Saul Bellow in Herzog, quoted by American Roulette. Much of youth revolves around feeling ashamed of, burdened by, alienated from the unruly body: it does not do what one wants and needs it to do; it sabotages and humiliates; it is not one’s own, and it has an arsenal of idiocies with which one must contend. And worse even than the nightmare of puberty is the essential problem: you are not your body, yet will be contained by it, limited by it, judged by it.
Adulthood, it seems to me, involves much the same relationship with one’s personality: tastes, desires, proclivities, habits, needs, reactions, longings, and so on. One begins to identify above all with the observing self, and to feel ever more estranged from the rest, from the parts of oneself that talk, think, feel, and will. You are not your personality, but it is the part of you that is visible, socially-extant, named, hated, loved.
It is lonely not to feel kinship with or fondness for one’s personality; it is exhausting to contend with it, too. It also tends to be temporary: just as with the right catalyst the irksome body can be resurgent, its sensations expanding to constitute a total, blissful universe, so too does the personality flare again and again and become all we are.
“He noted with distaste his own trick of appealing for sympathy. A personality had its own ways. A mind might observe them without approval. Herzog did not care for his own personality, and at the moment there was apparently nothing he could do about its impulses.” —
“History is the fiction we invent to persuade ourselves that events are knowable and that life has order and direction.” —
- Calvin (to Hobbes), 07.19.93