Identity is always a tricky thing. Part of it comes from experience and through nurturing, but part of it clearly comes out of an inherent nature. Since we live in a social world we have to conform to the identities people demand of us not only to fit in, but also so we can get along. The rules have to be followed for things to run smoothly. Part of this also involves how a person looks. If you look very strangely, then people will turn away from you. If you look the right way people will embrace you. This is an important lesson to learn about the world, even if it is sometimes painful. For example, it’s important for men to appear to be strong and masculine. A lot of these ideas are defined in magazines and advertising. A lot of who we are supposed to be comes to us through TV and movies and capitalism, and is echoed by our friends. When I look at myself in the mirror I see someone who is trying to get by. I don’t see someone who is slavishly trying to conform to the standards around him, but I also don’t see a rebel who is only in it for himself. I’m content with my body and the choices I’ve made. I’m content with the identity I have. Obviously, as I get older I will change, but I don’t have any structural issues with my identity that won’t be organically solved as I get older and I simply think about the world around me and my place in it.
There are really two worlds. One is the world around us, a world often of surfaces and rules, and the other is a world inside of us which is much less controlled and defined. The social reality often conflict with the non-social reality and sometimes this can cause an explosion in those who are mentally unstable. When you do something against expectation or that is not in the rulebook of social reality you create a breach and this can often have consequences. Much comedy, for example, comes from breaching people’s expectations of themselves and the world around them, and turning the world upside down. Comedians often throw their contract with the world out the window and describe their interior reflections and opinions, sometimes ideas that are not socially appropriate. This can be cathartic not only for the comedian but also for the audience. For example, to test these rules out, I recently stood at a table in my cafeteria and did a stand up routine which I had recently devised. I told some jokes about the school. People were at first very surprised by what was happening and a bit confused. Usually stand up is not done in the cafeteria. However, I quickly won them over. They began laughing as I told jokes. The jokes I told took social reality and twisted it around onto its head. It mocked the authorities and upset the traditional hierarchy that dominates so many of our social institutions these days. I also made jokes about class and race—things which are sometimes considered politically incorrect. People also found these things funny too, since you weren’t supposed to talk about them. In the end, I found this a very rewarding experience.