Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

The desire to escape-- to lose and forget, or at least suspend one’s sense of self, has existed as long as the human condition has been painfully reflective. History’s greatest poets and philosophers have tried to wrestle with the absurd contradictions of modernity, yet no other era has seen such an accelerated progress in media that are designed to help escape, as well as forge new identities to such a baffling degree. Indeed, man’s drive to individuate aggressively on one hand, and escape the unpleasant realities on the other, create a potent desire to be capitalized by the powers that be.

This is a story about an identityless blob, by all practical means a pseudonymous shitposter, living in a realm beyond labels and adjectives; how too much individuation means no net individuality; what would be if Robert Frost described the multitude of ill-trodden roads that man is faced with at any given moment of time. You can call him X Æ A-12.

All exploration and no exploitation makes Jack a confused slave of every trade. Yet the very act of committing to an identity implies limiting the perceptual horizons of whatever potentialities lay within you.

The act of identifying oneself, then, in such a world, is fundamentally that of reduction and deliberating over trade-offs, rather than something liberating. Your identity can limit you yet without one you have to learn to be comfortable with feeling lost. Your identity leaves you vulnerable to profiling that advertisers can target, for one thing. In a world full of archetypes to identify with, only the madman can be truly free. To be antifragile when lost in a heartless ocean is to adjust your sails to benefit from the gales.

At the most physiological level, X Æ A-12 does have a rigid identity in so far as he is the sum total of all his deeply baked habits and mannerisms, subconscious beliefs, material conditions of living, memories, and so on, yet the modern condition subjects him to make a living in front of screens that dole out torrential streams of novelty, and the promotion of parasocial relationships that further his alienation from society. He is taught that reaction and curation are worthy intellectual pursuits because originality is unrewarded and even punished outside of tightly controlled environments with economic incentives.

“Participate in the national hackathon to be a free-spirited, lateral-thinking, thought-leader, auteur, renaissance man, polywhatever” and earn yourself a badge to be just like the myriads of stamp collectors. A sense of belonging and identification is one of the deepest human needs, yet the post-modern condition positions X Æ A-12 in such a vantage point as to be completely overwhelmed by the possibilities and deliberation over optimal play. To be yourself, then, is the art of playing suboptimally. If excessive individuation is a symptom of deep discomfort and flight from one’s identity, then the remedy is to be found outside the bounds of language which introduces these arbitrary categories to begin with.

To be yourself is the radical act of letting go.

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