Monday, July 18, 2011

Working on Overload

I once put up a posting in which I set forth the idea that we all go not by one name or even two names but by many names. Each of the names we bear delineates some kind of person-to-person relationship and/or responsibility. The more complex the world that we live in becomes, the more names that we are likely to bear. And the more names that we bear, the more likely that someone will be calling out those names on a regular basis.

Some of those names come with fairly clearly defined parameters of responsibility; others are hazier as to what is "owed" to those names and those who call us by them at any given time. Some of the responsibilities attached to those names may conflict with other responsibilities attached to other of our names, particularly if we try to respond to the multiple callers at the same time.

There are times (and they are becoming more and more frequent as our lives become more and more complex) when we all might qualify for the psychiatric designation of "split personality." What is required of us in answering to all those names that we are juggling in the air can sometimes get overwhelming, and we drop a ball or some of the balls or all of the balls.

If you're still wondering where I'm going with this, let me set out some of those names that are causing overload for many a person. We have our given birth names. We have the nicknames we are called by those who love us and those who don't. We may have different school names. We are daughters and sons, granddaughters and grandsons, and we are parents and grandparents. We are oldest child or middle child or youngest child and we are brothers and sisters. We are nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews and we are aunts and uncles. We are cousins. We are neighbors, best friends, close friends, friends and acquaintances. We are employees and bosses, coordinators and supervisors and managers. We are students and we are teachers, in many different situations in addition to formalized schooling. We are clients and customers. We are correspondents and commentators. We are initiators and leaders as well as being followers. We are congregants and believers in a religious sense. We are citizens. We are members of diverse groups, each with its own set of obligations. And somewhere in all of this we are also individuals, uniquely constituted beings with sometimes idiosyncratic expectations of what we should be doing or not doing, what we want to be doing or not doing, what we can be doing or not doing.

Anyone who is married can attest to the sometimes conflicts that can arise when we carry the name spouse at the same time that we carry the name parent. Your child/children need/want something at the same time that your spouse wants/needs something else--to which name do you answer first, and to what extent? And when you are a son/daughter and a parent wants/needs something at the same time that your children/spouse want/need something--to which name do you answer and to what extent? Now add in that all those other people who call you different names want/need something also at this same moment. And just where do you figure in what you, as an individual, need/want when that need/want is in a long line of needs/wants by other people?

I'm not offering any easy answers to the questions I raised, because I don't believe there are any easy answers. The longer we live, the more we add to the litany of names we are called, not subtract. I'm having one of those summers where it seems like every name I've ever acquired is being called out, with the expectation that I will respond and respond immediately. Yeah, I've dropped a few of the balls I'm juggling, and I've paid for that. But what choices do we really have? We keep going, full of the hope that all the balls will stay in the air until we can finally say "juggling time is over for now."

And I wonder if I will ever again in the near and foreseeable future find myself able to sing the words of a favorite Simon and Garfunkle tune: "Hello silence my old friend, I've come to talk to you again."


knitter of shiny things said...

Not to be pedantic, but I'm pretty sure the lyrics go "Hello darkness my old friend."

ProfK said...

The name of the song is "The Sound of Silence." You're right that the first line starts "Hello darkness" but way back when the song was at its most popular a whole lot of us used to sing it as "Hello silence" both because of the title and because the last line of each verse addressed silence. Old habits are hard to break.

tesyaa said...

ProfK, you listened to secular music? The shanda!