Who Sculpts Your Identity? — Part II

Sunday, August 13, 2017
Arcadia, California



Who Sculpts Your Identity? — Part II

Although already anticipating a missive about the influence of BOXES on identity today, I had NO idea how box-like my day would be.

I have an emergency appointment with my dentist-friend. He practices in Arcadia. I arrived early, hoping to get some writing in before facing pain. I searched for the nearest coffee house.

To my horror, the only one nearby is in the Westfield Mall.

It is a living box-hell. 

Maybe God does exist, because I had no idea how this particular day would so dramatically exemplify the topic I had already planned.

I sit here in a large box-shaped space, right next to the box-shaped kiosk hosting the Coffee Bean.

The bland Muzak fills the background, allowing patrons to escape the reality of their existential aloneness.

My large, cavernous box, next to the CB box (more of a kiosk, but still square), exists within the larger box of the horrid mall itself. When I finish writing, I will get into my small box of my car, drive linear streets to the dentist, enter his box office, sit in his box consulting room, and, well, certainly endure some kind of torture while lying on his rectangular chair.

Regarding the over-arching influences on our identities, consider the phenomenon of boxes. You almost certainly live in a box-shaped apartment, condominium, or house. You too drive in your box-shaped car to work, to run errands, and so on. You too enter box-shaped stores, markets, and offices.

Perhaps you use public transportation. (Good for you.) If so, you enter box-shaped busses or trains or subways. You walk through box-shaped bus, train, or subway stations. You encounter box-shaped buildings around you as you stroll out, on your way to some other box-shaped structure.

Fortunately, airplanes are shaped like tubes. However, airlines do everything they can to create the impression of a box inside their aircraft. The interior walls are designed to reduce the tubular truth. The food trays are square. The carts serving snacks and drinks are box-like. The flight attendants store their supplies in little boxes. The bathrooms, like upright coffins, take the form of rectangular boxes.

When I complete this particular rant on constraints on identity, I plan to propose many ways to escape biological, cultural, and historical constraints.

Meanwhile, I remain all polemic.

(Radically departing from the box-like identity constrictions, I have been observing a handsome middle-aged man pacing back and forth in front of me. He wears a white, starched shirt, blue jeans, and nicely polished brown shoes. He is suntanned, his face framed by neatly trimmed gray hair. I know he is waiting for someone, a date (?), because he has asked me the time more than once. Ah, our internal worlds, how unbox-like they are!)

I implore you to reflect on how box-like architecture shape our personal identities.

How could it not?

Hate to remind you, but we humans are talking apes. We share 99 percent of the same DNA as chimpanzees.

Do you see them creating boxes? Maybe in zoos. Wherever they exist in the wild, assuming we boxing homo sapiens have not completely wiped them out by now, they probably live in caves. Or perhaps they burrow comfy little homes from twigs, leaves, and dirt.

(The abandoned fellow looks worried now. He has extended the range of his wondering. He heads towards the box-like Nordstrom’s at the end of the rectangular-boxed hallway. He frowns. His pace has sped up. I feel for him. You cannot box up his pain!)

If you like hiking, or sitting by the beach, then you have felt the liberation from boxes. Just a few years ago, perhaps 2014, I read that most of the world’s population now lives in urban environments.

People flee the countryside for the comfort of boxes.

I know they mostly seek jobs. Perhaps they hope for more social contact, like living closer to relatives and friends.

But do they realize how the boxes constrain them?

The hellish nature of my immediate holism of boxes forces my exit. I’m off to my box-car to meet my box-dentist.

As for my own freedom, the most I can hope for today is an afternoon writing in my small backyard.

It contains lovely plants, flowers, and birds. It even has a small fountain.

Alas, the yard itself is — you guessed it — square shaped.


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