Thanks to the pandemic and new technologies, the world of work is topsy-turvy, and that means lots of people losing their jobs. More than an economic problem, it’s a psychological problem, maybe even metaphysical. The psychological effect involves a blow to how one thinks of oneself, one’s sense of identity. If you’re deprived of your job, on which so much depends, you may feel deprived of a sense of who you are, of your worth and capacity. That’s a big mistake.
There are problems with different group identity as well. So in fact there are identity wars playing out everywhere. In America today we’re witnessing a movement about the much abused identity of Black people, culture, and history. Meanwhile there’s a shaking up of identity all over the world rife with conflict, migration, poverty, etc., and with climate disaster intruding everywhere on the world scene much sooner than the scientists predicted.
Identity is a hydra-headed concept. For those who suffer from bouts of painful dis-identity, ask yourself: Who does the identifying or dis-identifying? Clearly, it comes from two possible places: from outside you, or inside you. The point we need to remember: We are not at the mercy of what’s thrown at us from the outside world. I can selectively respond; the rest I can reject, or endure with indifference,. Losing my job is not the end of me; in fact, it could be the beginning of something new. Losing things can sometimes be benefits in disguise.
My identity is my identity, not yours. Moreover, it’s a work in progress; it has a history and a future. I’m the poet, that is, the maker of my identity, my vision of my life. This is true for us all. We can agree on our sovereign ability to say Yea or Nay, thus to be the sole shapers of our soul life. We make our own identity. We need never surrender our identity to anything or anyone. External circumstances are never decisive.
When it comes to the true identity of ourselves, we should acknowledge the presence of the unknown. Our ordinary sense of reality covers only a thin, superficial layer of our mental depth and outreach. Below the threshold lies the personal, the collective, and the subliminal self. There are hidden strands of psycho-spiritual life woven into our constantly evolving identity. Each of us is infinitely more than we can imagine. The true scope and nature of what we are is a mystery to explore. I believe this because of my own experience and because of an independent mountain of evidence. Self discovery is a process that never ends.
But back to beleaguered Earth, what about the folks losing their jobs and their economic and social identities? I would underscore this: Everything depends on how we interpret an experience. Instead of seeing the loss of a job (or the loss of anything) as something that defines us, we need to see it as an opportunity to do something never been done before. But for that we need to be ready to become something new, to detach ourselves from our old identities. New identities are always on the horizon. There is no such thing as a static identity. Given all the remarkable potentials asleep within us, the losses we are forced to endure may be a set up for new gains we have yet to discover. The fragility of our personal identity is an illusion.