1. BUT WHAT “IS” IDENTITY?
2. One empirical definition: a synergetic syncretism — specific, all-encompassing perspective resulting from every experience particular to a localized body-consciousness (i.e., “me”) — not so much the part which says “I” as what completes the sentence “I am ___.”
3. “All encompassing” and “localized” are the key terms here. E.g.: I have been enculturated with a linguistic, ethical and conceptual toolbox through which I can manipulate and “make sense” of the world of my senses, intuition and reason. To the observer, however — and exclusive of certain mindstates — this toolbox is largely indistinguishable from the thing it serves/describes: it resembles in every detail “just the way things are.”
4. But identity can also change with circumstance or with conscious choice — thus changing the observer’s “reality.” The experience of a self-identified “American” will be different from that of a self-identified “Pakistani” or “Celt” or even another “American” — the more so if the self-identifications are mashed-up or tinkered with — but may at least be more immediately comprehensible to other affiliatees. (Thus too is culture consensualized, strengthened and spread; it may begin with a specific spacetime event whose down-the-road permutations often become unrecognizable to the original witnesses/provocateurs — sort of a backwards-incompatible open-source project. “Nobody wants to feel left out, but t’ain’t like it was in my day.”)
5. Given all this, and given that we may no more shed at least our sense of identity than we may shed any other perceived part of ourselves, we might at least enjoy the hot dogs and fireworks, or bratwurst and bier, or mamalige and slivovitz, or whatever suits our skills and palates. It’s tempting to argue with the chef — to anguish over our human frailties, bemoan our benightedness — but does that better equip us to solve them than a full belly, good fellowship, and patience?