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In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania it is:
SIX MONTH SEMI-ANNIVERSARY FEBRUARY ONLINE EXPRESSIONS EDITION
SPECIAL FEATURE 1
SPECIAL FEATURE 2
Identity can be a complicated matter
Identity is a curious word, French in etymology, meaning sameness, and abstracted from the Latin meaning "over and over". Personal identity and image in this country is something I have been trying to understand for some time now. American history is so unique, with such an influx of nationalities swamping the small native population and establishing their own culture. Naïve hindsight would give the impression that this society would be mixed and vibrant, welcoming to new ideas and ways of living.
How do you define yourself? What makes you you? What you wear, eat, read, listen to, know, believe, and do for a living? Who you know? What skin color God gave you, your accent, or places you have been to? How many of these things differentiate you from those around you?
A desire for history – asking the question: "Where do we come from?" – is a very American (although not exclusively American) trait. What is our genealogy? Growing up in England, I never really asked such questions. I remember being shown family trees going back six generations, and having huge family reunions with my Dad’s family – all Scottish. These family trees and reunions were often quite entertaining, but they are something I take for granted. Is the search for a personal history something you do because everyone else does? Or is it deeper than that?
"A people without knowledge of their history is like a tree without roots," so the oft-quoted African proverb goes. I think this is a very true statement; and mankind’s natural desire is to belong, to know what happened before.
There are people constantly seeking answers. Madonna raved about what she "found" in her album "Ray of Light", and she is not the only one. New Age practices, encompassing Buddhist and Hindu beliefs, are all about "finding oneself". Only they claim you have to give up your "self" to find your personal divine identity – giving up all that you are to find something that does not exist.
America constantly amazes me for a country so young. I love how it still feels as though nature is firmly holding back the urban sprawl compared to Europe. Conformity reigns supreme, however, as I walk around campus. Everyone being desperate to be someone else – in appearance at the very least – is understandable in a way. If you look the same as everyone else, you all have something in common. There is an answer to everyone’s identity – mine is secure. I know who I am, where I come from, and where I am going. This knowledge is not in a complicated or materialistic way, nor in the sum of my parts and the character built by experiences, but in what I know to be true. I believe because it is true and it works.
I know I am created in God’s image; I am beautiful because God does not make anything ugly. I know I am smart because God does not make anything stupid; I know there is something good in me because God was pleased when he made man. I know my oldest ancestor was Adam, and my family tree includes everyone who has ever believed in the salvation offered by what Jesus did.
Although I miss my biological sister who is at home in England, every time I step into church I find joy and love shared amongst my other brothers and sisters. That is where I feel truly accepted for who I am, and where I most belong. It is not exclusive; it is welcoming feeling, and only God fits in a God-shaped hole to make you a complete, 4D, Technicolor person.