Beckett: Identity

Disclaimer: Minor profanity in this short story.

Today, if you ask me who I am, the only answer I can provide with certainty is my name. I’m an enigma; I’m not really sure I’m anybody, at least of any immediate significance. I’m just some unnoticeable blip on this plane of existence with no certain identity, despite what the world and its inhabitants say about me. Neither is there any certainty in whom I will become. In the words of Pink Floyd, I’m just a lost soul swimming in a fish bowl, year after year. After all, that’s all the earth is, really: just one giant blue fish bowl filled with frivolous lives who go day to day accomplishing menial tasks. Except I have no other lost soul to accompany me on my lost journey, and perhaps for the better; I’m not much for good company. All I know is what I’m doing in the present, and often times I’m even uncertain of that. Perhaps all I can do is focus on the present. After all, the present is all we know.

We each formulate diverse self-identities reliant upon unique childhood upbringings, the indoctrinations of politicians (mostly emotionally unstable liberals and holier than thou conservatives), and the various proclamations of true religion. Indeed, we express our inner true selves on the Internet with our self-entitled right to being assholes to complete strangers. Wherever one may come from, we are all beings who formulate our own identities. Some are highly delusional, convinced they are some other gender, race, or species. So, where does true identity come from?

No answer is satisfactory—none unequivocal.

What’s the point of identity? We all identify as completely different things only to die in that identity. The moment we’re born, we’re preparing to die. Life is comically dichotomous, although a dark humour. We’re born, brought into this life, only with the inevitability of death. So, even if we make some menial or significant difference in our identities, what of it? Upon death we simply fade into the obscurity of history, our memory forever forgotten. Perhaps the only eternity there is are the lives of the famous, whether they were good or evil. And the rest of us knaves? We simply fade like ripples in a wade of water.

Every day I feel my existence slipping away from the frivolous adjective meaningful. Family is only good for passing judgements. Friends are only good for betrayal. Girlfriends are only good for finding faults in every crevasse of your soul. How can anything be meaningful when your supposed value—your supposed identity—is constantly shat upon by the people closest to you? What good is identity when others take so much joy in destroying it and appearing preeminent above it?

I listen to the aria of the wind this Sunday morning as the bittersweet spring air glides underneath my slightly cracked windowsill, the flower petals outside like a pirouette of a lovers’ dance. Perhaps nature shall outlast us. Perhaps we shall illumine the darkness of humanity that indefatigably strives to blanket beauty.

Ill and unable to fend for herself, my grandmother calls me. I’ve forgotten that she desires me to accompany her to church. I’ve always envied her piety, having found some odd identity in a magical being who refuses to reveal himself. I only go to satisfy her, for she is ill and near death.

Within the church, the people are absurdly happy, their smiles far too wide to meet a stranger like me. I check my watch; it’s 9:00. It’s too damn early to be that happy. The sanctuary smells of old wood and carpet, yet admirably quaint.

The pastors speaks on our creatureliness. “In the beginning,” he said, “man, as a creature of God, was in perfect relationship with God. As a perfect creature, man totally relied and trusted in God with the good work God gave him to care for the rest of God’s creation. He is the only creature with the breath of life, having been created in the image of God, and he was given a woman as the perfect helper in his good work. She was different, yet complementary.

“Now, we all know of the fall of man, yet this word ‘fall’ is a misnomer. We didn’t really fall into a descent of morality or knowledge. Rather, we attempted to usurp God’s throne—we sought to become gods. After all, that was Satan’s temptation: ‘You shall surely not die. You will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ As a direct result of our upward rebellion—our ascent to be gods of our own lives—we have lost that perfect creatureliness. By this I do not mean we lost our image of God, but rather we lost our complete trust in God, thus severing us from Him. That is, our identity as creatures of God has been lost.”

Do pastors have the power to read minds? Can it truly be a coincidence that the pastor has just now started speaking on identity? And our lost identity, no less? What is this lost identity? Is this why we identify with so many frivolous things in this world? Is this why our self-identities are so fickle? Because our ultimate identity has been lost?

“—and that is why so many people are lost,” the pastor continued. “We identify ourselves solely with sports, video games, the large variety of sexual perversions, our sacred autonomy, and I could go on indefinitely. Is life pointless, then? Are we without hope?”

It certainly seems that way, I think.

“No!” the pastor says. “We are not without hope. For as the gospel of John says, ‘But to all who did receive Christ, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.’ And Paul in Galatians, ‘For as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ.’ And, furthermore, in Romans, ‘Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death? We were buried, therefore, with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.’

“There it is, brothers and sisters! Jesus Christ restores our creatureliness; He restores us into the kingdom of God! The Holy Spirit creates faith in us, who baptises us in Christ, our trust in God through Christ restored—our creatureliness under God restored in Christ. Christ, therefore, becomes ours. Thus, as new creatures baptised into Christ, what do we do? We tell the world! We love our neighbour who needs our good works. That is, we live as creatures of God who trust in Him alone—we do what God has created us to do, namely, caring for creation and his creatures, even mankind. Now, may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.”

It is no wonder why I despaired in my identities; my identity was lost. No wonder I have found all my identities to be fleeting, for indeed they are. I feel so lost because I am lost. I’m in despair because that is truly where I am. I get it now. I get why Christians look so weird singing praises to God and being so happy all the time even when they are downtrodden. It is because God has given them their identities. Our identities never work because we keep trying to do it ourselves. We are feeble minded, so our self-prescribed identities will always fail us. The only true identity we can have is being a creature of God in Christ.

I want it. No, I need it. I more than need this identity. The identities we assign to ourselves are all about us, but it’s not supposed to be about us. It is all about God, and He has created us to be His creatures who rely totally on Him.

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