Monday, June 08, 2009

Portable Personas

Who are we?

We are born blank and tabla rasa but for a modest inheritance of instinct; yes, Homo Sapiens has genetic programming, despite our proud proclamation of Free Will. Then there are the Voices that we adopt: parent, teacher, priest, television host, or other cultural programmers. From this parliament of voices we each become I.

None the less, those Voices still speak to us, in dreams, in contemplation, and in conflict. In schizophrenia, there is no majority, just argumentative contention. In Health, there is consensus, with minority report.

Who am I?

Worker, son, husband, father, this-and-that. These are not just voices - these are personae and skill sets, some greater, some lesser, a psychic closet of costumes and masks from among which we may select. My own primary personality seems to be one oriented toward facilitating communication. I transfer information from one agent to another, translating it to some degree, trying to synchronize concepts and expectations. This talent lies close to the core of 'who I am,' although it is often thankless and fails, my efforts falling on barren ground, my observations and descriptions but dust on the wind. Disappointment is not a rare experience in my endeavours, both personal and professional. So, what carries me forward, what gives me visceral, not just abstract, satisfaction?

I try to communicate. I parent. But, as much as I love these roles, on some level, these are nebulous, without a true conclusion. I find that it is the concrete that does for me, with tangible results of my efforts, things I can see and touch and point to. I admire artists who can hang a pattern of sound in the air, who can produce an image of various substances, colours, forms and dimensions. Such are not my skills, alas. But over the years I have developed at least two sets of talents and have been endowed with Roles by their exercise.

Communication forms a close alliance with social skills, and I do enjoy the casual expressions of companionship. It is less work than intimacy, with its tricky constraints of time, and effort, and mores. As I have noted elsewhere, this repartee has oft been facilitated by that subtle poison, alcohol, especially when administered in public houses where a diverse crowd may gather to 'hoist a few.' I stumbled upon such an employment when personal trauma impelled me to quickly seek an alternative vocation. I became a Bartender, and although I no longer stand behind a stained counter, I carry this persona with me to this day. The Master of Ceremonies, quick with a pun or a nugget of trivia, a sympathetic ear administering anesthesia for a spectrum of tastes, the arbiter of what you May or May Not (not in here, anyway!), and the receiver of filthy lucre, such a hustler's game! Even now, at a party, I may juggle and opine, and if called upon, mix up a Long Island Iced Tea to quench a thirst (equal parts vodka, gin, rum, tequila and triple sec, shaken in sour mix (lemonade) with a splash of cola and lemon slice). Salud!

Later I learned an unexpected facility, for I never considered myself one to commune with a machine - in fact, au contaire! Rather, we did argue, and often bitterly. I was no artificer, to have my way with metal and electronic mysteries... But frustration did its work and pushed me over the edge. The first computer in our household was too limited. I was told that it could be more; but that would require new software. The software called for more memory, and later, more processing speed. I sought to hire a fellow who understood these things to upgrade our machine, but all he delivered were promises and frustration. So one day, with trepidation... I popped the hood and looked within, and gingerly pried and poked, and went to a vendor, part in hand, to tremulously ask, "You got another one of these?"

It did what it was supposed to do, and I was able to install this thing called "Windows." But sometime that programs and the machine did not know how to talk to each other; a speaker card - the computer's amplifier - did not understand what the software jukebox wanted it to do. Or the fax progrm and the modem spoke foreign tongues, and would not work together. So I picked the brains of nerds, geeks, and techies, trying to apply their instructions to my particular challenge, sometime successfully, other times, not. But my skill set developed as the whole computer field has done, meandering on the Internets, and attaching exotic peripherals that can enable you to do... a whole lot of things, if you hook it all together right, and tell the parts how to work with each other. In fact, for a few years, I ran a small registered business upon which I paid taxes, and to this day I take some pride when people refer to me as the Computer Guy.

But now I find that times are once again tough, my pleasures are few, and satisfaction, the exception. Time for a New Role. What might that be? I am older, and weary, and so much of my time is spoken for. The rut is deep, and though banal, it is comfortingly familiar. How shall I get my Mojo working? I will not surrender, though I loathe the challenge. Inspiration is what I pray for, something to focus my attention.

Maybe something that I could have been? for as the bumper sticker before me advised, "Be the Person You Always Dreamed You Would Be."

We shall see...

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