The Illusion of Identity

Out in the streets throughout the world on various national days there are parades of the mentally ill, flag-wavers of various stripes strutting to the imaginary as if were real. Is nationalism a cause for celebration or a sign of mental disturbance – or at least a lack of basic understanding – and is it made reasonable by its seeming universality? It fulfills a need for us to feel strong that is a reaction to a just as unnecessary feeling of weakness. It’s a fake outer strength that’s a consequence of a fake inner weakness. It is to have lost and to seek in vain to regain.

Identity clearly has a powerful effect on the human mind but where does the compulsion to merge into nation, clan or even more arbitrary divisions like sports fans come from? Is it the usual game of competitive superiority or just a search for reassurance? The more confused and unsettled the mind the greater the need for violent identification it seems. Individuals who feel themselves vulnerable are the most keen to be at one with a supposedly greater whole. In its way it’s just another form of sham spirituality but even more removed; it’s for those who’re not even aware of the real thing.

The mind will grab almost any delusional belief to hand if it brings self-satisfaction; narcissism and group identity no less so than religion. Perhaps it’s even slightly less ridiculous to believe that the earth is the center of the universe than that oneself is.

To go further it may be that any conclusion at all about an entity as nebulous and constantly changing as the self is misplaced. 

The lure of conclusion, either as an individual or collective can be countered only by a passion to explore consciousness itself.  It’s found that awareness is provisional, is happy with ambiguity, doesn’t grasp for what’s seemingly essential for a solid sense of self. It requires a firm commitment to reality to be tentative, to deny the security of finality. It’s the frightened who insist on certainty.

But the flag-wavers and fellow travellers will always be with us as an inevitable expression of our splintered and confused nature.

Understanding as art and science