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A reflection on alternative identities

But then, I strongly feel that when it comes to it, Otherkin don't really have that much room to talk about fic'kin, and furries don't really have that much room to talk about Otherkin. When it comes down to it, it's all variations on "I see something of myself/something that clicks with me/something that feels right to me in X, and that helps me make sense of myself better", spiritual stuff aside. At least, I think the main thing that makes it work for people is "I see something of me reflected in this and that's helped me with my life", as opposed to any woo-woo theories on where it all comes from. And I don't think that's strange, even if people have gone and distorted it in the worst possible way by running around shouting "omg u gaiz these ppl think their REALLY FICTIONAL CHARACTERS OH NOES". IMHO, they're the immature ones, not the people who get it and actually find it useful.

I posted this comment on a friend's journal a little while back, and after doing so got permission to repost it here, as I thought it touched on a side of the experience of alternate identity that hasn't been touched on much before. Not other/fiction as simple metaphor ("I'm like a dragon because I hoard stuff and like shiny things"), nor as a physical/metaphysical reality ("I'm a dragon because in a past life I was a dragon/I have a dragon's soul"), but something trickier to grasp, in parts allegorical but also more significant, more central than a metaphor: I am a dragon because when I look at the idea of dragon, something very core about it clicks with me and reminds me of me.

I feel like whatever else you say about it, whether you believe there's an additional explanation... that's the heart of it, for a lot of people. That's the level on which they click with the concept. Or at least, that's what seems to make sense of the idea for me.

Thoughts?


(Also, anyone notice that LJ seems to have brought back the Deleted Username Strikethrough, replacing the Boldface that followed in the wake of LJ's mass questionable-journals-deleting spree? Interesting, kinda....)

Comments

( 18hp damage — Attack! )
prophetic
Aug. 31st, 2008 04:59 am (UTC)
So here's me, having to google "otherkin" at the beginning of reading this . . . and then being like "Whoa, um, what?" . . . and then reading on to the "I am a dragon because-" part and suddenly understanding.

This thing you talk about here--

something trickier to grasp, in parts allegorical but also more significant, more central than a metaphor

--makes so much sense, and I totally see how that kind of truth and identity would be at play in a person identifying closely as something--otherkin, fic'kin, anything really. That feeling of "I see myself."

I have been thinking about kinds of truth, how some things are literally true, and some things are not literally true but, despite that, are still true, and are in fact often truer than the literal things. (In my brain, because of the traditions I come from, I tend to call those two kinds of truth "literal" and "prophetic." *points to username*) You do a wonderfully elegant job of making that distinction here. In fact, it's so lovely, I'd like to link to it if I could. Would you mind?
eclective
Aug. 31st, 2008 06:26 am (UTC)
Oh, go right ahead, certainly. I'm quite touched that I could have explained this in a way that makes sense to someone who didn't understand the concept previously... I tend to assume I'm writing for an audience who's familiar with the culture when I write these sorts of things, and sort of forget that there are people on my friends list who've never encountered the concepts before. But you always seemed like someone who'd never be too bothered by the concepts involved. I'm glad to see my intuitions held true.

and some things are not literally true but, despite that, are still true, and are in fact often truer than the literal things.

Aye. As per Dream of the Sandman, "Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and adventures are the shadow truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes and forgotten." That quote is one I've always liked because it resonates strongly with the above concept for me... and that concept's sort of one I live every day of my life, in some way or another.

Incidentally, was this anything like the page you came across? Because this does a really good job of explaining it, IMHO.
luinied
Aug. 31st, 2008 07:18 am (UTC)
Woo, tangent.
[link]

Mrm, I wish they would not refer to the Big Bang as a myth. That rather flies in the face of the logos vs. mythos distinction (yes, I'm stealing someone else's words from another recent thread) that seems to be the intended goal.
eclective
Aug. 31st, 2008 06:08 pm (UTC)
Re: Woo, tangent.
I don't know that I would put it down to wilful depiction of the event as a myth in the face of scientific evidence, but either a lack of awareness that the theory had been canonised (I mean, I didn't know that), an admittance that even with advanced technology we cannot make absolute statements about the nature of the universe or how things came to be until we really know everything about how it works and how those pieces fit together (a theory I subcribe to - for example, I think evolution and such are extremely likely, but if a new theory came along that explained things even better I would probably change my mind), or a subjectivist reflection on the fact that all explanations of things are stories that we tell ourselves about the world and so everything is mythic in a sense.
seika
Aug. 31st, 2008 06:24 pm (UTC)
Re: Woo, tangent.
You'd need to add to that "ignorance of what myth is". A theory, even if it isn't one as canonical/likely/etc as Big Bang, is not really the same thing as a myth.

Although dictionary.com says myth can be "with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation", I think this phrase is actually trying to refer to whether the story itself really happened, not whether the story was made up in a way that took into account natural observation. I think so because the word "myth" is usually understood to be "something that people make up out of their imaginations", not "something people make up by carefully taking measured observations". Note that every other definition on that page points to the connotations of that word being that something is either supernatural, fictitious, or both.

A scientific theory, on the other hand, by definition has been supported with concrete observations. If it hasn't been, it's a conjecture, not a theory.

IOW... I think that a scientific theory (such as the Big Bang) cannot be a myth, because a myth is something that was come up with via a different sort of means.

The argument that would serve this dragon's case better would be, "Even if something is a myth, it still affects people, such as the people who came up with or believe in it, and so it still matters." Or something like that.

(I understand that he probably wasn't confusing the two terms wilfully, but it's still something that IMHO really ought to be edited, because a page like that that is trying to appeal to the uninitiated needs to not make skeptics go "omgzorz u not know what u talking about therefore u is all rong".)
luinied
Aug. 31st, 2008 09:59 pm (UTC)
Re: Woo, tangent.
Generally agreed, and also I would add that a big part of science is falsifiability, in the sense that when you propose a scientific hypothesis, it needs to be at least conceivable that someone else could prove you wrong. But that sounds like completely the wrong attitude to have towards personal myths.
seika
Sep. 1st, 2008 05:18 pm (UTC)
Re: Woo, tangent.
Ah, yeah, good point. I wouldn't want to take that attitude towards personal myths either; that is Doing It Wrong, as they say. (Like the part of the draconity FAQ that says "do you believe you are all going to sprout wings and turn into real, literal dragons"-- someone who thinks that that is the point is really missing the point.)
seika
Aug. 31st, 2008 06:09 pm (UTC)
Re: Woo, tangent.
Also, skepticism really doesn't require faith. I could see making a case that hardcore 100%-convinced atheism requires faith, but skepticism is not the same thing. Skepticism means you don't just believe tall claims easily. To say that skepticism requires faith... irks me, because those words are kind of like opposites.
prophetic
Sep. 1st, 2008 06:50 am (UTC)
The link: No, it wasn't, but I'll definitely check it out. Thanks so much for the rec!

And thanks for letting me link here. I'll do it as soon as I overcome this latest bout of internet-shyness and recover the ability to post in my own journal. The Dream of the Sandman quote is awesome. Tales-and-adventures-type worlds are the ones that seem the most conscious of this fantastical untrue-truth that we're talking about.

And this?

But you always seemed like someone who'd never be too bothered by the concepts involved. I'm glad to see my intuitions held true.

Thank you. I feel complimented. I can tell there's so much about your world that I don't know, but I love hearing what you have to say. We don't talk often, and I don't know that our worlds overlap in that many places, but when we do it has this aura of deep understanding about it that makes me very happy.

*draws secret hearts around your name on my f-list* :)
heron61
Aug. 31st, 2008 06:26 am (UTC)
That makes a great deal of sense and I know a number of people to whom it applies. My own situation is much more on the order of - I had a couple of non-human things show up in my head (one invited, one simply appearing, but not in any way unwanted) and exist in a sort of mid-continuum multiple sort of arrangement with me. OTOH, I also recognize that my own situation is fairly unique, and even for me there has always been something resonant in the way that you describe about reptiles and reptilian humanoids.
frameacloud
Aug. 31st, 2008 07:52 pm (UTC)
"... but something trickier to grasp, in parts allegorical but also more significant, more central than a metaphor: I am a dragon because when I look at the idea of dragon, something very core about it clicks with me and reminds me of me."

Yes. That is more how it is for me, and I suspect that is how it is for many otherkin, therians, fictionkin, and furries. It is difficult to talk about because that core feeling is not something so nameable, so defined of borders, as other possible explanations are, such as the behavioral and metaphysical ones you pointed out. Surprisingly enough, those can seem shallow and narrow, compared to the deeper sense of recognition. A person can list dragon-like traits of behavior all day long, and so that's what a lot of people go ahead and do, but how the Dragon archetype simply clicks with a person's sense of self is a nonverbal association that is hard to describe at all.

"Also, anyone notice that LJ seems to have brought back the Deleted Username Strikethrough, replacing the Boldface that followed in the wake of LJ's mass questionable-journals-deleting spree?"

I thought a strike-through meant "deleted," and boldface meant "deleted and purged."
luinied
Aug. 31st, 2008 09:32 pm (UTC)
I thought a strike-through meant "deleted," and boldface meant "deleted and purged."

Nope. Previously it was all strike-through, then, at some point and without explanation, it went boldface and non-linked. Now it's back to strike-through, again without explanation. The first change happened around one of the later rounds of misguided mass-suspensions.
eclective
Sep. 1st, 2008 02:33 am (UTC)
It is difficult to talk about because that core feeling is not something so nameable, so defined of borders, as other possible explanations are, such as the behavioral and metaphysical ones you pointed out. Surprisingly enough, those can seem shallow and narrow, compared to the deeper sense of recognition.

Yes, and yes. The deeper sense of recognition is by far the part that matters most to me; probably the only part that matters at all, ultimately. Yet it's the trickiest to pin down in words or to get others to understand, which is I think why it's talked about less. Yet without that heart of the experience, what makes it the experience it is is gone; and so communities find it hard to feel connected or get much meaningful out of discussing it, only dancing around the superficial topics, and outsiders find it difficult to understand why this could possibly be relevant to anyone.
sethrenn
Sep. 2nd, 2008 07:17 am (UTC)
Probably the best term we've heard for how all these types of subjective experiences work-- otherkin, fictivity, bla bla etc-- is "unverifiable personal gnosis." We used to say "subjective experience" a lot, specifically with regards to multiplicity, and that's probably more understandable to the general public, but a lot of us really liked the "unverifiable personal gnosis" term. Regardless of what you ever might be able to prove or want to prove, or if you even care, about the literality of it, it's the personal emotional/spiritual/mythic/etc framework that makes sense of *your* life for you and helps you to live it better. You can't prove it anywhere that it can be measured or physically quantified, but on some level, because it makes sense of you and your life and the world, "I am a dragon" is a true statement. (Or "I am (insert whatever)"-- fill in the blank with whatever serves as a given person's UPG.)

And I think people who don't have a UPG, or whose UPG doesn't work quite the same way (for instance, if someone says to most of us "Jesus Christ is my savior and I have a personal relationship with him," or something similar, the majority of us will view it as UPG in the same way, not to say one type is better or worse than the other-- but as far as most of Western society is concerned, that's a socially acceptable thing to believe, even if you can't get any pictures of yourself having coffee with Jesus or whatever; and someone who has a socially acceptable UPG is usually not going to see how it has anything in common with a socially unacceptable one) often have this tendency to assume "I am" can only have one possible meaning. It's usually used in the context of what is obviously provable, such as "I am 29 years old" (or the body is, at least).

Putting aside people who just want to snark, we've noticed two reasons that seem to be behind at least *some* misinterpretation of various UPGs:

1) Teenagers particularly like to run off with theories and ideas that they may not entirely believe in-- they're just trying them on to see if it works-- but state those ideas, while they're playing around with them, as something they 100% believe in, heart and soul. (We're not suggesting teenagers are the only ones who do this, of course. We've known people who kept doing this well into adulthood, and it can get really frustrating when you don't know whether to take what they say seriously or if it's another idea they're playing around with.) And it isn't even always out of a deep desire for a UPG that they do this, in every case, but just because something strikes them as an interesting idea, or because it's popular with their friends. (Which isn't to say that everyone who claims to be otherkin/multiple/a soulbonder/etc online does it because "it's trendy," but we have very much seen things like everyone in a particular social group or mailing list claiming to have soulbonds because everyone else in that group/list/etc says they have them. As soon as it's no longer trendy, or community opinion shifts in the direction of "lol soulbonders are losers," all the soulbonds disappear overnight.)

2) People in general, when talking about personal gnosis, often don't distinguish between 100% committed completely literal belief and the "working understanding" they have of a thing. If everyone is more or less on the same level as you, about what "truth" means in this context, then there's no need to elaborate on it every time and explain that this is currently your working understanding/subjective experience/etc. In communities where a lot of people share a very similar personal gnosis, or have one aspect of it in common, there's often a tendency to talk about the working understanding in a way that makes it sound very literal. Not that this in any way *justifies* snark comments like "ha ha, if you think you can fly why don't you jump off a building" or whatever.

...but of course, when people have misunderstandings about it for those reasons, they tend to be open to being convinced that it's not what they originally thought. People who are just in it to snark won't even listen when you try to elaborate on how a certain UPG is actually more subtle than they're claiming it to be.
luna_manar
Sep. 2nd, 2008 09:30 pm (UTC)
Don't know how welcome my opinion is, but...

I never know what to think of Otherkin, furries, etc, anymore. Even people I know...I feel like I'm often being asked not only to accept, but _participate_ in things I don't believe in. I have absolutely no problem with seeing something in oneself that is reflected in X. I most certainly do that, myself. I don't label it *kin, furry, or anything else, but I expect it is very similar. I simply state that it's important to me, on a deeper level than I could possibly describe.

I feel trapped, sometimes, when I'm asked to believe that someone is really no really from another dimension. I...okay? I don't want to say no, I disagree, because clearly this idea is very important to the person I'm talking to, and really, I AM interested in hearing what it means to this person. But if I press for proof, I'm never given any, it's clearly just something that this person believes to make themselves feel better, and that's fine, but I'm not sure I understand why? I'm not sure I understand the need for it to be true.

"There is nothing imaginary about the comfort of imaginary things." They give us something to look forward to, a way to draw parallels between ourselves and something magical, epic and extreme, a way to look up to ourselves, especially when no one else does.

I guess the world in general doesn't value anything that you can't sell, fuck or shoot with. So it makes sense, from that standpoint, that people need for the things that are important to them to be "real"...there is nothing more disarming than having people who don't believe you, especially people you care about.

I just don't know how to...address the fact that I'm severely anti-supernatural. That doesn't mean I don't _value_ imagination, or that I don't think that the stuff in your head is not as important or as life-impacting as "real life." Arguably, it can have a stronger effect; your brain affects itself with its own chemicals, its own neurons, and there's nothing more instantaneous or direct than your own thoughts when it comes to how you experience life. I understand that, and even if you told me that this past life that you supposedly had was a made-up story, I would not treat it as if it were any less important than a "real" past life, as long as you let me know that it was that meaningful to you.

But a lot of people, particularly furries, want me to say to them that I agree with and believe in the reality of these things...I can't. I just can't believe in these things unless I'm given evidence. I don't think that means I'm closed-minded or mean...and it certainly doesn't mean that I don't think these things are important. I think they're overwhelmingly important. So much so, that I disagree with and am offended by psychology that implies emotional bonding with imaginary friends is unhealthy and tantamount to schizophrenia; schizophrenia is when you are unable to tell the difference between real and imaginary people. You can have voices that talk to you, and it's perfectly okay, IMO, to talk back, even make friends with the people in your head, as long as you don't get confused as to who's who and are able to ignore voices that tell you to do harmful things...the same way you ignore normal people who tell you to do something stupid.

Point is, I see absolutely nothing that is _invalid_ about these feelings and symbols and images that reflect us, or "communicate" with us within our own minds. Where it becomes uncomfortable for me is the instance that these things must be "real." That somewhere, somewhen, somehow, you could reach out and physically touch these ideas. ...I just have never seen any evidence to suggest that you can, and I don't know how to agree with someone who insists I acknowledge that as true.
seika
Sep. 2nd, 2008 11:23 pm (UTC)
I guess the world in general doesn't value anything that you can't sell, fuck or shoot with. So it makes sense, from that standpoint, that people need for the things that are important to them to be "real".

I think the problem is the conflation of "real" with "concrete, physical, present in some way that defies the laws of physics, etc". There is a subtle difference between people who think things are "real" in that those things have reality to and impact on them, and people who say "this is real" and mean that they are e.g. physically going to turn into a dragon or lived as one physically in a past life or something. However, most people in our society don't want to value that the former can be real for that person without that person's believing that that thing is concrete, physical, tangible. (Unless it's something that's socially acceptable to be non-concrete or abstract, like Jesus or justice.)

eclective
Sep. 5th, 2008 02:26 pm (UTC)
I think if people are making your friendship conditional on the fact that you don't believe in the literal supernatural reality of such things, that's a little unfair. I suppose it's not that different from friends who won't accept you if you don't share their religion, though.

As far as I'm concerned, this:

I understand that, and even if you told me that this past life that you supposedly had was a made-up story, I would not treat it as if it were any less important than a "real" past life, as long as you let me know that it was that meaningful to you.

is the absolute most I feel I can expect from anyone: that they treat what's meaningful to me as meaningful to me, and accept that the impact it has on me is real. That does not absolve me of responsibility for my actions nor demand a supernatural explanation.

And frankly, it's the same thing it means to me. I don't know if I would assign the things that happen in my head a supernatural basis or not; I certainly do have a firm belief that there's Something Else Out There, but that doesn't necessarily entail "the people in my head are spirits from other worlds" (and if there were a supernatural explanation for it all, I doubt it would be so simple and easily-human-parsable, so I don't even try, these days). But I know these things affect me, they influence me, I try these days to latch onto the ones that help me strengthen and grow, and they have achieved some quite impressive results in that regard. That's all I need.
5tone
Sep. 6th, 2008 04:12 am (UTC)
I have nothing to add except to say that it's good to see your name on my friends page again, and that I giggled imagining someone saying "f*ckin fic'kin", because I'd never heard the term fic'kin before.

Oh, and, <3!
( 18hp damage — Attack! )

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