Monday, January 30, 2012


The local newspaper, the Daily Hampshire Gazette, is a nicely-designed little sheet. Shrinking, like other newspapers, and hardly filled with hard-hitting news, still the Gazette is pleasantly plump with about what anyone would expect ... local news, events, who got arrested, who died, sports, and a smattering of national and international stories.

Each week, the newspaper runs a small page in its magazine section entitled "ID A Personal Profile." I always read it... when I remember. The profile asks pretty much the same questions each week and allows the person profiled to answer in brief. Name, address, who lives under your roof, hobbies, books you'd recommend to a friend, best advice you ever got, strangest job, favorite TV show, dumbest thing you ever did, whom do you most admire, favorite team, what's on your to-do list, movies you liked, a parting thought, and occasionally, if you could meet someone (well-known or famous) from the past, who would it be?

Some of the people profiled are movers and shakers in the neighborhood, but the majority are just people. And I love reading what people choose to say about themselves. It's like doing a crossword puzzle in my mind ... I am presented with a defined question and a defined answer and from these two I get to 'fill in the blanks' by imagining what those questions and answers mean in real life. What I enjoy is the guessing game. When have answers ever really told the truth about a human being? It is the unknown, the implications and echoes, what is not and perhaps could not be printed, that draws me in. I never seem able to elude the tendrils of this guessing game ... it's too much fun.

A subtext part of the fun is imagining how I might answer the questions. I think that is part of why anyone might read the column: What would I say? And what is interesting is that what-I-would-say seems to vary from week to week. My definitions morph in such a way that the very premise of the profile is upended -- questions that have answers today have different answers tomorrow. Yes, I live at the same address from week to week, but my descriptions of what I love or long for or feel comfortable with or make me squirm ... well, they change.

What famous person would I like to meet or hang out with? I am stumped as once I might have been able to answer in a heart beat. There is something mildly sad about it. Where have all the heroes and heroines gone? About the only person I can think of is one who put his finger on why meeting famous people is not all it's cracked up to be: Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins once remarked approximately on the radio that "meeting your favorite author is one of life's most reliable disappointments." I wouldn't mind meeting a man who thought that way. But Jesus or Mohammad or Gautama Buddha or various Zen teachers or Thomas Edison or Winston Churchill or any of the celebrities who fill the TV screen or Willa Cather or Isak Dinesen or Adolf Hitler or Warren Buffett...or any of the others who may be acclaimed ...

Fame is odd. Favorites are odd. If my own self-descriptors change from week to week, day to day, moment to moment, what is it that makes me think anyone else should live in some static-state description of fame or infamy, wealth or poverty, applause or catcalls?

Still, I miss the heroes and heroines. It's warming to have them lined up in the stamp collection of my personality. Warming ... you do it, I do it, we all do it ... and it's comforting to have company. It's lonely to have had that aspect somehow fade away. It's not that I disapprove of or disdain heroes and heroines. Quite the reverse. I too would like to have a burnished profile and part of that brightness is defined by the company, real and imagined, I keep. But I cannot seem to summon them ... dance in their light and thereby become illuminated.

It's odd ... "ID" is so important.

What happens to "ID" when "ID" is not so important?

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