I own seven pairs of underwear …

SUNDAY, 25 APRIL 2004

Statement: I needed a place, a home, in order to know who I am.

Presumption: Maybe you also need possessions to be able to say who you are – like a collection of nearly 200 movies that say, “I like movies,” or that can confirm what you claim you are, or what you like.

Question: Is the ideal to be able to say and to know who you are without a place of your own and without possessions?

Follow-up Question: What else defines identity? Relationships, how you spend your time each day, what you do for money, what you believe in, the topics you prefer to discuss in social conversations …

The above leads to an interesting question: If you have no home, no possessions, neither friend nor family, you do not do much while you are awake, you do nothing to make money, you hold no religious beliefs and you never have conversations or respond to what other people say, then who are you? What are you?

If you find yourself in an urban environment, you have no cash or credit, no place of your own, no income, and you just do enough on a daily basis to stay physically alive, in practice, it boils down you eating from garbage cans (which means you’re a “bum”), or begging for food (a “beggar”), and that you sleep wherever you can find some protection from the elements (again a “homeless bum”).

So, if you do not have a home, no possessions, no relationships with anyone, you believe in nothing, the only effort you put in is to find some edible scraps of food and a few sips of drinkable fluid once or twice a day before you again lie down in any place where you can stretch out your body, you do nothing for money, and you never talk or respond when someone talks to you, your identity is automatically defined by all of the above, and the community takes it upon themselves to define you accordingly.

In most cases, the result will be that you will be called a “homeless bum”, and will be accepted as such in and by the community. Because you have thus failed to define yourself in a similar fashion to how most other people define themselves – that is, by placing yourself within familiar categories and by using elements of identity familiar to most people in the community, you will be placed on the lowest rung of the social order.

Can one then come to another conclusion other than to infer that home, possessions, relationships, beliefs, activities (creative and otherwise), and words and reactions are necessary for us to be able to know who we are, and to present ourselves in a recognizable and comprehensible manner to the community in whose midst we find ourselves?

Who am I, then? Let’s see: Possession-wise, I am the proud owner of seven of pairs of underwear, two trousers, a few shirts and a pair of sneakers, a few pieces of furniture, a computer, a notebook and five pens (two blue pens, two black and a red one); I live in my living room; I dream of a relationship with Marilyn Monroe’s Taiwanese cousin; I have no faith in dogmatic religion; I write books that will never make money; I only respond when someone talks nonsense, and don’t say much otherwise …

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