Identities, Part 2

Continued from Part 1…

Moreover, “I” am always learning, growing, changing. However my emergent experience is always shaped by past experience. There is an anchoring that reflects the idea of the peach-pit. But there is also an adaptability over time that reflects the idea of growing or acquiring onion layers. In accord with the idea of an interplay that has a temporal anchoring directed towards the past and a temporal adaptability towards the future, let’s pose identity as a many-faceted, crystalline sphere with an increasingly opaque center and a malleable and expanding surface.

The individual-I is represented by the sphere, the limits of which constitute the limits of the physical self. This idea is simple enough to understand metaphorically. Our bodies constitute a unique whole, as would a crystalline sphere. The core of the crystal is opaque to varying degrees. If we imagine it to be the temporal anchoring, it is like a black hole, from which no light escapes. We are only able to see the event horizon and a corresponding lens effect, the appearance of which depends on a number of factors including our relationship as an observer. The gravitational pull of the core is our temporal anchor. It is the singularity of our individual-I. It at once grounds us as embodied beings through its gravitational pull and reveals our being as ineffable.

The relational-I is represented by the malleable faceted surface of the sphere, where our facets represent distinguishable but interconnected identities. These facets grow, shrink and change according to our experience. They also enable us to interface with other spheres, other people’s identities, by providing a similar set of schematic structures for communicative exchange. The facets don’t need to be metaphorically flat akin to a precious cut diamond ring. Indeed it is likely that they are not, for they would need to allow for an individual to absorb, assimilate and integrate the understanding of others. The facets of the sphere would need to interlock with the facets of other spheres to allow for the exchange. This interlocking suggests that the facets lie on spires to project one’s own experience and valleys to accept others’ experiences.

This interlocking of faceted spires and valleys creates a synergy of crystalline growth. It enables the facets to grow, as crystals also grow, but more irregularly unlike the onion. The irregular surface maintains a malleability as the sphere-I continues to experience and engage with other spheres in ways that promote growth of some facets of identity and inhibit the growth of others. We can see this metaphorically reflected in our identities, as our interactions with others promote the growth and strengthening of some identities and the atrophy of others. These facets of the surface, however, are not untethered. Rather they are spawned from the ineffable and increasingly opaque core that serves as the temporal anchor for the many facets that comprise the surface of the sphere.

The metaphor of a crystalline sphere allows us to understand that the identities we hold arise from a single, ineffable, temporally anchored structure that grows into a more complex and irregularly faceted structure. They crystal provides a metaphorically unifying structural type that reveals the individual-I and the relative-I to be, in fact, a singular crystalline sphere-I.

My metaphorical understanding of identity will undoubtedly continue to evolve as I explore its relationship to semantics and the use of semantic technologies. I offer this metaphor of the crystalline sphere as an alternative to the seemingly limited metaphors of the peach pit and the onion for understanding identity. It allows us to incorporate the notion of Gadamerian play, via an expansion of horizons/facets, and the notion of Feyerabendian ineffability.