There is a song by The Brothers Frantzich called Abraham that purports to answer this very question. I first heard it a few weeks ago on the Prairie Home Companion, and I remember thinking initially that it was a very cool song. Then I paid closer attention to the lyrics:
I am not what I do,
I am not the house I live in,
I am not my dead end job,
I’m not real, I’m just beginning,
I am not the words I speak,
I am not the clothes I wear,
I’m not war and I’m not peace,
My advice you shouldn’t care
But there’s a mountain range that runs
from Alaska to Mexico,
During the hottest days of summer,
its peaks are blessed with snow
Repeat after me,
in the words of Abraham,
those mountains are a part of who I am.
I still like the idea of the song. The idea of self-identification, of claiming separation from certain things and declaring an affinity for others is an idea I can identify with, but in the end, they go too far. There is a kernel of Manicheanism in the song, an over-separation of the physical and the spiritual. If you are not any of these things, if I cannot begin to know you by anything I observe about you, then who are you? Are you anything at all?
If the song has accomplished anything, it has encouraged me to think about my actual identity, as a man, a husband, a father, a Christian. It has encouraged me to ask who I tell myself and others that I am, by the millions of decisions I make each and every day. And since I have been thinking about these things, I thought I would ask you as well.
Who are you? Have you stopped and asked the question lately?
As always, comments are appreciated.