Our Real Identities, Our Souls

The dominant culture of the day will pester us, coax us to join in. The culture pleads with us to conform as if it knows the very best for us. The problem is that the human soul is beyond a storybook wedding, owning a vehicle, paying a mortgage, reproducing, and chasing after financial security. While those things are perfectly acceptable, our souls, ineffable as they are, will not be carrying those things onward to the next life. The soul doesn’t follow a sterile formula and a predetermined path, and it certainly cannot be bought, stolen, or owned. If we can assign some adjectives to our souls, describe our souls, it wouldn’t even come close to the essence within us. Even the word ineffable inadequately describes who we really are. Mastering ourselves, knowing ourselves is a disconcerting endeavor, but we must persist. We must look within and not rely solely on our culture. If anything, society is the least capable of understanding us. As society tries to classify what each of us want and who each of us are into clean and tidy categories, there’s bound to be conflict. Our popular culture lays out a set of rules, rules that limit. These cultural rules cap who we are by trying to conceptualize our inexplicable, elusive identities.

The brands of clothing, foods, vehicles, gadgets, the industry we choose to work in, the hobbies we engage in and the music we listen to might be attributed to what we like, but these interests are just the outer veneer that masks our true selves. We are not a career, not a piece of fabric, not a color, not a brand, not a popular song, and not even a sexual orientation. We are not what we look like nor what we like. If you abide by the standard life, a house, career, marriage, maybe even a yacht, lake house and luxury suite, and then death, you’ll certainly feel accomplished, but isn’t there more to life than a simple pattern of living? We might observe the people who deviate from the norm, branch out away from the accepted path, for a moment. The “rebels” who choose to ignore the cultural demands, like marriage and reproducing, get bombarded with asinine questions. People will mindlessly try to change these “rebels.” People even go as far as reminding them, every time they come in contact with them, that they don’t have a husband or a wife, or have children. According to the people who cannot accept us as we are, we aren’t fulfilling the conventional idea of a life lived, a life that isn’t carelessly deferred.

Marriage and children are just two instances where culture is used to dictate our life. If we are heavily introverted, the extroverted culture will view it as pathological and comment on it as if it’s a problem. If we choose to stay with our parents in the same home throughout adulthood, the individualist culture will label us not as people who are close-knit with our family, but as weak, dependent people. It is after all their dreams for us that they’re unloading on top of us. It’s almost as if you’re obligated to choose a lifestyle that other the dominant culture approves of. Despite the fact that they aren’t us, that our interests couldn’t be more dissimilar to theirs, they still manage to preach, glibly outline what’s important to them. They expect us to listen, regurgitate the same nonsense and with the approved actions and choices, forge our lives to mirror theirs.

Are we going to let popular culture coax us into placing our identity into our careers and into which significant other we choose? I hope not. Let’s let the people who don’t feel worthy of respect to define themselves by the lover they’re with, the brand they’re wearing, what they’re driving, and the career they’re pursuing. We are not them and their widely accepted way of living. We are not even our lifestyles, our choices, nor our actions that have led us to this moment. We are truly free. We are the oceans that swell and contract, and the rays of the sun, and the emptiness of outer space that make life possible. We are also none of those things and beyond abstract words like “free.” The boundless possibilities in which direction our lives may take is unimaginable. Constantly evolving yet always staying the same, our souls are on a journey more meaningful than a simple assertion, a conformist or rebellious lifestyle, or an inadequate description.