years, I have been painfully touched by many suicides. In every case, there was a deep sense of personal failure to be someone special and of value.Isn’t it fascinating to reflect on the fact that no other creature struggles for identity? Nothing else displays selfishness, bitterness, hatred, depression or becomes suicidal.You can’t get a horse to put on a uniform and die for a cause. Animals don’t form clubs, service organizations or search for something to worship. They don’t practice yoga or struggle with diets. Only humans struggle with their individual identity.Men’s identity generally is wrapped around what they do. Their profession, business or athletic accomplishments define them. Their pickup, truck or other vehicle is also critical. Women, on the other hand, have an incredible plethora of cosmetics, jewelry, hairdos and clothing to express themselves.In the final analysis, the outward evidences may just be a deception inspired by television, Hollywood or ambition. Is what you appear to be a sham, or the truth? Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage and men and women merely players.”Who are you? Really?Ross L. Talbott lives in New Castle.


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