[ by Charles Cameron — just another angle on personal identity and ID, nudged on by two news pieces I saw today, and written to set the thought juices flowing ]
Life’s four deep questions are often listed thus: Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here? and Where will I go? We humans can spend a lifetime in search of the answers, and Paul Gauguin made three of them them the title of what some consider his greatest painting:
These are deeply personal questions — and now governments and bureaucracies everywhere would like to know the answers to them, too:
The poet Hopkins, in his tightly compressed way, teaches us that we are not our driving licenses, we are not files in a desk drawer or on a computer, we are not our photos, we are not numbers, we are not even our names, we are… that which is most natural to us, that which is most essential about us, what you might call our “true natures”:
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.
We selve, we go ourselves — most precisely, we deal out that being which dwells within us.
And to learn what that being is, that mystery which most richly propels us, is our life task.
In our desire to identify, classify, count and track everybody and everything, our governments and bureaucracies keep losing track (!) of the simple fact that a person’s person is that person’s innermost mystery.