Thursday, April 28, 2011

On Not Being a Brand

I am reading a terrific book right now titled Different:  Escaping the Competitive Herd by a classy teacher at Harvard Business School, Youngme Moon.  I was drawn to this on the library's new book rack, though I have never really been in business, just on the outskirts.  The intriguing further subtitle of the book is "Succeeding in a world where conformity reigns but exceptions rule."  It made me think of this blog, a continuation of my lifelong difficulty in figuring out my brand - maybe a problem everyone with bipolar disorder, or any type of unusual mind, has.

A blogger expresses his or her brand through format, color choice, name of the blog, profile, self-description. These things have given me varying amounts of trouble through the years of writing this blog, though I stick with the title, which is my daughter Cassie's nickname for me, because  I am deeply and fundamentally Buddhist.  Beyond that, I have at times described myself (my brand) as recipient of a live-donor kidney, cat-lover, feminist, poet, writer, Zen student, lover of the visual arts, PhD in narrative theory, retired teacher, former editor, amateur artist and photographer, old, chronically ill - did I leave out Grandmother?  blah blah blah.  It's partly this slipperiness of identity - because really, I am not any one or two of those things - are you? - it's this changing hodge-podge that finally drove me to drop the description under the title.

I never get too far from the first koan my Zen Teacher gave to me:  Who are you?  At first it made me think over roles like the above, which became like trying to shuffle a deck of cards.  I was frustrated that I couldn't settle on one.  But as I remember my life, I am reminded that when I did see myself as a couple of nouns (wife, mother) I felt stuck in a small space.  And  those nouns were slippery, too.

So I have quit trying.  I never know from day to day what I will be interested in or want to write about, and as a retired person with a parade of physical problems, I don't need to have a goal for my life.  Thus time and chance have let me slip like spirit through the fence and escape the competitive herd.  Just lucky, I guess.

As for a deeper understanding of the koan, it's right there in front of us. 

Think in this way of
all this fleeting world:
As a star at dawn,
a bubble in a stream,
A dewdrop, a flash
of lightning
in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp,
a phantom,
and a dream.
         The Diamond Sutra 

[image:  Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Flawless, the 1999 film.]

1 comment:

  1. As a stay-at-home mom, I've been having similar issues when asked the question "What do you do?" What a difficult question to answer! I stumbled upon your blog when looking for Buddhist blogs. I appreciate you sharing your story and insights.