Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

To Dance a Thousand Flames and Call Them “Self”

Originally posted on March 29, 2012

This phrase and picture came at me some years ago and re-presented itself recently in light of a growing awareness that I serve as a vehicle for innumerable roles. Some of these include dishwasher-guy (a not-particularly-super-hero), amanuensis (I just take dictation), encourager of others (often international students), etc. dancethousflames

The point of course is that “Self” isn’t one role but a source, a fountain of possibilities. The self (selves) of the musical composer may be discerned in the many moods and dances embedded in each compositions, and so too with the poet and artist. The idea that we are just one person is sooo 20th century, foolish once we recognize the creative potential of the mind. Integration can happen in bodies containing thousands of different kinds of cells, tissues, and organs, and so too the mind can be generally integrated. But that word—integration—is not the opposite of startlingly differentiated or diversified. I have serious  roles I play, and silly ones, profound roles and shallow ones. As I get to know people, it turns out they do, too, only for many this process role diversification and celebration is muted.

The background rule (cultural) is that we should seek more unity, be more focused. The question, “Who am I?”  has not yet been recognized as misleading and in a way,  impossible. The old rule is that you’re supposed to “find yourself,” as if this were possible. Indeed, one can discover roles that feel more authentic, but there’s no final result. A better rule would be to continue to create and re-create new facets of yourselves and to find ways to roughly integrate them. I say “roughly” because the integration might be as simple as allowing some time for expression—there’s no need to be able to explain why or how a person who’s so x in many roles is completely (and refreshingly) y in other roles. Integration is not unification, it’s finding a way to build in some time for y in a life dominated by the other “letters” of the alphabet of different roles one plays in life.

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