In the book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, we have a conversation between Alice and the caterpillar trying to answer this very question, who am I. Let us join the conversation:
“The Caterpillar and Alice looked at each other for some time in silence: at last the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth, and addressed her in a languid, sleepy voice.
‘Who are you?’ said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, ‘I — I hardly know, sir, just at present — at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.’
‘What do you mean by that?’ said the Caterpillar sternly. ‘Explain yourself!’
‘I can’t explain myself, I’m afraid, sir’ said Alice, ‘because I’m not myself, you see.’
‘I don’t see,’ said the Caterpillar.
‘I’m afraid I can’t put it more clearly,’ Alice replied very politely, ‘for I can’t understand it myself to begin with; and being so many different sizes in a day is very confusing.’
The events in the story above correlates with the steps in a child to adulthood growth and progression. We can all relate to Alice, we see her at this point of her life, feeling the loss of her identity: that is, all of us at one point of life.
And of course, the Caterpillar can not see that precisely because he has no previous version of Alice to compare the present one with. Considering the fact that constant metamorphosis is the very nature of the caterpillar, the unlucky Alice stumbles upon the one creature in the world who simply cannot offer empathy for her countless changes in size and shape, since bodily transformation is a norm for the caterpillars.The caterpillar doesn’t ever give Alice any direction, and she is now forced to find out who she is on her own.
Like Alice, “Who am I?” is a question we all ask at some point in our lives. While many people base their identities in relation to social context or social roles (e.g. occupation, coach, leader, basketball playerrace, religion, father, mother, etc.), however, there is more to self identity. Our identity encompasses the system of memories, experience, feelings, thoughts, relationships, our stories and values that define who each of us is. It’s the stuff that makes up a “self.” Identity is a critical component of understanding who we are. Why? Because we can break up identity into components (values, experiences, relationship).
Trying to uncover own self identity can be a tricky process. For one, you hold multiple identities in your life, each with its own set of socially defined values and expectations. They may not fully conform to who you are on the inside. Let us say you are an employee of a hospital. As an employee, your mission should be congruent with whatever your hospital policies are, say to improve people’s lives through better care. Your goals should also be in line with the hospital, say to increase quality of care by 20% in one year.
However, as a person you have other goals and dreams which differ from your company’s. Perhaps you love helping the poor. Your ideal vision is to travel to Africa to support orphanages. That’s very different from what;s expected of you as an employee of a hospital. This applies to your other identities too. For every identity, you are expected to have a set of purpose/values/vision/beliefs which may not be exactly the same as your inner self’s purpose/values/vision/beliefs.And because everyone is unique, your inner self can’t be boxed in by any one identity or label.
Dr. Seus in his book, Happy Birthday to you,” Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You!” In this lines, Dr. Seuss helps us to celebrates our unique identifies, telling us about a world where a friendly bird organizes a party for everyone on their birthday with all of their favorite things. Here, Seuss lets readers know that they are unique and that it is something to be proud of. Isn’t that awesome?
Listen carefully, lovely person– You are unique in your beautiful identity! You are Uniqueness! There is nobody like you, there never was and there never will be. Uniqueness is not only for the great and famous! I know it’s not easy to hear, let alone accept, these words – they feel strange, frightening even, as if they are referring to someone else and not us, because we are used to believing that we are nothing and uniqueness is only for the great and famous! But hey! even science confirms it – your DNA is like no other person’s DNA; it is completely unique, as are your fingerprints!
I was reading 1 Corinthians 2:9. In this verses I learned that I was predestined to be a certain person by God. God has oversight of what happens to you on this earth. He has set you in your own time and place in history. Each of us has been created with uniqueness, God-given purpose. And when you are fulfilling that purpose, that’s when you feel most alive, that is what makes you feel the unique you. That purpose is closely aligned with your identity.
I heard a story about the Child Song of the Himba People of Namibia, which is a better analogy for telling how unique each of us is. When a Himba woman decides to have a child, she goes off and sits under a tree, by herself, and she listens until she can hear the song of the child who wants to come. After she has heard the song of this child, she goes back to the man who will be the child’s father and teaches him the song. When they physically conceive the child, they sing the song of the child as a way of inviting the child to earth.
When she becomes pregnant, the mother teaches the child’s song to the midwives and the old women of the village, so that when the child is born, the old women and the people gather around the child and sing the child’s song to welcome him/her. As the child grows up, the other villagers are taught the child’s song. If the child falls, or gets hurt, someone picks him/her up and sings to him/her his/her song as a gift of comfort.
In the Himba tribe, there is one other occasion when the “child song” is sung to the Himba child, who has now grown up to be a tribesperson. If a Himba tribesperson commits a crime or does something that is against the Himba social norms, the villagers call him or her into the center of the village. The community forms a circle around him/her and they sing his/her birth song.
The Himba people view correction, not as a punishment, but as love and remembrance of identity. For when you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another person
Finally, when the Himba tribesman/tribeswoman is lying in his/her bed, ready to die, all the villagers that know his or her song come and sing, for the last time, that person’s song.
Your birth song connects you strongly with your identity and purpose. The Himba women are doing more than just singing nice imaginings. They tap into the very essence of God’s intent for a person. Right from the world go. This is what I did when my new baby son was born, and I prayed over him.
The Himba understand each child’s birth song is incredibly important. Each unique song calls a person back to remember who they are: the best and truest part of themselves, giving a sense of identity. The song is a newborn child’s birth story, put to music, and becomes part of the baby’s distinctiveness. During childhood, female family members sing the song over the child, giving a sense of place, worth and meaning.
In a general sense, we humans long to understand the beginnings of our existence in pre-history by exploring evolutionary theories and creation concepts to gain a sense of our humanity, our identity. It’s all about understanding our place in this world. Just the same, your identity is all about your beginnings. Your birth song, or birth story, is a part of your own history on this earth. When you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to be like another, and when you recognize your own song or story you feel empowered, and encouraged to create your own path, the unique you path, the path that Creator of universe designed for you, your unique you destiny.