This is a link to James Nachtwey’s wish. Mr. Nachtwey is one of the world’s greatest photojournalists. His work shows in clear terms who we are as a world. This post is about Mr. Nachtwey’s wish for the world as well as about our global identity. He is using this opportunity, a moment in the sun, to express himself.
Mr. Nachtwey says,
I’m working on a story that the world needs to know about. I wish for you to help me break it, in a way that provides spectacular proof of the power of news photography in the digital age.
Coaching moment: We are in the midst of events that are much larger than us. You may feel overwhelmed and powerless. However, there are small things we can do to remind us of who we are and where our personal strengths lie. Can you list a couple of your personal strengths that will be with you next week, next year, and beyond?
There are a lot of ways that we identify ourselves, as explained on the Identities page. One way that we define ourselves is by our groups. That is, we are a member of a group, and the group has its own identity (reputation, mission, purpose, common interest, etc.). We call our groups by various names: our team, our tribe, our peeps, our friends, our colleagues, our congregation, our neighbors…
One example of group membership is when people identify themselves as part of a neighborhood and it’s broad reputation. For example, Berkeley California is noted (by Wikipedia) as “one of the most politically liberal in the nation, with one study placing it as the third most liberal city in the United States.” Here is a 98-slide parade in Berkeley (thanks ChristopherA) of people that identify with their city, its reputation, their neighbors, et al.
A common identity may emerge from a group of people with a like interest. Here’s a picture of the early Greenpeace organizers, who identified themselves as part of a movement that was (is) needed to protect the earth.
I love this picture of a funeral procession (thanks JKwest, whom I don’t know). The picture speaks of people that identify themselves as knowing and wishing to pay respects to a particular person. We are members of groups in life as well as in death.
Coaching moment: You are part of a group because it gives you strength and as a collective voice. Can you think of one example in your life? Write down a few thoughts on what it means to be a member of that group. Put your thoughts away for a month or two. Pull it out and review it to see if the group is still serving its purpose for you.
You may also be a member of a group that you would not wish to be a part of. What is it about this group that you do not identify with, or that doesn’t feel like it’s a part of you?
This blog post isn’t going very deep, but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to invite you to learn more about what a personal identity is all about from a philosophical perspective.
As you might imagine, philosophers have a field day with concepts like identity. “Who am I” is a great starting point for long discussions of great academic importance. Hey, in your philosophical moments you may have had this discussion too. The mystery of life is a compelling inquiry.
If you’re interested in learning more about how academic philosophers approach the question of personal identity, you might be interested in reading this paper by Eric T. Olson at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP).
In the first part of the paper, The Problems of Personal identity, Olson outlines several “loosely connected questions:
Who am I? (what makes us individual and unique?)
Personhood (what is it that defines us to be a person?)
Persistence (survival, existence in a place or time, beyond death)
Evidence (sources that support who someone is)
Population (facts that help us determine how many of us there are)
What am I? (in a metaphysical sense)
How (different) could I have been? (my essential properties)
What matters in identity? (responsibility, a selfish interest, etc.)
The question of identity is not a new question, nor has the notion been settled or defined. Who we are at any point in our lives is also subject to change with time, circumstances, desires, or any reason we find compelling. These discussions will continue to inform us for many years to come.
Coaching moment: The next time you sit down with friends or family, ask them if they’ve ever thought about what makes them who they are. There are no right or wrong answers. The question is merely to help you explore if the subject of identity has ever occurred to people, and if so, how do they approach it.
Many of us have a common mis-perception that we know who we are and what we want. Our minds think this way as a systematic approach to controlling our world. The problem is that we don’t realize we have more choices than what we think we know every day.
being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.
The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom.
Ironically, few of us believe in ourselves in this way. It’s out of our comfort zone. We are, in a sense, not free.
That is exactly why we should go there.
Coaching moment: Next time you’re stuck in traffic or in a long line, try to imagine that things are not what they seem to be. What if you were happy about things in your grocery cart? What if the traffic jam gave you time to try a breathing exercise to reduce stress? Can you remember to do this one time every day?
I have never much liked photographs. I don’t like my picture taken (though there are many out there), and I don’t have an extensive library of family or travel shots. That said, I moved recently and in going through my worldly possessions, I discovered small stores of photos and slides that I put aside with intent to “deal with them” later on.
A quick review revealed that the appropriate way for me to deal with them was to a) throw them away, b) send them off to the subject of the photos, c) save to scan and I don’t know what else yet. Oh, and d) rip into tiny pieces, set on fire, and laugh while the bits burn. (Precious few in the latter category.)
Additionally, I have had a digital camera in my possession for the last couple of years, so I’ve been trying to be “one” with my friends who have hundreds or thousands of photos online. Now I have a couple of years of my life stream (albeit rather punctuated).
I just imported all of my digital photos into my photo organizing program. In one visual moment, I saw Read more…