Who are You?

By Donald Hutchins IV

“Who are you?” It’s an interesting question. I haven’t heard it in a while, either.

The last time I asked myself this question was in my creative non-fiction class a few semesters ago– I can’t recall which one, specifically. Our first assignment was a 40-page autobiography. It could include anything we wanted, and we could omit as we pleased certain events and details.

Which, in a way, does some injustice to both the writer and those that will read about them. Biography is literature on a person’s life, written not by that person. Autobiography would simply be the same but substitute another for the One– the one it’s all about. The one at the wheel, pen in hand– the one in control.

But! Is there a difference in the way one person can control the reality of anothers life, and the way one person can control the reality of their own life? If someone writes your biography, it is their interpretation of your life they’re recording– if you’re not about Mearleau-Ponty, this means that they’re not recording your life but your life as experienced through theirs.

Similar issues also arise if one makes it their interest to commit themselves to written record. In such a situation, the individual presently interested in themselves must take up a reflective– perceived to be objective– basis in order to analyze and make sense of the past and deduce its relevance to the present. A process endured by an individual for another is, necessarily, similarly endured by the individual for them self.

This is ultimately due to the trans-temporality of experience– we live through time; within it and apart of it. We humans reach across time, to the Founding Fathers, to the Civil War, to the Great Depression, to the Great Prosperity, et al., because that is the basis for our continued activity. We develop, we learn, and we live in reference to that which came before us– and we actively use it to make determinations about our horizon.

The difficulty in determining the “who” is the determined paradoxical purpose of it all. While we strive to bring to clear fruition that which encompasses us, enlivens us, turns us on in the most trivial or spiritual ways, for the purpose of others’ understanding, we disregard the crucial reality that we cannot with any absolute certainty endow others with our experience. There is no manner at which we can completely supplant anothers perspective for our own, even if it was the full desire of the receiving individual.

To put this lesson into the simplest terms: even if you can walk for a period in anothers’ shoes, they’re still your feet. Even if you can get intimately close to a complete and identical restructuring of separate experiences, there is the reality that they exist equally in similarity and in difference. By being fundamentally separate, there lies the confirmed essence of difference– even in identical twins(see The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates(2010), et al.).

So! To bring it full circle: the question was “Who are you?” And I can say that the “who” is Donald Hutchins IV.  Presently, I are engaged as a writer. And with a developed understanding of how arbitrary written modes of communication are at conveying the essence I’m geared towards exposing, I am certainly putting myself inside your head. Here I am, as you digest what I put into your conscience’s mouth.

However, whether I, to any degree, transform the contents of your mental file-cabinets from the past into engagements with the present is interestingly enough just as up to you as it is to me. Though I can never do my “job” perfectly, there is a degree that you can. I cannot write for your brain or even to it if it is not willing to accept that which it encounters. The degree to which both myself and you, the reader, will succeed in our activities together depends upon the free-flow of our present intentions.

We must be comfortable enough, interested and together willing enough, to remove our shoes and work with our feet. And you know just as well as I do that it’s gonna be weird. But more on that to come!

Moore, Wes, 1978-. The Other Wes Moore : One Name, Two Fates. New York :Spiegel & Grau Trade Paperbacks, 2011.

One thought on “Who are You?

  1. And the other issue here is the one that so occupied Merleau-Ponty: namely, how do we humans make meaning? How do we make meaning of our own experiences? and the experiences of others? This question is central to the humanities.

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