Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself."

Let me tell you about two people I know: "Dave" and "David."

Dave is a charming, fun-loving kind of guy who strives to live life to the fullest. He is a talented singer and actor. He listens to classic rock. At a party, he's usually one of the last to leave. He finds it difficult to settle down and focus on a particular task. He is something of a spiritual mystic, and often attends neopagan rituals.

David is an instrospective, serious-minded individual. He teaches and tutors math. He listens to classical music. Generally shy, he's the sort of person who doesn't get out much. He plays chess and can easily focus on a position for long periods of time. He is religious, and recently became an elder in the Presbyterian Church.

Both Dave and David are, of course, myself. And individually, each of them does pretty well.

The hard part is getting them to communicate with each other.


  1. Ooh, well done. I like this topic, and you are much better at writing meaningful, concise entries than I am. Don't even get me started on "Nora" and "Eleanor," because then there's also "Ellen" my evil twin from grade school, "El" the artsy pseudo-hippie idealist, "Sally" the former imaginary enemy/occasional troublemaker... and "Charlotte Amber Stacy," the romance-novel-writing alter ego who wrote her first story when I was in 1st grade.

    When you write yours down, it sounds complex and thoughtful and interesting. When I write mine down, it sounds... diagnosable.

    I might spin off this for a blog topic of my own!

  2. Maybe they haven't needed to communicate much because there's been little opportunity (or even need, perhaps) for them to be present at the same time.

    I've written before about my feelings of a dichotomous personality. I always blamed it on my date of birth, January 20th, which is right on the Capricorn/Aquarius cusp.

    While it's impossible to fit people into any one particular mold, I've found the general characteristics assigned to the signs to be fairly accurate.

    Capricorns are said to be patient, responsible, cautious, conservative, disciplined, and organized.

    Aquarians are said to be outspoken, witty, inventive, independent, intelligent and unconventional.

    Is it any wonder that, at the ripe old age of 50 I started my own business as a professional organizer? For years I was an accountant, a good one, but over time came to hate the work. I think it was just a shift from one half of my personality being the dominate side to the other, until they ultimately learned to live a blended existence.

    You did a great job painting a picture of your two sides so concisely. Small edit: life/live need to switch places.

  3. Oh jeez. This is a fascinating topic. So as to avoid leaving a comment three times as long as the post, I'll say first that maybe the Buddhist notion that the self is an illusion is correct: you feel divided because you divide yourself, in other words.

    On the other hand, I sympathize. Difficult to be a post-modern intellectual feminist woman and a Dumas-loving 17th century romantic young man at the same time.

  4. Artemis,

    There you go, trying to inflate my literary ego. (Thanks!)

    You're right, it does sound diagnosable. On the other hand, in your case (I think) there's little question that Nora is dominant, and the other personalities represent various subsidiary aspects. Which is actually pretty healthy.


    Wow, good to know I'm not the only one who blames my personal dichotomy on astrological phenomena. In my case, being a Gemini, a certain duality comes with the territory, but more importantly, my full chart is heavily (and roughly equally) dominated by two signs: Gemini and Virgo. I'm sure you can make the appropriate connections.

    And regarding jobs, at the risk of taking my simplistic personality model too far, when I stopped teaching full-time it was because Dave was suffocating. I experienced a similar shift, though I'm still working on the blended existence part.


    Wait--you're a man!??

    Perhaps. Generally I agree with the Buddhists that all is connected and that therefore our conceptualization of an autonomous "self" is incomplete, as are our various divisions of the universe into tidy, distinct categories. But on the other hand, that very categorization may be a necessary prelude to the overcoming of such distinctions.

  5. Sometimes I'm a man, sometimes a woman. Depends on a number of things.

    Wait! I like to blame astrology too. In my case, it's a Virgo sun ("I analyze"), and an Aries moon ("I feel passionately about what I analyze and try to head-butt everyone into submission"), plus being a Tiger in Chinese astrology (I love attention but am fundamentally solitary).

    You could be right about categorizations; on the other hand, the Buddhists could be wrong. I go back and forth. Consciousness acts as some kind of organizing principle; there is something like a "self," although it is not fixed or quite as singular as we'd like. Eh. Who knows. Fun to talk about, though.

  6. This is a fascinating discussion. I am dismayed, however, to see that I'm guilty of the very thing dear Ruby Apolline hoped to avoid - leaving a comment three times as long as the original post.

    Neither of my selves are very good at unwordiness, this much I know is true.

  7. Personally, I don't consider long comments to be at all taboo. So write away!

    Ruby, do I remember (from a TIBU comment) that you have some familiarity with the consciousness theories of Douglas Hofstadter? They are certainly an influence on my own thinking, and seem to relate to this discussion.

    Also, while I know very little about Chinese astrology, apparently I'm a Monkey. Hmm.

  8. I can blame most things on being a Sagittarius. Mutable signs are particularly prone to this kind of dual identity syndrome, I think.