When I was young and stupid (although I still am), I discounted physical existence as a distraction. Metaphysical existence beyond our touchable realities – that is to say our thoughts and emotions – was somehow more true to one’s identity than the touchable self, and anything that served to appropriate importance to the visible aesthetic was treasonous to the preservation of a pure psychological identity. After all, what are our bodies but flesh?
Sadly, I was opposed to self-grooming, and if I could go back in time to tell my pubescent self to smear on deodorant, I would. But alas, I wanted people to like me for who I was beyond my physical self. I wanted them to like how I thought and behaved. Likewise, I was attracted to those who seemed to ignore their own physical attributes themselves because I was attracted to the idea of a pure metaphysical union, removed from the sullying distraction of bodies. (I later realized that for most, poor grooming was a result of neglect rather than conscious decision)
My naive rational was that bodies can and will change, but I as my mind will always be me; my identity is maintained not through the continuity of physical being but rather through the continuity of consciousness.
Dear Pubescent Quack: this is a giant heap of bull poo. Psychological identities change just as much as bodies do.
Quite some time has passed since puberty, thank God, and my perspective is slightly different now than it was then.
In Milan Kundera’s novel, Immortality, he explores the relationship between self and the expression of self. Kundera explains how there are 7 billion people (number adjusted for 2011) in the world, and each person has a limited language of gestures that is learned and passed from one individual to the other. And yet, it would be impossible for there to exist 7 billion different gestures in the dictionary of human expression (let us not forget that a gesture is a physical expression of a psychological motive). If there exist more individuals than gestures, then one can argue that a gesture has more individuality than an individual. Perhaps then it’s not individuals who express themselves through gestures, but rather gestures who express themselves through individuals!
Then perhaps its not people who speak through words, but words that speak through people. Has anything I’ve done or said ever not been said or done by somebody before me? If my personality (which was oh so elevated by my former self) can be reduced to categories and types (i.e. American, musician, socio-economic type, learning type, likes traveling, birds, the color blue, etc.), then what claim to I have to having a unique psychological identity? What claim do any of us have? Are we merely tools that roles possess like parasites as they leap from one bag of meat to the other bag of meat? When I speak, is it me or is it human history speaking through me as performed by a typecast role in the ever-repeating blockbuster series of the Human Timeline? Are our minds mere memes?
But our bodies! Our bodies have never been, and never will be again. Each individual little feature is combined to make an expressive tool – the vessel through which personalities come and go. We are the sum of our genes, and our possible combinations number far greater than the 7 billions. I may resemble Kevin Bacon, but I am not Kevin Bacon! My body is really the only thing I can guarantee as my own. Your body is the vehicle with which you connect to the world; you should be proud of it and all its features – it’s wrinkles and imperfections, because the physical design imprinted on you is what makes you yourself and not a generic societal role. Without a body, you’re dead. – not even dead; without a body, you’re simply not.
This reveals a grand horror of the fashion industry: it establishes an ideal of beauty to which it encourages you to conform. It alienates you from your unique vessel and demands that you sacrifice one of the only things that guarantees you as a individual for the sake of being… I don’t even know what… beautiful? What does that mean? What divine authority defined today’s delusion of beauty?
With technology removing the body from the realm of interaction (in the form of phones, electronic communication, online games), we really need no more help alienating us from our own presences. Do not belittle yourself. Treat yourself well. Maintain yourself as one maintains a priceless vintage sports car, and march yourself into the world in all your detailed glory for the world to see, for your words may again be repeated, but your presence is, and will never be thereafter.