“Who am I? …I could be anybody.”
–Johnny Depp, Rango
One of my upcoming projects in the next few weeks is to come up with a new look and feel for my business cards, which need a serious updating, if for no other reason that the only website they’ve got on ‘em is The Suburban Jungle. As much as I love SJ and always will, we’re coming up on three years since the comic finished, and it’s time for me to get a little more current.
Only problem is, I don’t have any idea what to do for it. A good business card, besides giving all of the relevant information, should give some capsulized form of self, something that sums up who you are and what you’re about, for the people who will be looking at the card later and thinking, “Oh yeah, who was that guy?” But lately, well, I don’t have a meaningful idea of what “self” I would want to give the world. My current card is a good summary of who I was, ten years ago, and who I have been, but to an extent that surprises me, I can’t put a finger on who I am now.
They told me, “Just be yourself!” So I did. Now they say, “Please be anyone else.”
Of course, ask a zen practitioner, and they’d probably applaud. The whole point of zen is to lose your sense of self, right? Does that mean I’m enlightened? ’cause I sure don’t feel enlightened. If anything, I feel sorta shapeless and incoherent.
Some years ago now I had a major emotional meltdown over the course of several months, facing all sorts of truths about myself that I’d shoved away, thoughts and ideas and experiences I’d repressed to the point of not even remembering I’d had them. This was not a fun thing to go through. In point of fact, it was awful, but it needed doing. But I think there is residual trauma from that, or something related to it, that’s making me very flinchy about committing to anything now. To take a position on something, requires defending it. To define myself as X, means that if X is later revealed as somehow undesirable, to be stuck with it. So far am I from being of the desirable zen-style “no mind,” I am instead vapor-locked in indecision.
Who am I? I could be anybody.
Of course, all social beings wear a mask– most introverts even moreso, and “reinvention” is nothing more than discarding an old mask in favor of a new one. Can I just make up a new “Gneech” and put him on, like putting on a new coat? Is that phony? Is it any more or less phony than everyday life always is and has been since birth? I don’t know. There’s a Cary Grant quote, which I had at hand once but have since been unable to find again, which says (paraphrased): All style begins with imitation. You do something repetitively until you assimilate it and it effortlessly and seamlessly becomes your own.
That’s true of a lot more than style: it’s true of art, it’s true of skill, it’s true of modes of speech, it’s true of just about everything. So, like Rango, who “put on” the cowboy persona until he finally actually became that persona, should my goal be to pick things that I see as positive and desirable and “put them on” until they become me?
And in the case of business cards, should I stare at a bunch of other designs and pick out elements I like from each to see what I can synthesize into a design of my own?
I think I think about this stuff too much.