Saturday, January 08, 2005

Identity

The biometrics industry wants to identify me, but I’m determined to escape their evil clutches. What makes them think that I’m simply the sum of my beefy parts? Or that they can untangle this complex of neurons that I’ve spent so many years tangling up? You think Christmas lights are hard to straighten out…you should see my hippocampus. No, they’ll never be able to pin me down.

Go ahead. Try to take my fingerprints—I’ll cut my fingers off. I’ll still be my same nubby-handed self.

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Go ahead. Take my voice print—I’ll never speak again. I’ll still peck out my thoughts with a pencil between my teeth.

Go ahead. Photograph the pattern of blood vessels in my eyes—I’ll gouge them out. I’ll still have the same mental images—and you don’t want to see those anyway.

Go ahead. Put me in a rubber room and analyze my psyche. I’ll alternately screech like a monkey and sit on the floor buhdda-still for days on end.

Go ahead. Knock all my teeth out to obtain my dental record. I’ll write on the floor of my rubber room with my bloody fore-knuckles. And I want the gold fillings back.

Go ahead. Process my DNA. You’ll find I share about 90% of it with fishes. Does that help nail down who I am?

Go ahead. Stab my brain with round pokers and try to pull out the core of me. Will you know when you’ve found it? Who will tell you whether you have suceeded or not?

There is a way though. But it has to be given, not taken by force. Cetain special people…people we like to call ‘artists’: writers, musicians, painters, movie directors, actors, etc. have the special ability to pull their identity out of themselves and place it in the world for the rest of us to see, hear, touch. You can read a few lines of a book and immediately recognize the person that wrote it. Or view the line of a drawing and immediately see the unique individual’s style flowing over the paper.

It takes incredible courage and skill to extract your identity and put it in your work. I don’t pretend to understand the process, not being an artist myself. But thankfully we have such people in the world and they have such abilities. They let us know we share the same flaws, concerns, joys, and emotions. They can also show us a different perspective-- inside-out as it were. To all the artists in the world: I salute you!