Posted on October 1, 2013
Filed Under identity, Magic |
I’m reading Thinking in New Boxes. It’s a good book, and I know this because it’s gotten me thinking along some interesting vectors. In Thinking in New Boxes, the author explains how there’s no such thing as thinking outside the box. He claims we all think in boxes and even if we get outside of one box, we’re still thinking in another box, because of we use “boxes” to define and explain the world around us. Essentially, boxes are labels, definitions, models, etc., for helping us navigate and understand our experiences. He makes an interesting point when he notes, “To make sense of all these disparate inputs (stimuli, elements, events, etc.,) your mind either relies on preexisting categories that it has already created or, if none of those categories fits the present reality, it generates new ones.” And what this prompted me to realize is that categorizations also can apply to a person’s sense of self, and thus create intersections of identity.
Part of this realization also comes from something else the author said, namely that in order to deal with complicated aspects of real life we need to use “boxes” in order to compartmentalize those aspects. This compartmentalization creates an intersection of identity, where the “box” is used to shape an identity that handles what’s in the box. So for example, you have a job identity, which is different from your romance identity. Both of these identities exist in you and can even come to the fore at the same time, but typically one will be more prevalent than another based on the environment you are in, as well as whatever stimuli you’re dealing with at the time. The reason we come up with different identities is to handle the boxes, but also because it allows us to switch off when we go into another situation which calls for another identity to come to the fore.
So this is taking me in some interesting directions, because I’m also thinking about definitions and how they are used to define a perceived reality according to the agenda of the definer. When we add in the above idea, what we come up with as well is that definitions don’t just define a perceived reality, but also the identity of the person using the definition. In other words, definitions define the person as much as they define whatever is being defined. This might seem like a bit of a stretch, but consider that part of the agenda for a definition is that it not only defines something, but also defines a person’s interaction with that thing, and by extension the identity of the person. In this sense then a definition becomes an intersection of identity, both the identity of the definer, and the identity of the people who use the definition, as well as the definition in and of itself.
For magical work, this intersection of identity and definition can be useful for exploring how particular identities are formed and sustained as well as how they can be modified. If we can consider that definitions are a categorization of not only ideas, but also identity, then whatever definitions we use need to be chose carefully, and in fact this may be why it’s better to develop our own definitions. At the same time, we can also explore the identity of the person or people who developed the definitions and better understand why they chose to define something in the way they did. This understanding can help us in the formation of our own identities as well as the definitions we use, and make the magical work more meaningful.