Making up who we are

Two other posts on Tom G’s blog have caught my eye, and seem related. In this one he describes a friend’s move from Upper West side lifestyle in New York to living without electricity in the boonies of British Columbia. Sounds like such a move is not for Tom, though a little part of me quite fancies it.

In the other post, Tom talks about making myself up, day-by-day. Basically, for almost all our time on the planet, the vast majority of us followed in our parents footsteps, and those footsteps generally stayed in the same part of the world. It’s only in the last few moments of man’s time on earth that all this has changed.

While setting down a path in youth used to assure our predecessors of a route to the future, nothing remotely resembling that assurance exists for contemporaries. Instead of careers, we have careens, bouncing from one opportunity to the next. Some last longer than others but our expectations are always the same: this is fine for now, but something else will be coming along soon (whether I like it or not.)

Those of us who look at the current age and the future it promises with anticipation talk about these realities in grand terms like “re-inventing,” making our lives sound like grand adventures. Which, in some senses, they are. Yet, we tend to downplay the more disconcerting aspects of these realities. The anxiety. The rootlessness. The discontinuity of place and relationship. The loss of history.

As I go about the business of making myself up day-by-day I experience both the exhilaration and fear associated with the engine of that project: creativity. Living a life imaginatively, creatively, is to be in constant motion. And, as we all remember from our trips to the amusement park, constant motion can be dizzying.

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