Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Image Becomes Identity

I've been wondering about some of the people I see daily.  From my local coffee shop to the grocery store and the gas station, there are familiar faces with whom I exchange greetings.  We all have these folks on the border of our lives.  Out of context, they can be maddening.  That moment when you recognize a person but can't quite get the reason or the place.  I've found that grocery clerks fill this role well when seen out in public without an apron on or away from a cash register.  My meanderings have settled lately on the concept of back story.  I may know something about who these cashiers and baristas and fuel pumpers are now, but what their past holds is equally as fascinating to me.  There seems no way, short of taking the initiative to sit down with someone and simply say, "Tell me about your life, thus far."  I've long fantasized doing that, and on occasion have had the opportunity.  Unless we know back story we judge...big time.  At least many people do.  We look at the image and make assumptions about the identity behind them.  That translates to powerful ideas that may or may not be truthful.

So who is that guy that washes windows with his NRA ball cap on?  Does he come from the city where the college logo on his other cap is?  Did he always wash windows or was he a Wall Street banker in another life?  Is he retired?  Does he know something about how to clean a window that most others don't?
Who is the woman that writes religiously in her journal?  Who will read these finely sketched lines?  Is she a minster?  To whom does she minister?  Why?
Have we become deceived as a culture about making assumptions based on our own projections?  Does this, in part, explain the dichotomy of how we live and experience life in this country now?  Since it's impossible to read minds, all we have as an introduction to another is the image before us.  When that image is perceived as alien to our own values, the wheels begin to turn...silently and quickly.  I marvel how the older version of myself walking down the street brings different reactions from all manner of people.  Especially now that my image is perceived as older male.

No comments: