identity

strap me down on a vivisection table
study my humors, my bile, my spleen
I’m keen to know who I am and if I’m able
but don’t forget to stitch me up again.

identity was originally published on Meandering home

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June 29. A short ode to Kafka.

For Franz K., who would have been my friend.

“Do you know what identity is?”
-“I forgot, I am sorry.”
“It is having a sense of who you are. How could you forget?”
-“I… I am SORRY. I didn’t INTEND to forget…”
“But you DID forget, K.”
-“Is that a crime?”
“That depends, K., that depends.”
-“Depends on what?”
“I cannot tell that you right now.”
He strikes over the thin layer of dust on the bookshelve with his index finger.
“How long ago is it that you have been reading?”
-“A few weeks. Why? Does that matter?”
“I don’t know. I just have to report.”
-“Am I in danger?”
“Maybe. We have to let our brain work hard. What else did you forget?”
-“Only what identity is, as far as I can remember.”
“Good. There might be a chance, K.”
-“What kind of chance? What can I do to avoid the danger?”
“Do you have a family?”
-“Yes.”
“Do they know who they are?”
-“Yes, of course… What is this?”
“Can you ask them a question?”
-“I can ask my sister a question.”
“Good. Ask her what identity is.”
-“I thought I should ask her who I am?”
“That, dear K., doesn’t matter.”
K. sits down after the interrogator has left his room. He tries to remember what he learned about identity, but he can’t. It is as if he has a blind spot in his mind. He buries his head between his knees and sighs. He does not know what identity is, and he stands alone with that problem. Not even you, the reader, can imagine K.’s state of mind. Anybody can come now and tell him that is a crime – he will believe it. He envies us, he envies every living creatures that seems to know what identity is – seems to know. He rubs his ears with his knees and repeats:
“Seems to know.”
The interrogator comes back together with a second man and K. thinks about lying. It’s a lie for the good, yes he will take care not to slide of the slanted plain of immoral behavior which he is now about to step on. He can simply tell the interrogator that he knows what identity is. They have no way to find out if he is lying, do they? K. decides to try this.
“Do you know what identity is?” the interrogator asks looking at the second man.
-“Yes I do know that.” K. replies confidently. “I do know that very well.”
The second man shakes his head and says reproachfully:
“Why did you bring me here, interrogator? You know I have better things to do.”
The interrogator blushes and stutters:
“I…I thought he didn’t know… it… I am SORRY.”
-“There is no use of you being sorry. You know on my level we don’t have time to fool around. If I come to visit a case, I come to take him in, not to find out he is not truly a case.”
“But he is a case. He told me himself he doesn’t know. It is true. Did you?” The interrogator directs his question at K. K. smiles and feels something you might call power in his head. It is like electricity and warm. He will deny again, and the interrogator will get into trouble. Yes! The electricity in his head makes him a bit drunk. He clears his throat and says decisively:
“I know what identity is.”
O, how good that feels! K.’s head is all high and he feels blood in his lips. After years he feels blood in his lips. His cheekbones are warm too.
The second man shakes his head and points at the interrogator.
“I will get into trouble because of this. On my level I cannot afford this waste of time. And when I get into trouble, you know what that means, do you?”
-“I do.” The interrogator nods dimly. Yes, he knows what that means. He, the interrogator, will lose his level. He will be on the lowest level soon, and who knows he might even become a CASE.
-“Can’t we.. can’t we work this out?” he implores the second man.
“No. Look at him. Is he a case? Does he look like one?”
K. was standing tall in his room, breathing in and out many liters of air, his eyes a bit contracted like the eyes of a proud animal.
-“No, he doesn’t.”
“So that means you are going down” says the second man.
The same second man says something to K. too:
“I apologize for all the inconvenience. Have a good day sir.”
-“Thanks. Have a good day too.”
K. sighs when the gentlemen leave, then he puts on some music and begins to dance. He feels like no-one knows better than him what identity is. The feeling is undescribable. He has one epiphany after another and he feels so happy. Didn’t the second man say something about levels? K. would love to reach a higher level. He has to reach a higher level. He has to. He sits down on his couch and thinks. He will have to become an interrogator first. He will move to another city so that he will feel comfortable in his new job. That way, he will not have to interrogate the man who interrogated him.

June 29. A short ode to Kafka.

For Franz K., who would have been my friend.

“Do you know what identity is?”
-“I forgot, I am sorry.”
“It is having a sense of who you are. How could you forget?”
-“I… I am SORRY. I didn’t INTEND to forget…”
“But you DID forget, K.”
-“Is that a crime?”
“That depends, K., that depends.”
-“Depends on what?”
“I cannot tell that you right now.”
He strikes over the thin layer of dust on the bookshelve with his index finger.
“How long ago is it that you have been reading?”
-“A few weeks. Why? Does that matter?”
“I don’t know. I just have to report.”
-“Am I in danger?”
“Maybe. We have to let our brain work hard. What else did you forget?”
-“Only what identity is, as far as I can remember.”
“Good. There might be a chance, K.”
-“What kind of chance? What can I do to avoid the danger?”
“Do you have a family?”
-“Yes.”
“Do they know who they are?”
-“Yes, of course… What is this?”
“Can you ask them a question?”
-“I can ask my sister a question.”
“Good. Ask her what identity is.”
-“I thought I should ask her who I am?”
“That, dear K., doesn’t matter.”
K. sits down after the interrogator has left his room. He tries to remember what he learned about identity, but he can’t. It is as if he has a blind spot in his mind. He buries his head between his knees and sighs. He does not know what identity is, and he stands alone with that problem. Not even you, the reader, can imagine K.’s state of mind. Anybody can come now and tell him that is a crime – he will believe it. He envies us, he envies every living creatures that seems to know what identity is – seems to know. He rubs his ears with his knees and repeats:
“Seems to know.”
The interrogator comes back together with a second man and K. thinks about lying. It’s a lie for the good, yes he will take care not to slide of the slanted plain of immoral behavior which he is now about to step on. He can simply tell the interrogator that he knows what identity is. They have no way to find out if he is lying, do they? K. decides to try this.
“Do you know what identity is?” the interrogator asks looking at the second man.
-“Yes I do know that.” K. replies confidently. “I do know that very well.”
The second man shakes his head and says reproachfully:
“Why did you bring me here, interrogator? You know I have better things to do.”
The interrogator blushes and stutters:
“I…I thought he didn’t know… it… I am SORRY.”
-“There is no use of you being sorry. You know on my level we don’t have time to fool around. If I come to visit a case, I come to take him in, not to find out he is not truly a case.”
“But he is a case. He told me himself he doesn’t know. It is true. Did you?” The interrogator directs his question at K. K. smiles and feels something you might call power in his head. It is like electricity and warm. He will deny again, and the interrogator will get into trouble. Yes! The electricity in his head makes him a bit drunk. He clears his throat and says decisively:
“I know what identity is.”
O, how good that feels! K.’s head is all high and he feels blood in his lips. After years he feels blood in his lips. His cheekbones are warm too.
The second man shakes his head and points at the interrogator.
“I will get into trouble because of this. On my level I cannot afford this waste of time. And when I get into trouble, you know what that means, do you?”
-“I do.” The interrogator nods dimly. Yes, he knows what that means. He, the interrogator, will lose his level. He will be on the lowest level soon, and who knows he might even become a CASE.
-“Can’t we.. can’t we work this out?” he implores the second man.
“No. Look at him. Is he a case? Does he look like one?”
K. was standing tall in his room, breathing in and out many liters of air, his eyes a bit contracted like the eyes of a proud animal.
-“No, he doesn’t.”
“So that means you are going down” says the second man.
The same second man says something to K. too:
“I apologize for all the inconvenience. Have a good day sir.”
-“Thanks. Have a good day too.”
K. sighs when the gentlemen leave, then he puts on some music and begins to dance. He feels like no-one knows better than him what identity is. The feeling is undescribable. He has one epiphany after another and he feels so happy. Didn’t the second man say something about levels? K. would love to reach a higher level. He has to reach a higher level. He has to. He sits down on his couch and thinks. He will have to become an interrogator first. He will move to another city so that he will feel comfortable in his new job. That way, he will not have to interrogate the man who interrogated him.

May 5. Identity.

A little hangover can be worked off by four cups of coffee and a cold shower. At twelve I’m good to go and walk out to find a boat that will take me to Panama. Enter: Club Nautico. I walk in and ask some people for a boat to Panama. There are plenty of sailors headed that way, that is, to the San Blas islands. All you need is some money. They have some kind of agreement that the passage cost 350$. I try to talk that price down. An older man in a red shirt asks me to play a game of chess with him and I agree. There is this idea in my mind that he’ll offer me a free boatride if I win the game. How romantic! He makes some mistakes and I take his queen and the first game is mine. In the return match, I make some mistakes and he takes my Reina, giving him enough advantage to win. In the third game, I concentrate a little bit more and got us into a rather complicated situation. I see him thinking. He attacks a last time with his queen but overlooks something; I get a pawn across and bring the game to a victorious conclusion. “Colombia in big trouble” my opponent says ten minutes before losing the match. “Holanda very strong”. In that moment, a real sailor walks to our table, making me feel like I’m in a pirate movie. I stare at his bright blue eyes and his large unkempt beard. We shake hands and he says he is planning to sail to Panama on thursday. I offer him to pay 200 bucks, he will think about it, maybe, if I bring someone else. Sailing is a costly diversion. Tomorrow at 10am I will meet him again. He introduces himself as Doug, and he has a Dutch boat.

I walk on, feeling the hormomes of happiness and exaltation degrading in my blood. The sun is setting. I walk into the historic old town asking for a place where I could get a real espresso. I want to write. This city has a pretty face! It was the prime port of South America, the gate of trade for a whole continent and it still breathes this esprit albeit in that typical touristic way of souvenir vendors and handicraft shops with people shouting at you in English “he man where you from? Holland? Amsterdam!” Just close the ear that hears that and you’re fine. I find a stylish café and get at least some writing done.

At night, some police come to the hostel and mention Ivan’s name.
“Es tu amigo?”
-“Si.”
“Venga.”
They take me to the nearby park where the lizard lives, and Ivan sits there on a bench, doing fine and waving at me. The officers have brought him from far far away and might have saved him a lot of trouble. When they asked me to com with them and explained somethings with such a heavy Colombian accent that I couldn’t understand them, I was very worried. I might have to identify a body, that’s what I thought. But I only had to identify my new buddy.

Tomorrow, I will buy some cheap cigars on the street. Every once in a while, I like to walk around with a cigar butt in the corner of my mouth. It has a lot to do with identity. I should know all about the concept Identity since I studied philosophy. But I don’t. I really have no idea. You can tell me anything, anything you like and then just say “look, and that’s exactly what identity is” and I would know nothing to disprove it. I’d go “okay” and nod my head dimly. The mere form of a conjecture can be more than enough to paralyze any thought about the substance of identity.

May 5. Identity.

A little hangover can be worked off by four cups of coffee and a cold shower. At twelve I’m good to go and walk out to find a boat that will take me to Panama. Enter: Club Nautico. I walk in and ask some people for a boat to Panama. There are plenty of sailors headed that way, that is, to the San Blas islands. All you need is some money. They have some kind of agreement that the passage cost 350$. I try to talk that price down. An older man in a red shirt asks me to play a game of chess with him and I agree. There is this idea in my mind that he’ll offer me a free boatride if I win the game. How romantic! He makes some mistakes and I take his queen and the first game is mine. In the return match, I make some mistakes and he takes my Reina, giving him enough advantage to win. In the third game, I concentrate a little bit more and got us into a rather complicated situation. I see him thinking. He attacks a last time with his queen but overlooks something; I get a pawn across and bring the game to a victorious conclusion. “Colombia in big trouble” my opponent says ten minutes before losing the match. “Holanda very strong”. In that moment, a real sailor walks to our table, making me feel like I’m in a pirate movie. I stare at his bright blue eyes and his large unkempt beard. We shake hands and he says he is planning to sail to Panama on thursday. I offer him to pay 200 bucks, he will think about it, maybe, if I bring someone else. Sailing is a costly diversion. Tomorrow at 10am I will meet him again. He introduces himself as Doug, and he has a Dutch boat.

I walk on, feeling the hormomes of happiness and exaltation degrading in my blood. The sun is setting. I walk into the historic old town asking for a place where I could get a real espresso. I want to write. This city has a pretty face! It was the prime port of South America, the gate of trade for a whole continent and it still breathes this esprit albeit in that typical touristic way of souvenir vendors and handicraft shops with people shouting at you in English “he man where you from? Holland? Amsterdam!” Just close the ear that hears that and you’re fine. I find a stylish café and get at least some writing done.

At night, some police come to the hostel and mention Ivan’s name.
“Es tu amigo?”
-“Si.”
“Venga.”
They take me to the nearby park where the lizard lives, and Ivan sits there on a bench, doing fine and waving at me. The officers have brought him from far far away and might have saved him a lot of trouble. When they asked me to com with them and explained somethings with such a heavy Colombian accent that I couldn’t understand them, I was very worried. I might have to identify a body, that’s what I thought. But I only had to identify my new buddy.

Tomorrow, I will buy some cheap cigars on the street. Every once in a while, I like to walk around with a cigar butt in the corner of my mouth. It has a lot to do with identity. I should know all about the concept Identity since I studied philosophy. But I don’t. I really have no idea. You can tell me anything, anything you like and then just say “look, and that’s exactly what identity is” and I would know nothing to disprove it. I’d go “okay” and nod my head dimly. The mere form of a conjecture can be more than enough to paralyze any thought about the substance of identity.

May 5. Identity.

A little hangover can be worked off by four cups of coffee and a cold shower. At twelve I’m good to go and walk out to find a boat that will take me to Panama. Enter: Club Nautico. I walk in and ask some people for a boat to Panama. There are plenty of sailors headed that way, that is, to the San Blas islands. All you need is some money. They have some kind of agreement that the passage cost 350$. I try to talk that price down. An older man in a red shirt asks me to play a game of chess with him and I agree. There is this idea in my mind that he’ll offer me a free boatride if I win the game. How romantic! He makes some mistakes and I take his queen and the first game is mine. In the return match, I make some mistakes and he takes my Reina, giving him enough advantage to win. In the third game, I concentrate a little bit more and got us into a rather complicated situation. I see him thinking. He attacks a last time with his queen but overlooks something; I get a pawn across and bring the game to a victorious conclusion. “Colombia in big trouble” my opponent says ten minutes before losing the match. “Holanda very strong”. In that moment, a real sailor walks to our table, making me feel like I’m in a pirate movie. I stare at his bright blue eyes and his large unkempt beard. We shake hands and he says he is planning to sail to Panama on thursday. I offer him to pay 200 bucks, he will think about it, maybe, if I bring someone else. Sailing is a costly diversion. Tomorrow at 10am I will meet him again. He introduces himself as Doug, and he has a Dutch boat.

I walk on, feeling the hormomes of happiness and exaltation degrading in my blood. The sun is setting. I walk into the historic old town asking for a place where I could get a real espresso. I want to write. This city has a pretty face! It was the prime port of South America, the gate of trade for a whole continent and it still breathes this esprit albeit in that typical touristic way of souvenir vendors and handicraft shops with people shouting at you in English “he man where you from? Holland? Amsterdam!” Just close the ear that hears that and you’re fine. I find a stylish café and get at least some writing done.

At night, some police come to the hostel and mention Ivan’s name.
“Es tu amigo?”
-“Si.”
“Venga.”
They take me to the nearby park where the lizard lives, and Ivan sits there on a bench, doing fine and waving at me. The officers have brought him from far far away and might have saved him a lot of trouble. When they asked me to com with them and explained somethings with such a heavy Colombian accent that I couldn’t understand them, I was very worried. I might have to identify a body, that’s what I thought. But I only had to identify my new buddy.

Tomorrow, I will buy some cheap cigars on the street. Every once in a while, I like to walk around with a cigar butt in the corner of my mouth. It has a lot to do with identity. I should know all about the concept Identity since I studied philosophy. But I don’t. I really have no idea. You can tell me anything, anything you like and then just say “look, and that’s exactly what identity is” and I would know nothing to disprove it. I’d go “okay” and nod my head dimly. The mere form of a conjecture can be more than enough to paralyze any thought about the substance of identity.