Constructing Identity, Building The Mystery Essay

2341 words - 9 pages

Self-expression is, arguably, the most defining characteristic and fundamental joy of being human. It adopts myriad forms and mediums and it spans a range of intensities, from the softest whisper to the boldest brushstroke. Without it, we could not release our sensations and perceptions of our experience in life and relay them to the rest of the world -communication would not exist - but more importantly, one would not have a sense of self to impart to the world. Singing, painting, reading, writing, dancing, acting, and even playing sports or being an orator are all basic examples of how people choose to engage themselves in the process of learning about themselves and their relationship to the rest of humanity. Specifically, reading and writing are two prominent forces in this evolution; they help one to recognize one's self, define one's identity, and ultimately create a person that will influence the rest of the world, all of which occur by establishing a connection with the inwardness of others. In the essays of José Ortega y Gasset, Harold Brodkey, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Michel de Montaigne, and Sigmund Freud, the construction of a sense of self and in turn its broader influence upon culture is explained in various contexts, and the power of reading and writing is viewed as an essential element in this development, although discussed sometimes directly and others implicitly as more of an analogy. These authors prove in their different theories that reading and writing take on the ultimate form of self-expression and serve as a means of constituting the identity of individuals, cultures, and, in the broadest sense, all of humanity.The first stage in this process is recognizing one's self. How are all our capabilities and intricacies made apparent to us? How do we learn to acknowledge our many sensations and emotions and give them names so we can initiate introspection and self-awareness? In his book Man and People , José Ortega y Gasset describes his view of how one comes to discover the self; for him, the body is a "field of expressiveness"(118) through which one's inwardness, understood to be personality, can be manifested and made visible. One is able to see the personality of another, enabling him to outline the boundaries and principles of his own self, which is comprised of all one's own inwardness and experience. Moreover, the body belongs to the self because it is "the direct instrument of which [one] makes use in order to deal with other things - to see them, hear them, approach them or run from them"(124). Not only does this detection allow one to instigate a profound search into the depths of one's mind and soul, but it also permits a person to be introduced to the existence of certain commonalities with his fellow man - one learns about the different notions of human experience through observing the ways in which others gesture, look, and act. In a similar vein, reading and writing are critical in this revelation; one...

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