On Identity

“I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been thought about, born in God’s thought, and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest and most precious thing in all thinking.”
George MacDonald

Before coming to Oxford, I was asked to email a bio about myself to the group I would be studying with in the fall. In this “paragraph to a page” format I was offered something most of us love and hate: a chance to present myself to a group of people who have no idea who I am. So in one way, it was a fresh slate with a fresh group of strangers. In another way, it was a chance to make myself into the person I wish I was—to talk up the good, rare parts of myself, and downplay my everyday failures and petty tendencies. Sounds like fun, huh?

Not. I agonized over this bio, thinking about all the ways I didn’t want to come across. If I wrote too much I would seem proud and long-winded. If I wrote too little I would seem cold and glib. It felt sort of like a joke because no matter what I wrote I suspected these faceless judges would in one moment make their verdict about me. And I wanted a chance to give my defense!

It’s in face to face conversation that we as people grow to love one another. When you first meet someone remotely, through cyberspace, I fear there is a freedom to judge and write off one another because that is what we have always done to the movie stars, politicians, and musicians we’ve been watching from afar our whole lives. It’s fine to say you love Beyonce and hate Barak Obama, because after all they’ve given their pitch, and now it’s your prerogative to make assertions about them holistically, as people. Oh wait, except, no. It’s not.

I think we as rational creatures with free wills have the duty to hold beliefs and defend them. It very well may be that Obama and Beyonce can both be objectively wrong in what they assert as true. But what I am positing is that though they can be wrong, that does not mean you know them as people, which means you cannot write them off completely, just based off of a bio. Humans take a bit more effort than that.

I’m happy to report that all the people here at Oxford are wonderful and I am so happy to know them. I am also happy to report that I intentionally did not read any of their bio’s as an attempt to know them.

I saved our face to face meetings for that.


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