I’m not a Brand, are you?

Vague currents swirl about. I’m between things, in a weightless apogee of the summer solstice and its aftermath. I’m waiting for what’s coming to materialize, and for the ways to talk/write these changes will require. In the meantime, I’m struck by our push to turn ourselves into Brands. It’s curious that as I begin to find shreds of what may be an individual me, I’m hit by the ways we fight this process off and insist, strive, push onto ourselves and anyone who will listen, that we are something else. Persona, character, stereotype, brand; these are all ways to sidestep finding who we are, and projecting something false. This is tied with the perceived, “Crisis of Trust” and the crises of expertise and leadership I’m often on about here.

What pushes me to what I’m beginning to call joyful disillusionment is the way we tend to find a few characteristics of our predicaments and call them problems. Then we decide that modifying these conditions will “solve” something, or everything. This rush to conclusions takes us past any possibility of escaping this perennial trap. The trouble with it is on both ends and in the middle. At each end we have that our predicaments are not problems and there are no answers, only questions. In the middle is the self-induced myopia brought on by the push of will and desire. As we strive for those answers we cannot allow that we may be mistaken, or if we do, we can only take our error so far before we get frustrated and start hacking at the Gordian Knot.

This is a big subject. For now let’s just see how it relates to this whole notion of branding and the way it has infiltrated to the level of attempting to brand ourselves. A related thought to hold on the side is the way so much effort is expended in “How to” exercises that seem to be aimed at teaching powerful sociopaths how to pretend to be human, an offshoot of a psychology that takes fitting people into the norms of a pathological society as its goal….

Curious, that those seeking power should fixate on scarring themselves with what has always been a violent mark of ownership applied to human and non-human chattel. Is it a sign of fealty to the deity they worship? If ownership is all, then “All hail ownership!” and “Pass the branding iron!”

It’s always so slippery. The unintended consequences seem to follow a poetic justice, maybe there’s something to that poetry racket after all….

An entrepreneurial “guru” once fed me this pearl of his wisdom, “If you want to be a designer, well, you should look like one!” He said, with a smug look of self satisfaction as he presented his black leather and boxy rectangular spectacles and spiky hairdo for my appreciation – all decades out of place on his older frame.

I’ve written about “my legitimate strangeness.” That sense of dislocation at seeing one’s self as if from the outside is directly connected to the way we fight being ourselves and strive to find just the right persona or brand to inhabit. Whether it’s peculiar to this culture’s conditioning, or a wider condition, we are uncomfortable whenever we are confronted with whatever is truly individual within us. We see it as the awkward bit, the part that doesn’t fit the story of “cool” we like to think we inhabit. It’s there intruding on our ability to make a seamless projection where we can convince someone, if even just ourselves, that we are that, and not this.

For any of this to make sense, and not be seen as a bunch of self-contradictory clap-trap, we need to skate over the thin ice of a series of assumptions. To begin, the individual self I’m proposing isn’t the cowboy, Ayn Rand, Ronald Reagan “individual” which is nothing more than a series of pathetic personae marketed to the weak-minded. This individuation is connected to an integration of the self, that recognizes the interpenetration of all in us and through us. It’s a short-hand for the bit of the all that goes around dealing with this persistent illusion that it is distinct and separate. The same goes for the short-hand “I.”

Underneath it all is the assumption, or declaration, that there might be something of greater value than meeting our desires by exercising our wills. That entering into a reality based relationship with, well “reality,” may be a better strategy than the ones we’ve put so much effort into for so long. That this relationship might lead us to subordinate our desires and our wills to necessities we cannot escape or ignore is implicit behind all that is suggested here. That all of this brings us something greater, not in whatever Ever-After may be our predilection to dwell on, but right here and now, by unlocking our ability to Be.

The whole striving to make of ourselves into brands is so trivial and pathetic. That doesn’t make it unusual in the human condition, nor make it somehow easy to avoid. We are pathetic a lot of the time, and caught up in trivialities. This isn’t reason to beat ourselves up over it, or to push harder to ensure “It won’t ever happen again!” None of that does anything but prop up our insistence that we can be powerful and that this is better than being strong. Recognizing our vulnerability, wherever it appears, is a practice that can wean us of this desire. None of this is in the service of any “sacrifice.” On the contrary, instead of sacrificing ourselves on the altar of ownership, power, and control; hungering for the feel of that hot iron on our skin so we can proclaim our allegiance; our vulnerabilities, including our legitimate strangeness, loosen the grip these manias have on us.

This is one way in which there is joy at the heart of disillusionment. The deeper we take it, the greater the resultant joy we expose ourselves to.

This exploration appears to be “my topic.” Take this as a preliminary volley now that I’m aware of it. Awareness has a relationship to intention as well as to action-without-striving. There’s the nut!

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