A Sketch on the Insignificance of Identity
Everyone has a personal myth. A story of their self and being, of who they are and how they fit into the world. None of these myths are correct; that is, none of them particularly reflect an objective reality. Their recurring motifs and themes, consciously or subconsciously, are works of interpretation over the stark facts of basic events.
For example, a man and a woman may marry, and they may divorce, over infidelity; it is up to the personal myth to explain to each of them that they are the victim, the traitor, the naïf, the cuckold, the survivor, or merely the divorced person. The personal myth calls this breach an infidelity, an affair, a romance, a mistake, or the best thing that ever happened to them.
The personal myth is necessary because the bare facts of life, shorn of interpretation, do nothing to explain us to ourselves. We may know we are orphans, mothers, employees, sad—but it remains to the myth to turn the orphan into the Lost Child, the mother into the Neglected Housewife, the employee into the Aggrieved Servant, or the sad into the Sick in Mind. The personal myth is just as capable of being something else entirely, given the same facts: the orphan may be the Family Heir, the mother the Supermom, the employee an Indispensable Lieutenant, or the sad into the Seeker after Happiness.
This is the strength and the weakness of the personal myth. The strength is that it provides identity, a way of grappling with challenges and problems which is ready-made, a posture that can endure the buffets of life. This is safety, confidence. Whatever vicissitude strikes, the personal myth promises to absorb it, weave it into narrative, so that what we do and say is understood by us. This gives us confidence. We believe we know who we are, and even if who we are is not good or wonderful, we are that.
The weakness is that it is myth. Identity is not so easy, not so pure that we can weave a narrative which will, simultaneously, capture ourselves completely, and also prepare for what new plots and characters life will introduce. The world itself cares nothing for the personal myth, and will continue to stack challenges at your doorstep even if your personal myth is equipped not at all to handle them.
What is more, the personal myth encourages us to react a particular way; it says, “But if you do this, this new action you are contemplating, this radical thing, then you won’t fit inside me anymore—and then who will you be? And where?” Thus the personal myth resists change with terrible force, and what is more, resists growth. The myth is an awesome tool for survival, if you believe your self could be swept away at any moment and destroyed; it is a terrible tool for living.
As an aside, let’s consider a parable drawn directly from the life of someone I know, a relatively new stay-at-home mother, formerly employed in a high-powered career, with a husband who frequently works long hours (partially by necessity, partially by choice) and participates little in the care of the young children.
It was a week that each day he arrived home too late to help with dinner, putting the children to sleep, and all of the hectic routine that requires the most energy at the time of the day when the least is available. During this time, my friend had silently stewed when her husband came home, ate dinner, and immediately fell asleep in a perfectly arranged home.
She was on the point of an outburst when for the eighth night in a row he came home and fell asleep in an armchair and she noticed the pacific smile on his drowsing face; she realized immediately that the environment of quiet and comfort which allowed him to sleep this way she had, by herself, conjured out of a shrieking chaos of children in the last half hour by brute force alone; she realized that it was her work that had enabled this.
She had, in her own head, been playing the role of the Neglected Housewife, going about her day resentfully while she imagined her husband off on exciting adventures, then furious when he returned to enjoy the fruits of her labor. It—and this is perhaps a mark of her incredible character, because this sort of change of attitude is incredibly difficult—took only the jolt of his beatific smile to switch her personal myth to Supermom, and for her to reëvaluate her actions and circumstances in that context, for her to cast herself in the role of mission command, perfectly concluding each day in an unbroken string of successes such that every time her husband came home every last detail was taken care of and he could retire while devoting his full energy to his work.
This story may or may not satisfy your personal myth, if you imagine yourself in her circumstances; nevertheless her simple change of role turned her in that moment from a person who had been feeling chronically unfulfilled to one who felt that she had managed incredibly well in difficult circumstances, and was happy and proud of herself for doing so.
But the facts, well, the true facts cannot really be known. Any set of facts beyond the purely physical and mathematical are open to interpretation (and even mathematical truth must often be interpreted), so the personal myth cannot really be abandoned.
What we do then amounts to a terrifically powerful choice. We have to choose to evaluate our myth on its own merits. We are handed a set of cultural myths, social myths, psychological myths, religious myths, and we pick these often by default, because we believe that outside the box of identity, we could be destroyed utterly. But the box is a prison. Each label we give ourselves is one more way we can be called, and leashed.
We can’t abandon the myth, but we can pick and choose. We can ask ourselves—is this really me? Is this all that I am? Is there perhaps more? Maybe, indeed, the personal myth I have chosen is just a position, and the real shield of my identity is my name itself. And by this I mean not the name someone gave you, your parents or your friends or even yourself, but the only name you really have for yourself: I.
I is bigger than the personal myth, and far more frightening, because I can contain any number of myths, myths beyond number; I is capable of being not only Traitor but Betrayed. I is not romantic or even compelling, because I is not a coherent narrative at all—like all the very best stories, I resists all classification, is immune to being pigeonholed in such a way. And as such, I may choose between any role at any given time, and so live its own life free from both the constraints of packaged identity and its safety. The pure freedom of I is not that it always does things that are original or new, or always goes against the grain of what people would expect (that is the personal myth of the Artistic Rebel), but that I may conform or not as it chooses, may pick the role that fits the circumstances and discard that role cleanly and without regret if it provides for an unhappy life or simply no longer works.
Do not underestimate the difficulty of attaining I; really being able to embrace the self, rather than a tiny role or personal myth that is only a dwindling part of it, is rather outside the grasp of anyone to do all of the time. When we are low, or stressed, or simply don’t know what to do, we often retreat to our myths and fantasies by way of consolation, or fear. But it is important to acknowledge that I exists, that I is bigger than any particular label or role or myth that may reside within it.
We do this because it gives us the ability to change. No personal myth is big enough, expansive enough, to make us happy all the time; and no myth is big enough, wonderful enough, to contain even the lesser half of a real relationship with another human being. We embrace I because only I can really approach another I; as long as we remain inside the myth, human beings are strangers blundering past each other in the dark, too busy conversing with our inner monologues to hear each other speaking, and reach out, and clasp hands. The myth is a powerful dream, and we want to believe it, but we are adults, not children, and human voices must wake us, sooner or later, to conversing truly.
Q:I'm really captivated by how you show confusion, disorientation, and alienation in Genus. A protagonist pulled along by influences he can't control or even perceive feels like an apt metaphor for 21st century living.
The New Pretty Deadly Scents Are Live!
Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab is proud to announce a new series of scents based on Image Comic’s Pretty Deadly by writer Kelly Sue Deconnick and artist Emma Rios.
PRETTY DEADLY is a mythic western, a tale of retribution and redemption, that begins at the gallows and ends in Death’s domain. It is a story told by a dead rabbit to a butterfly, that you are invited to quietly overhear.
Heady blossoms of jasmine, white gardenia, and magnolia sharpened by neroli, given a voluptuous depth by red patchouli, oakmoss, and cedar.
Sharp tobacco flower and white cognac, a thin layer of smoke, and dusty black pepper pierced by the amber of her eyes.
Bourbon geranium emboldened by the rich scent of aged patchouli, the sweetness of peach, raspberry leaf, and bourbon vanilla, surrounded by a butterfly swarm of spicy carnation and Italian bergamot.
A white rose draped by a delicate, pale, sheer veil of vanilla, the depth and darkness of her black lace embodied by tobacco absolute, Indonesian patchouli, Bulgarian oakmoss, frankincense, white sandalwood, and myrrh.
Sassafras and smoke for black vulture feathers, and King mandarin and red musk for the deep red-orange of the vulture’s face. Blue lilac and chamomile / opoponax and vetiver for the blue and black of her eyes. Vanilla bean and fig represent her innate goodness and instinctive kindness.
Practical scents - warm, nurturing, wise, and strong: tonka bean, soft brown leather, myrrh, white sage, gurjum balsam, Ceylon cinnamon bark, red sandalwood, sweet tobacco, and a touch of gunsmoke.
White lime with lily of the valley, oudh, Himalayan cedar, nagarmotha, and tobacco for the sheen of raven feathers, and saffron, white honey, and amber for her fierceness, strength, and courage.
Perfume oil blends, $26.00 per 5ml bottle.
Because of the nature of this project, imps are unavailable.
Where You Can Read More About Pretty Deadly:
Visit the Pretty Deadly website.
Q:Tell us some about those Moyoco Anno books you're going to release!
Read these entries on Moyoco Anno Insufficient Direction!!
Q:Dear vertical i just wanted to thank you for publishing Gundam AND getting it to Canadian shelf's as well. my local chapters only ever got viz titles (viz is meh) and udon books (there Canadian). My question is how much bigger is the american market compared to the Canadian manga market without going into numbers.
This is a GREAT question and one I can easily go into.
First lets talk population…
The US has about ten times the population of Canada. There are also more urban cities in the US. VAT does not exist here and manga prices are cheaper due to the lack of tariffs.
So with that in mind FOR VERTICAL (i can’t speak for other pubs cause I have no access to Canadian data for other publishers) in general Canada provides around 2-5% of our overall market share.
Some books do better (Flowers of Evil, Nintendo Magic, Wolfsmund and Twin Spica are examples) but most titles see just a few cartons make their way to Canada directly.
Now there is a bit of a gray market that is in play. Diamond Comics orders all their books for a US account, but they can ship to Canada (or any other country). Wholesales companies can also do the same. And we have been told Amazon may do some inter-warehouse shipping but I cannot confirm that.
Canada is definitely important to us. That’s why I have been to at least one con up there 4 out of my 5 years with this company. But the states of California and New York do better individually than all Canada combined.
Jackie Chan & Kim Hee Sun // Endless Love
Always brings tears…
For people who’ve been torn down their entire lives, self-love is a necessary project. But I think people tend to misinterpret it. The project of self-love is not about what the world owes you, or shutting out others and building yourself up, or self-indulgence. It’s about letting others in who will build you up and affirm you as you validate them and build them up. It’s about trusting others and supporting them in return. It’s about critiquing each other so that you begin to unlearn the very ideas that tear you down.
Self-love is not an individual project. Self-love, in its fully realized form, is a community project.
[OP-ED] ‘Engrish’ Was Never FunnyBy Mod MyshaylaAbout a month ago, I was getting my hair done by a woman with a distinct accent. I didn’t know anything about her and I kept to myself like I generally do with people I come across. After a while, she asked, “Are you always this quiet? Or is it because of my accent?”While we talked, sometimes she had to repeat herself because I couldn’t understand what she was saying. Turned out, she moved to America from Iran seven years ago. I reassured her that it wasn’t her accent that made me quiet, I was just like that with everyone. Other people at the salon backed me up.A situation like this isn’t rare. Similar things happen online all the time too. A message that ends with “sorry for the bad English”.I feel for people that learn English as a second language. Not only is it extremely difficult to learn but too many native speakers have developed an arrogant attitude to their own language, thinking it’s the best and anyone who doesn’t speak it correctly needs to apologize or get out of the country, even though English isn’t dictated the official language of the United States, the world, or the Internet, for that matter, it’s speakers seem to think so.This belief is taken to a whole other level in kpop because the idols don’t even live in an English speaking country yet are forced to appeal to our standards still and not once slip up, or they’re made fun of until their self-esteem takes a blow. (Ex: Himchan and “loof”.)Making fun of an idols’ English needs to stop for a number of reasons. First off, it’s incredibly brave to put yourself out there and speak a language you’re not entirely familiar with. I have a hard time with public speaking already, I can’t imagine how it’d feel to speak a language I was learning in front of hundreds of people or to be recorded speaking, having that video available for anyone to see for the rest of my life, and then being ridiculed for it.Making fun of how someone speaks is a sure way to ensure they never feel comfortable talking to you again. You may feel the need to correct their pronunciation or grammar, but try to be patient and not condescending about it. Languages vary, English words don’t derive from the roots that Korean words do. Some vowels are used more or less, some letters simply don’t exist, not all alphabets are the same.Another important thing to remember is, English is a colonizer language. This language has invaded countries by force. Some people of color were literally stripped from their language and had to learn English in order to survive. To treat it like the golden language is very ignorant and echoes the colonizers from the past.Even the fact that some black Americans know English is because hundreds of years ago, when our ancestors were taken from Africa, they ended up learning. These Africans couldn’t even speak to each other because Africa has more than one language. They birthed children that would learn from the white people around them.As if the skin whitening, plastic surgery, colored contacts, etc. idols go through and use isn’t enough, now they must speak perfect English as well. At this point, I could argue, it’s turning into assimilation. Of course, a lot of Korean idols have and always will have a strong connection to their culture but with the western influence, all these trends added together are beginning to feel like whitewashing. Even some names are being taken away and traded for predominantly white American/European names to be used as stage names or nicknames. There’s a reason for that too.It’s very insensitive to first, make fun of someone trying to speak their best and then disregard how English has always been pushed onto People of Color. English is so respected, despite not being known by the great majority of the world, it’s granted this entitlement.This briefly brings subtitles into the discussion. A lot of times I see fans crying about how there aren’t English subtitles for this and that. Yes, sometimes it sucks not knowing what idols are saying in videos but think about all the non-English speakers that watch English videos and feel that same way. English speakers, as a whole, no matter what race, seem to think everyone must drop what they’re doing and make sure they’re satisfied. Kpop is becoming international, but it’s still primarily made for Koreans, so of course people aren’t running around to make sure you, the English speaker, can get your precious videos translated. If whatever you’re trying to watch isn’t subtitled, I’m sure it will be by the end of the week.I’ve literally seen comments, on YouTube, disliked until they were considered spam and the reason they were disliked was because they were in Korean. I’ve seen people reply to these comments “if you’re going to be critical, write in English. I can’t understand that.”How is it that they had no problem with listening to a song in Korean but they suddenly had a problem with a Korean kpop fan’s Korean comment? How is it that they think English is so vastly more important, they’ll disregard all other languages and actually demand everyone writes in English for them.You can’t claim to be open minded for liking kpop and at the same time attack Korean fans and Korean idols who are trying to be just as open minded and learn English. If being nice is too much to ask, then just leave. No one wants you here. No one that speaks English and no one that doesn’t.
New lunchtime comic! I have Heard some Things…
Habibi by Craig Thompson arrived yesterday. From the back cover: “Sprawling across an epic landscape of deserts, harems, and modern industrial clutter, Habibi tells the tale of Dodola and Zam, refugee child slaves bound to each other by chance, by cirumstances, and by the love that grows between them. At once contemporary and timeless, Habibi gives us a love story of astounding resonance: a parable about our relationship to the natural world, the cultural divide between Christianity and Islam, and, most potently, the magic of storytelling.”. Excited!
but there’s a storm outside your door
and I’m a child no more