I walk around town, thinking crabbed thoughts. Sam is better at quarantine. He has no sense of the past or the future, only of the present, however volatile and uncertain. How enviable, his sense of the world, when the past is contentious, riven with mental traps, and the future feels more like catastrophe-in-waiting, or catastrophe amplified. More a creature of senses, a dog has no identity, so he makes no claim on the past or the future.
Observing Sam, I am reminded of that feeling I had when I was young, when the future and present was only potential, and the past was very shallow, merely a puddle, surface impressions of people and places. Not yet the deep longings, failures, and bitter disappointments. I was so solid then, dense with the weight of the world. Only as I aged did I lose that density, in the struggle to maintain a self in the orbit of my mother and teachers and everything else that sought to shape me into a form more suitable for society.
When you lose that sense of intactness, you start to search for an identity, which is usually outside of yourself. An identity is externally defined: accidents of birth and circumstances are enfolded into larger narratives that attempt to make sense of these accidents, and from these narratives we glean what we can to make into an identity. Often the identity is a claim on some part of the world: this is mine or ours, not yours. More willful people seem to have strong identities, attached to family, home, nation, ethnicity, etc. They relate to the world emphatically: I am, I am, I AM. So much of what they are is imagined, a fiction. And so often, this identification translates, as with patriotic people or white supremacists, into violence.
Whereas I have always been more ambivalent to such markers. For example, what makes me an American, after 15 years in Ireland? I lay no claim to the world; I feel I owe the world. Perhaps what is at the centre of my I is not a coherently individual self, but one intermingled with the selves of others, human and non-human, and with the world at large, that is, the natural one. Nothing I can claim; only what I am a part of, naturally, like a dog smelling and tasting what is around it.