Or, better put, “Are You Afraid To Be Known?”.
I find myself asking this, or these, spiritual or existential questions more as I get older. “Older” here should not imply “wiser” or even “more aged”, just experiencing more ages. Times that we live in are settings, and USA 2017 is a setting that forces me to contest with my own media presentations of my own Self. What we are now referring to as our personal brands. When I was younger, or experiencing those times and ages of 2000s and prior, we simply called it our reputation and image.
While constant monitoring of our own actions that give basis for reputation is rewarding in that prudent sense, my image is somewhat out of my control. At least in how I define “image”, in this vein. My image is how others perceive me. I can cast certain spins, adopt certain styles, and prime or prepare people psychologically to frame me in certain ways, but once that die is in its cast…
Given that I have been writing here on Asylum and under this Asylum moniker for that better part of a decade, I have to accept certain responsibilities. I am responsible to you, my readers, not just in a journalistic ethical(yeah, what a juxtaposition, right…) sense, but more so in a “oh, they really like me” sense. We have developed a relationship. While you may not always know my favorite songs, favorite colors, or even that day I was born on, we have an established channel for those more superficial albeit important aspects of my Self. This connection, this bridge, this stargate melding our minds does present certain intimidating concerns. Yet, it also affords us much.
How much do I want to know of you? How much do I want you to know of me? Most importantly, however, how much of my own Self do I even want to know? My immediate and most deeply entrenched response to that last query is an emphatic,”Very much”. OWL loves him some Joseph, though. Yet, what does this mean for this bond that you and I, writer and reader, share? How much of my Self does this relationship we have obligate me to give you? How much of this obligation will remove from me my love of writing as our shared mental space becomes a chore for me to manage?
Writing publicly often reminds me of selling plasma. For those who have never sold plasma, let me take you there. There is this long and at times arduous process akin to a common regular check up with a doctor, but it is coupled with intense prying. This intense prying is composed of being asked several variations of “are you a male homosexual”, “do you have sex with people who use heroin through needles or share needles with them”, and “do you have sex with people recently from Afrika and have you visited that continent lately”. (Yes, inquiries regarding AIDS and HIV in USA 2017 look oddly similar to inquiries regarding AIDS and HIV in 1980s). Once you are processed, you are taken into this large room filled with what are basically hospital beds but set in their angled upright positions. You are asked to lay down, and someone (not sure if they are called “nurses” but that is their basic role) invites you to roll up your sleeves as they insert a needle connected to a tube that collects your blood into a machine. This machine then separates your blood from your plasma, returning your blood back down through that tube and needle. This process usually takes around an hour, some of those times more depending on how much hydrated or dehydrated you are. Once done, you either stand in another line to collect your funds, or they are instantly transferred to an account you access via a “Rewards Card” that is actually a debit card.
Writing is very similar. I solicit people through social media in a set of processes that exposes my core beliefs and weltanschauung. I then sit, at times lay, next to a machine, draining one of my body’s most important resources for my continued existence and having it returned to me in a slightly reduced form. I hit send, submit, or publish and I wait for someone to send me money to a debit card. After writing this, and being able to see it spilled with its various shades, I might even say selling plasma is more romantic than writing, but only a little.
I suppose my initial question could be rephrased once more. How much of my Self am I sharing compared to how much of my Self SHOULD I be? How much of our Selves are we keeping for OURSELVES? At what point does this social condition we call human existence afford us time to forge bonds with our Self so that we might have some Self to give others?
To be of value to a shared connection, there have to be(wait…) THERE HAVE TO BE(that is better) times when I explore my Self alone. Individuality is core to shared connections between individuals. Individuality is a social nutrient. Individuality is virtuous for a collective. Our strengths are developed through our passions, yet how do we shape passions we are never allowed to know? My strengths are my value. What I give and exchange in this world, what we call “livelihood”, are my passions transmuted into skills made into products offered as my contribution to our social ecology, or economy. What I know about my Self deserves security, wisdom, a protection that says,”I care”. There is a sacredness in individuality, a religion in learning which rooms exist in our internal mansions. I open this door, this open house we call Asylum with not a caveat, but a request that you take your shoes off and treat my holy space as such.