Who Are You? Who? Who? Who? Who?

I’ve often posed this question, alas without response. Little wonder really, since current thought has it that human/plant communication is still a one way street – the verbal side of it anyway. I chat away to the plants in my garden, dispensing encouragement or disappointment depending on performance and expectations, but to date have not had a single one speak up.

Now this creates something of a problem when it comes to identifying the correct botanical classification. How much simpler it would be if I could just ask, ‘who are you, what’s your name?’. Plants and cuttings gifted to me, or those I’ve bought from market stalls are sometimes of unknown origin, named according to their grower’s whim, like Grandma’s Ground Lily or old Tom’s Fancy Nancy bush, giving no clue to botanical identity. Why is this a problem?

Some might say it matters because we don’t want to unwittingly introduce weeds into our gardens. But what is one gardener’s weed but another gardener’s treasured plant? Isn’t it just a rose by any other name?

As serendipity and the wild meanderings of thought would have it, I was simultaneously pondering the notion of spiegel at the time. I won’t launch into why at this point; suffice to say the connection is a question of self identity. ‘Spiegel’ being German for mirror as I understand it. It led me to revisit social theories in the dark and dusty filing system that is my brain.

I thought about how humans might rely on others for knowing who they are at their core, beyond the numerous social roles assigned to them like daughter, sister, mother, wife and so on. Social roles are kind of like taxonomies if you were a plant for example, which I am not, at least I wasn’t the last time I looked, despite the expanding garden under my fingernails.

No, I’m talking about what the most influential people in our lives ‘mirror’ back to us about our identities – about who we are.

Friends play an important part in this process. They confirm, reassure, give credit and gentle admonishment. They, unlike our family, are bound to us by choice. We are precious plants in their gardens because they have chosen to nurture us, not to ‘weed’ us out. We see our most favoured version of self reflected in their eyes.

Someone once said  ‘eyes are the windows to our souls’. They were referring to what our own eyes reveal to others about who we are. But seeing our ‘self’ mirrored through the eyes of a trusted other may be the closest thing we have to understanding who we really are.

The moral of this story: choose your ‘identity gardeners’ carefully.

Visit my ‘garden of friends’ here.

16 responses to “Who Are You? Who? Who? Who? Who?

  1. Interesting topic Robyn. I think your comment “They, unlike our family, are bound to us by choice.” really hits the mark. The only close family I have is my dear Mum, who these days battles dementia. She no longer communicates and I doubt knows who I am — and I often wonder what her thoughts are of this man who brings her flowers and sits and talks to her, always about old memories.
    Certainly, people we allow to be influential for whatever reason, can have quite an impact upon one’s feeling of self-worth etc. I’ve been lucky to have two people (who I would call “amazing”) in my life — who in other’s eyes might not be influential — these are salt of the earth types, who don’t seek adulation, but “merely” go about their lives.
    Interesting reading Robyn — not surprising given your social anthropology leaning. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for your honest response Kim. Dementia is an insidious disease – robbing us of the very thing I posted on – identity. It also prematurely robs the family and friends of their loved one. I’m so sorry for your loss, for indeed it is grief extended beyond bearing. I’m glad you have the support of ‘amazing’ people – great identity gardeners.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Pondering the notion of spiegel made me “reflect” on one of my favorite quotes by Edith Wharton: “There are two ways of spreading the light: to be the candle of the mirror that reflects it.” Thanks for this insightful post opening up some many ideas to ponder.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There were some interesting things to ponder in this post. As for myself, I sometimes feel that I am a completely different person depending on who I’m talking to. I guess this might be a common feeling, but it’s not something I’ve ever discussed or read much about before, so I’m not sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Robyn, your post reminded me of a piece of writing that has been around for ages. I’m sure you would have read it. “Are you a REASON, a SEASON or a LIFETIME?”
    It goes a bit like this- People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. When you figure out which one it is, you will know what to do for each person.
    When someone comes into your life for a REASON it’s usually to meet a need. They’ve come to assist you during a difficult time.
    Then people come into your life for a SEASON because your turn has come to share, grow or learn.
    Then there are relationships that last a LIFETIME. The relationships teach you lifetime lessons: things you build upon to have a solid emotional foundation.You should accept the lesson, love the person and put what you’ve learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Robyn, I came across this post just as I’m brewing up an article for my boot camp for old age — thank you. One of this year’s challenges (which I still haven’t tackled) is to “be who you are.” As we age, what we see in the mirror literally and figuratively changes in disconcerting ways. It’s not easy, confronting and accepting a much older version of your self. Other people play a strong part in shaping that self-image — if only in our mind. I think I will call my article Selfies, Avatars, Prosopagnasia and Aging…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rachel I love the proposed name of your post! I’ve been hoping you’d comment at some stage because I don’t have your blog address – just the old one. I’ve told friends what you’re doing but not been able to give them a link.
      My doctoral research was in the area of personal narrative and identity in an ageing sample so I’m extremely interested in your posts. Looking forward to reading your latest offering in particular.


      • Wow, we do have so much in common. Except that you have delved far more deeply into “our” topic whereas I’m just exploring it from a personal angle. I’m so happy you responded. I have just removed the old blog address from Gravatar, so the new one should pop up in future. I hope to write that post very soon.

        Liked by 1 person

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