Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Many Versions of Me

I was reading recently--in the newest "Rough Guide"--about America. One of the things they said was this:

And for all of its pride and bluster, the USA can be a land of quiet nuances: snow falling on a country lane in Vermont, cherry trees blooming under Washington memorials, crocodiles swimming through the bayou. You could easily plan a trip that focuses on the out-of-the-way hamlets, remote wilderness, eerie ghost towns, and forgotten byways that are every bit as "American" as its showpiece icons and monuments. Putting aside the sheer size of the place, deciding exactly what version of America you want to see, may be the hardest decision of all.
(You are reading content from The Rough Guide to the USA.)

Reading that has gotten me thinking, and not necessarily about the United States itself. I'm intrigued by that final sentence. "Deciding exactly what version of America you want to see may be the hardest decision of all." I think it is true of people even more than it is of countries.

What exactly do I mean? I don't really know, but I've been noticing something...

Last week I received an email from a friend whom I haven't been able to see for a while. At the end of it, she directed me to her family's blog. (It seems that everyone has a blog these days, and I love keeping up with folks this way. It is especially handy when they are in another state, or even another country, and hopes of actually seeing them anytime soon are rather slim.)

One thing I'm realizing, as I keep my own little "private" blog, is that I often have a desire to let someone know about it. Some particular something I've posted is something I want some particular person to see... the heartening sermon excerpt for the discouraged friend, the fun vacation photos for the distant grandparent, the link to the challenging and thought-provoking website for the youth group leader, even just the daily humdrum of life for those who love us very much and are the only ones who might care to read such things...

This morning, even, as I taught children's church, I had a desire to tell them I would record the scripture memory song I was teaching them and post it on my blog so they could go listen to it during the week and learn it more easily.

The "problem," I'm realizing, is that we have many selves... different personae we adopt for interacting with different folks. It isn't necessarily that we have different selves, per se, so much as that we reserve a view of many of the aspects of our true self for those few who are closest to us... or maybe that we change which dimensions of ourselves we choose to present, depending on the context of the interaction and the persons involved.

This is especially true of someone like me. I am frequently accused of being intimidating. I am often referred to as very intense, very deep, very pensive. Some who know me love this aspect of my personality, and intend it as the highest compliment. Others who know me have broken off friendship with me because it was "just too much," and they want simpler, shallower, "nicer," less exhausting.

And so, even when we consider ourselves to be persons who are very vulnerable, very "real," very willing to share whatever we're dealing with freely and openly, we find ourselves in many relationships that are not on a level that can handle that... or that even want to. There are those--particularly family members whom we rarely see--who don't even understand half of what we're talking about when we're "waxing philosophical." And we don't really "get them," either, or half the choices they make, so we just don't interact on those levels.

"Smiles, everyone, smiles" as the Fantasy Island guy used to say.

And there is, of course, a reason for the age-old adage to "never discuss religion or politics." Those who are relationally savvy keep quiet when the topics may be sensitive, stay mum when the implications of the topics may potentially offend, share certain dimensions of themselves but not others when doing so will keep everyone comfortable and happy. We do so with varying degrees of comfort, and we do so with differing levels of satisfaction and pleasure, but we do it almost unconsciously, without even realizing we're doing it half the time.

And so, the idea of actually publishing your blog and letting people know about it becomes intimidating. If you are open with your true self--all your true "selves"---on your blog, then there are those you know who may read your blog and freak out. And so, a little while after publishing it, you may end up halting discussion of the meaningful or the thought-provoking, and the blog becomes a handy place to share photos and cute stories, but nothing more.

"Deciding exactly what version you want to see may be the hardest decision of all."

That, and deciding exactly what version you want to show.

1 comment:

iivo said...

Interesting. However, I think part of the 'plan' is life together, intimately. I think there are concentric circles and the closest to the center see and know the most. The cry to be known? That can be answered only by The One who made us, really, but I understand your point, and it's a good one. I am privileged to walk this world, life and age with you, and I am very glad to know you.