Identity: Habit and Having
Macbeth: Speak, if you can : what are you?
[Macbeth, Act I, Scene III]
I just reread Gabriel Marcel’s ‘Outlines of a Phenomenology of Having’. I remembered while
reading this work something that I learned from reading about Madhyamaka philosophy, something about
the root-error which leads to suffering. The reason I bring this up is because I’ve been having a hard time
even beginning to write this essay. I’ve had a hundred false starts and although I know the material
reasonably well, I couldn’t seem to put it down to paper for the longest time. It wasn’t until I realized the
truth of the root-error of suffering that I was able to begin, and this happened while reading Gabriel
Marcel’s essay. The root-error has to do with clinging, with attachment, with ignorance. Whenever we
cling to any extremity, such as taking ‘imagined separation as real’ or ‘supposed division as given’, we are
committing the root-error [http://www.integralscience.org/sacredscience/SS_sunyata.html]. It could be
worded better, but basically Sunyata is emptiness, and through realizing the emptiness of emptiness and
following the Middle Path between extremes (polarities), you can be free of suffering
Having leads to all sorts of problems. Having, to Marcel, is tantamount to Being. Therein lies a
possible formulation for the concept of identity. I have a bad habit of putting too many restrictions on
myself that make it almost impossible for me to finish an essay. I must choose the right lexicon, I must
follow a certain form, I must quote from all the right texts, and all the content of my work must be neatly
organized. So what really helped me begin writing this essay was not a decision to do something, but a
decision not to do something: I was not going to cling to anything, just let the words guide me through the
problem, having faith in myself and in the material.
I was proposed by the moderator of this online magazine to write something on identity. Over the
last several weeks, I’ve gone through numerous texts to find relevant material on the subject of identity. In
this essay I’d like to mix some ideas I picked up from reading Gabriel Marcel, Gilles Deleuze and Felix
Guattari, Jacques Derrida, and Martin Heidegger, though it may not always be obvious and I may not
always attribute particular ideas that have become commonplace to the exact place I found them. First, I’d
like to fit in Arthur Rimbaud’s famous quote from his letter to Georges Izambard: ‘I is another’.
Gabriel Marcel says a few things in his ‘Outlines of a Phenomenology of Having’ that could
possibly shed some light on Rimbaud’s statement. Of course, the context for Rimbaud’s statement, in the
letter, is that he wants to be a poet, wants to be a seer, and that this is done through the disordering of the
senses. One must be strong, be born a poet. He goes on to say that it is false to say ‘I think’. Rather, we
should say: we [on] think me. And then: ‘I is another’.
Gabriel Marcel says, “In so far as I conceive myself as having in myself, or more exactly, as mine,
certain characteristics, certain trappings, I consider myself from the point of view of another—but I do not
separate myself from this other except after having first implicitly identified myself with him. When I say,
for instance, ‘I have my own opinion about that’ I imply, ‘My opinion is not everybody’s’; but I can only
exclude or reject everybody’s opinion if I have first, by a momentary fiction, assimilated it and made it
mine.” (‘Outlines of a Phenomenology of Having’, p.175-176)
Having seems to come with a certain danger. What I possess tends to take possession of me. This
can be seen in the case of a master and his/her slave, where the master possesses the slave, but the master
also needs the slave, is only master in that s/he has slaves. An interesting thing that we will arrive at later
on in this paper is the relationship that an identity has with technology and how it resembles the paradox
inherent in all possession—that the possessor is equally possessed by the possession. Even Soren
Kierkegaard, in his ‘Concluding Unscientific Postscript to the Philosophical Fragments’, speaks of ‘that
independence, which in independence of the world needs the world as witness to its independence, to feel
sure that it really is independent’ (71).
So how does one synthesize the material that one has read to try and answer a few questions about
identity? You start with questions, you formulate questions and let the words guide you. First question:
who am I? Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, in their collaborative work ‘What is philosophy?’, say that
“We are all contemplations, and therefore habits. I is a habit.” (105) If I is a habit, identity is a habit. It is
a habit to question who or what we are.
What is the meaning of habit? Habit comes from the Old French habit, a dress, a custom, which
itself comes from the Latin habitus, a condition, dress. Habitus comes from the Latin habere, to have, hold,
possess, to handle or to keep. Habit is therefore related to Having. One of the senses of the word habit is
that it is ‘a recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition’
[American Heritage Dictionary]. Time is implicitly involved in the words ‘recurrent’, ‘frequent’ and
‘repetition’. Habits are acquired through time. Time is the medium in which habit is acquired, but also the
medium in which a habitual action is enacted. Habit needs time to grow in. Habit is a recurrent pattern of
behavior acquired through frequent repetition. Not only does this involve time, but memory also. A
recurrent pattern of behavior means that complex schemata can be retained.
Habits help characterize who it is that I am. What else characterizes me? Deleuze, elsewhere,
intimates that “…one is only what one has: here, being is formed or the passive self is, by having.” (p.79,
Difference and Repetition). Therefore we keep coming around in circles: identity, habit, having. I forward,
then, that identity is a habit of having. Does identity, however, change or does it stay fixed? If it changes,
what changes it? Identity is a habit of having that is subject to time and technology which change it. What
follows is a bit of an explanation.
Thursday, March 28, 2002
I leafed through Heidegger’s ‘Being and Time’ today. I was trying to taste his particular flavor of
phenomenology. I am a habit, I am what I have, Identity is a habit of having. It is an economy of
possession. Possession has an economy as a text has an economy and the economy of possession is identity.
What do I mean by an economy of possession? Economy is ‘The organization, structure or mode
of operation of a group; more specifically, the system of exchange within an identifiable group, whether the
exchange be of money (economy in the widest sense) or of some more ephemeral thing, like meaning (see
signifying economy).’ [http://www.ouc.bc.ca/fina/glossary/gloshome.html] I am seeing the economy of
possession as the system of exchange of various levels and resonances of Having, through possession,
through rooting ourselves in time through habituality; identity is the structure or mode of operation of the
group of our habits and of our multiplicity of possessed objects (thoughts are also objects, see later).
Habit is a pattern of behavior. Habitus, remember, comes from the Latin habere, to have, hold,
possess, to handle, or to keep. But interestingly enough, habitare, to dwell, is the frequentative of habere,
to have. I am told that the frequentative verb in grammar is ‘expressing or designating a repeated action’.
Habits punctuate our lives. We have many habits and habits form constellations. We are
continually in the process of managing habits. To manage habits takes an entire lifetime. Habit can be seen
as recirculation, anything that is recurrent. Even the physical universe has habits, tendencies. More
broadly, habit is a recurrent pattern of behavior. Customs, then, evolve out of habits. Habits usually tend to
erupt out of necessity, out of some use or need of a function. Language in its evolution follows a certain
cultivation of habits; words and expressions are repeated with a resulting difference. Each new act of habit
is different than the last. Each moment is a new moment; it is subject to variation.
The habits of science are its methods and its techniques or treatments. Technologies come out of a
sort of cultural habit of science. Habit is punctuating time with actions, actions that determine your
relationship to time, a relationship which is your identity. How you treat time will sculpt your life in a
certain way. How you treat objects of your possession, be they fetish objects, sacred objects, or taboo
objects, this relationship determines the network of your habits, its specific structural nature.
There’s a reason I keep bringing up time. Habit is infused with temporality, or suffuses it in itself;
everything about habit has a clockwork. Habit, in some way, formulates our interior clockwork. Habit
gives continuity to our lives, gives community to our multifarious actions. It is our rhythm, our pulsation. I
must once again return to the definition I found of Habit: it is ‘a recurrent, often unconscious pattern of
behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition’. The idea of recurrence gives the creature of habit an
aspect of subordination to the imperative that ‘It’ will return, an expectation and a satisfaction in seeing it
come back, generating new relations to time, new involutions, convolutions, i.e. events steeped in time,
saturated in temporality.
Repetition conditions habits into us. All life is composed of patterns of behavior, every moment is
the orchestration of behaviors, the ceaseless eruption of patterns spontaneous and programmed. The habit
circulates through time by returning at various periods, regular or aleatory periods, and thus forms a
perimeter which contains a large part of what are the performances that shape our lives.
Habit is cyclical. Various cycles start at different times. A layout of our habits through time
would form complex constellations. The cyclicality of habit is what keeps it together as a system, it is the
syntheses of memory and habitus, the rotational synthesis of habit and time. Habit is enacting the habit and
the stasis of the habitual act, a cycle whereby the habit appears and disappears once the performance of the
habit is completed. It is a contraction made up of enacting the habit, of the actualized event of performing a
habit and then the habit’s dormancy stage.
I is a habit that I have. “In essence, habit is contraction.” (D+R, p.73) In fact, the contraction that
is habit orders the identity, stabilizes it, or gives it equipoise. Identity is the shape of your relationship to
time and to objects. A new technology brings about a new set of habits, as we will see later.
The continuous scheduling and schematisation of multiple habits engulfs the habit-holder. The I is
trapped in a schism of chaotic impermanence, decaying intensities. Soon we will see consciousness as
mobilized, amorphous aggregates of Habit and the corporealization of Having [In a moment, for a moment].
Habits take place in an economy, in the management of the complex organizations of daily life,
and form aggregates of need and fulfilment. In intuiting our habitual constellations, our orbital habits form
a system of distribution of the time we possess, the punctuation of this time with habitual actions. The
seasons are habits of the earth’s relationship to the sun in its orbit. We can see identity as a solar system.
The sun is the I, the planets are habits. Gravity and Force, which keep each planet in orbit, are Having.
Having has both gravity and force. The I is the center. But we’ll get to Having a little later [and perhaps
get a feeling of how Having might decenter the I in dissolving its boundaries].
‘The time that we possess’ is only meant casually, for it is in fact an illusion of possession.
“Possession removes being from change. In essence durable, it does not only endure as a state of mind; it
affirms its power over time, over what belongs to nobody—over the future. Possession posits the product
of labor as what remains permanent in time, a substance.” (Levinas, ‘Totality and Infinity’, p.160)
Habits ground us in time. They form the groundwork of our foundation as Being. Habit is a
phenomenon of the transportation of points of contact into the crystalized form of an identity, a developing
of relational compoundability: a transmutation of the bond between being and time into a sort of mutable
solidification or enduring as the form of being of Habit [form as an enduring of associations, therefore the
existential form of Habit is Habit itself, hence identitas]. In a sort of wayward sense, identity is composed
of transitions between zones of infinitesimal parallelism, structural communications where being meets
time. Habits, not being constant, coming in cycles and periods, have a relationship to time that is
segmented. This segmentation paralyzes a constant sense of self. Self, then, is disordered and
discontinuous. We will touch the subject of identity and time a bit further on in the essay.
Habits can overlap. There are social habits such as saying hello, biological habits such as eating
and sleeping, which are not habits exactly in the sense that habits constitute identity in the sense we are
using because of the fact that biological habits, needs, cannot not be had. Therefore, Habit, as treated in
this essay, concerns that which is acquired, and eating is not so much acquired as it is already there from
birth. The freedom involved in [our meaning of] habit is what makes it so telling as a feature of human life.
Habits populate vital scenarios over the landscape of Having. Habits interlock together and make
up an entire life. Even in dreams there are recurrent patterns of thought, recurrent dreams and dream
symbolism; habits, tendencies. The cells of our body are micro-tendencies.
Habit is the ornamentation of actions over space and time. If we leave it only at the body, then
watching a body for an entire day we would see it perform various dances, take various positions for various
periods of time, perform multiple acts at once,—speak and type, read and listen to music: the habits entrain
us to follow such a prolonged dance. And the body itself as a molecular flow, where the being ends, the
entire space that the body takes up is the shape that is repeated over and over again from birth to death. It is
the resulting color of the liquids of life after they are mixed together, for an analogy. On a molecular level
the body is composed of excitations/relaxations, ecstasies and fatigues. The dance is the Masquerade, the
Carnival, the morbid Theatre of Life, or you can call it the Doctor’s Office because that in itself is one of
the many strange dances—conventions, habits—that compute our identity through the business of doing.
Our body interlocks with our thoughts, feelings, the excitation of our cells, everything involved in
concluding periodicities, forming an ornamental patchwork, a mosaic, a quilt, but of a performative art,
Experience: where thought events connect with physiological events and external events, for lack of a better
word. It is a 3-dimensional masterpiece of experiential, existential art. A situational art.
Habits, therefore, in being motor constructs, conditioned sets of recurrent behaviors, draw us into
their mechanism, and this drawing, this suction or inhalation, this absorption transforms us; we begin to
exist through the habit because of the way that habits are the structure of our life [the learned structure].
You can exist, but to know that you exist, you need a certain structure, a framework. There is nothing
without context. Context is content to some degree. But this existence through structure, what is it? Habits
help animate the sense of self. Our existence is actualized in its self-awareness, and part of what makes us
aware is a complex of relations between habit, time, space, and our bodies, perhaps. I must admit to a
certain level of speculation in this essay. It is, in a sense, a piece of fiction, but through fiction it is possible
to communicate an idea, and this idea need not be fictional at all.
Habits are regularities in the microhistory of everydayness. C.S. Peirce proposed that “Each
personality is based upon a ‘bundle of habits’.” (6.228) Therefore, I believe we have tackled the essential
points of habit. It is a misfortune that I haven’t the time to enter further into words as habits, or institutions,
businesses, give more examples of habits and perhaps form some sort of lay schematisation of possible
habits with categories showing internal differences , but at any rate, this would only be the science and not
the philosophy of habit, and even as philosophy, I imagined something less mediocre in my mind before I
began writing. It is purposefully the reason why I abandoned right at the start after my realization of
Sunyata that I’d only finish this text if I let go of my expectations, floating into a sort of improvisational
What I unfortunately will not have the time to investigate in this essay, though I plan to secretly
undertake a study of this topic aside from what takes place in here, is the politics of the acquiring of habit,
how freedom is involved, how we choose our habits and the ramifications of possible choices [ex. choices
which alienate you from society, choices which are self-destructive, etc.].
Let us put it another way, for now: There are points of contact between Being and Habit,
intersections of their separate solidities. A simple syllogism: you interact with Habit, Habit interacts with
Time, you interact with Time. Ah, but is it a syllogism, or what kind? First let me say that what I mean by
Interaction is the way in which when there is a correspondence or an exchange between to two things, a
communication or a correlation. In this case, Habit is something we Have. Habit, having, time, and space
initially form identity. Technology comes out of space [space in all possible spatialities]. Identity is the
form of the composite [mixture, synthesis] of a multiplicity of interactions.
“These thousands of habits of which we are composed - these contractions, contemplations,
pretensions, presumptions, satisfactions, fatigues; these variable presents - thus form the basic domain of
passive syntheses.” (Deleuze 78: 1959)
Saturday, March 30, 2002
Heidegger would say that by using a hammer, I discover it as a useful thing. Action lets me see the
handiness of an object through circumspection. Using a handy object already alters my being, my identity.
It puts me in a state of circumspection, of taking care, which is a fundamental aspect of Dasein.
In circumspect taking care, I ‘see’ the usability which essentially belongs to it through action. In
the case of the object of having, it is its possessibility that I penetrate. There is an intensive field of co-
operation whereby my virtue/gift of Having meets the object’s possessability.
Having the object itself lets me see its power of possession. The belongingness of the object, its
being-in-my-grasp, but not in the sense that a flower is IN a bowl. The object of my possession is IN my
possession, or rather is IN a state of belonging, of appropriation; it is my property. It is more than an object
of my possession, it is an extension of my body, for it has gone from being object to being territory. The
object that I have is tantamount to a piece of land that I live on. I live on my possessions. I inhabit them. It
is in seeing objects of Having as regions, as domains or territories that we can begin to see the specific
spatial quality integral to Having. But we may first need to stretch our understanding of Space, for a
territory in philosophy is not a direct equation of territory in the physical universe. The object as territory
brings up the possibility of a politics that goes on between the possession and the possessor, not a simple
relationship, but rather one of continual negotiations, of writing and rewriting contracts; therefore it is
possible to think of the administration of Having (as an estate). But the things I have embody me, together
with habits and Having as a habit. They organize and actualize me. Remember Kierkegaard’s formulation
where he spoke of ‘that independence, which in independence of the world needs the world as witness to its
independence, to feel sure that it really is independent’? (71) It is paradoxical, but for the better.
Paradoxicality allows two extremes to live together, to be balanced as in the one who walks the middle
road. Towns A and Towns B are an equal distance from the man walking the middle road, treading the
middle path. Therefore the polarity ‘possessions’ embodies the polarity ‘sense of self’. Let us rather call
the object a ‘landscape’ than a ‘territory’ if only to ease down the political structure of
Better yet, we could see Having as a plane. Having elaborates, explicates, and delegates. It is the
force which compounds us into a self. We exist, but at the same time, we have an existence and we are
performing existence as an act. Being is an act. Having can be seen as a sign of being. It, as with habit,
has a particular shape, but the space Having inhabits is not the same as the space in the world of objective
presence, therefore its shape must be understood differently. Habits have an actual shape through space and
time as actions of a body, chemical process of a body, which includes thoughts, perceptions (for there is a
body as an object which takes place but also the body’s perception of the outside and inside world). Having
is closer to empty space, to a vacuum. It is a force, a gravity, one of the properties of a human body, one of
its underlying potentials. Our identity is a conglomeration of moving potentials.
Having intertwines me with the object that I have. This object is external to me, but as soon as it
becomes an object that I have, the boundaries of external and internal seem to vanish. The object that I
have becomes a constituent of what I am.
“In order to have effectively, it is necessary to be in some degree, that is to say, in this case, to be
immediately for one’s-self, to feel one’s-self as it were, affected or modified. A mutual interdependence of
having and being.” (Journal Metaphysique, p.145)
My ownmost thoughts are possessions. There succession of habits is a succession of had actions.
Marcel pleads that “Every action goes beyond possession, but may, after the event, be treated as a
possession itself…” [Marcel 146] I am successively discontinued, for my totality of thoughts, actions [not
to mention the symptomatic, phenomenal phantasmagoria that is my body] counterbalance over a field that
is a sort of center, I name it I, he names it Other, she names the balance, equation, and actuality or the
ground [meeting-place] of a complex consonance. If only I had known that identity was so full of hammer-
Most of the time, if I try to outline what identity is, my own words will take possession of me.
Having elaborates, schematizes, and complicates our Being. Ontologically, with being there is having, that
is what the technology of identity performs for you. An identity creates having as much as having creates
the identity. Having an identity, that is. So thoughts are objects which we possess. In possessing things,
we Possess, and in Possessing, we possess those things that come from Possession which are not
possessions. A little less obliquely, I possess my own power of Possession with its intensities and relations.
All that is left to say of Having is the possibilities of there being a link between desire and the
intensities of Having. But we have covered enough ground to go on to the next section.
Monday, April 01, 2002
Shapes, such as the shapes of habits over time, seen before as ornamentation, are also found in how
we deal with technologies. How we deal with tools or technologies shows how we deal with the new, but
also this new object has immediately within it usability; it has a value, it has an associational field
surrounding it, a field of relations in an expressive model. How we use the tool, this shapes who we are.
Using the tool or useful object allows us to see its handiness, but as the potential to form habit, it is
something we have, an experience we have, and therefore in this same space invents the identity.
Technology, in a sense, is also an extension of our body. In his ‘Civilization and its Discontents’,
Sigmund Freud argues as obvious that “We recognize as belonging to culture all the activities and
possessions which men use to make the earth serviceable to them, to protect them against the tyranny of
natural forces, and so on.” Further on, he says that “If we go back far enough, we find that the first acts of
civilization were the use of tools, the gaining of power over fire, and the construction of dwellings.”
Freud’s project is different than mine, but his characterisation of man as a tool-user, power-seeker, and
constructor of dwellings serves my purpose of saying that technology is a way of extending our bodies, or
our natural powers. For instance, Freud says that “By means of all his tools, man makes his own organs
more perfect—both the motor and the sensory—or else removes the obstacles in the way of their activity.
Machinery places gigantic power at his disposal which, like his muscles, he can employ in any direction.”
What could we glean from Freud’s texts about dwellings and having, dwellings and habits, tools
and habits, tools and time? Remember the relation of habitare to habere. Our dwellings are an extension
of our bodies, form part of our personal space.
What I want to argue is that when one is in possession of something that ‘places gigantic power at
his disposal’, this changes one significantly. We can meanwhile conjecture that if man makes the earth
serviceable to himself, this already changes his relationship to the world. The world is not merely a slue of
objective presence, it is itself a tool to extend man’s natural powers, and in fact nature becomes a
possession once it is serviceable to man.
This quality of man, that he ‘makes his own organs more perfect’ is a habit. Science is a habit of
civilization. Technology is a habit of science.
We possess a technology, but the technology can also possess us. I have a technology at my
disposal. The more I use it, the more it takes hold of me. Take a town of farmers who subsist off their own
land with no outside intervention. When this town grows and eventually becomes a consumer society, when
their self-subsistence is replaced by acquiring food at a grocery store, the farmer-become-consumer-of-
products-outside-his-farm becomes dependent on an Other for his subsistence. This is one of the effects of
technology. Those people who were used to messenger services to send important notices to neighbors or
distant relatives quickly became subjected to the power of the telephone which eventually led to their
dependence on this new medium (technology) for what they once did on their own. I must admit that the
change wasn’t so abrupt as I might make it sound, I am only using the telephone as an example, and needn’t
enter into an analysis of the slow process of change from messenger to telephone, for, first of all, people
still use messengers in this world. We aren’t all so lucky as to own a telephone.
Time is that which we cannot possess, but perhaps that which we most desire to possess. This
would normally take me into desire, but since the scope of this essay has changed as I have been writing it, I
will leave it out. Desire is another faculty, function, or habit, which we would need to treat by itself.
Time affects us all, that is an undeniable fact. Throughout our lives, we each develop our own
relationship to time. Each new technology that we begin to use changes the way we organize our lives.
When a child first learns to use a fork or spoon instead of his/her hands, the child’s life changes
immediately. A reorientation is implicit in the use of a new technology. Technology, then, changes the
organization of our lives. It changes our personal economy, identity being the anchor of this economy. By
using economy in speaking of the organization of one’s life, I am hinting at Marcel’s comparison of life to
an estate, “Life itself compared to an estate, and treated as capable of being administered or managed.”
(141) I am speaking particularly of the management of possessions, and by possessions I not only mean
material things, but also thoughts, habits, and our body. The management of our faculty of possession in
I wish I were Heidegger. Martin Heidegger would be able to explain the difference between a
technology such as the telephone, which I can possess, but the technology of Technology which is
concealed and unpossessable, but I don’t have the patience to be Heidegger, not even for a moment. I can
only say that I have noticed two senses of technology, one which is the object, the use, the other being the
idea behind it, the science, the mechanism, the technicity. And so in time we believe we are progressing.
Thursday, April 04, 2002
It would be possible to make a graph of our habits. We would include the start and finish of each
habitual act over a certain period of time so that each habit is a short or long rectangle on the graph,
depending on the length of the action. In a sense it would resemble musical notation whereby is inscribed
the time, duration and pitch of a musical note, plus any of the other marks to designate any of the numerous
possible particularities the note might have. The habit is segmentary. In the line which is the day, the habit
is a segment, the part [of time] that lies between the start and end of the recurrent pattern of behavior.
In the present, the habit is recurrent, is a repetition of an earlier manifestation of the same habit. Is
it actually or virtually the same? That’s just it: habit, by being repeated, carries with it the quality of the
repeated, meaning that repetition is one of its attributes.
The habit comes back at intervals, after a distance in time, and the habit itself is involved in a
similar relationship with the person, as it is from time, for the person and time are one in this, in the habit
and the shapes it takes. By shape I mean all the contexts in which the habit reacts as a habit, exists as a
habit, is steady in its state of being habit; endures, solidifies, is manifest, all the ways in which a habit
exists, all the relations, positions, intensities, etc..
All this means is that identity, committed to a particular temporary existence, that means, when the
identity is formed in the moment for a given period [for it always changes, it is a habit, it goes away and
comes back after a given time, or never]: identity, taking the shape of our various identities with the added
spatiality of having, having as manifest nearness, urging necessity or gravitational belonging to the aspect of
committed territoriality, is imbued [invested] with a value of elastic time, the coming and going of habits
with the intensities and areas of having creating the identity as a masterpiece of circumspect becoming.
Technology influences the identity, makes it telephonic, televisional, phonographic [for a time].
And there is with each technology an accompanying metaphysic, a particular type of experience or reality.
So the camera makes me camera-operative. Habits have the same effect as technologies; the habit of calling
myself an I makes me a person. All these things, technologies and habits, influence my being, tingeing it
for a time. It is not so much a matter of time than of temporality. Not only Time is temporal. Habits are
temporal, technologies are temporal, and in fact most things on this earth are temporal in some way.
Certain technologies exert a power over time. The telephone saves us a lot of time. So do
locomotives and fax machines. Coming to depend more and more on technology, today’s identity, in this
dependence, is shaped by the power that technologies exert over time, and this power is attributed to the
identity as the identity holds possession of the technology [having contaminates, in a way, for the traits that
the objects that I hold have, become mine; I am like a gun when I possess it, for it is an extension of myself,
it is one of my powers]. Therefore, identities change on many levels. Identities change over time and
through technologies, and through the power over time that technologies have, and the way in which their
power migrates into the holder. There is constant communication between all these mentioned things
[Technologies can exert power over other things, but for the time being, I am limiting it to a matter of time].
It is not a matter of straight causality. The object that I have extends its powers to my benefaction,
but this is not simple cause and effect. Having does not cause the powers that it gives me, not in a straight
and simple way. It is more curved than straight, and this can only be understood in terms of the spatiality of
having, a spatiality in the way that Heidegger saw it, not one based on being-inside-of or next-to, but one
based on necessity, on personality, on the personality of having, is how I see it. Together Habit and Having
create a sort of complex nonlinear dynamic system. [affective, sensory-motor, relational]
Therefore, the register of my identity is this: I am I, I have, I have habits, having and I are habits, I
have a technology, I become, I belong to I, It belongs to me, I am It, I am Other, I have a thought, I have
Another thought [differentiation], habits are recurrent patterns of behavior, I am
I/It/Other/Having/Habits/Technology for a time and it changes me in two ways, it changes the nature of my
identity and the perimeter or outward aspect of my identity.
I can be Of my time, Ahead of my time, Behind my times. I can be early, late, at the right place at
the right time. Now wait a minute, if I myself am ahead of the time that I am in, am I not before the time
that I should be in, ahead of the time that I presently am incorporated in but prior to the times that I should
actually be in, the times to which I belong? The periodicity of habits through the orbit of
Having/Being/Becoming, is the reason we easily fall into confusion. When I can no longer recognize the
gate that stood by the church graveyard once I have seen it a myriad of times.
I can choose to identify myself with my time. I can live contemporaneously with the past. These
are possible relationships to time.
Speaking of time, History comes into mind. I have not and will not treat any of the various
instances of the manifestation of identity materially in historical documents. Therefore, we will not deal
with birth certificates, marriage certificates, diplomas, bank statements, or any of the other documents
which help ‘fill up’ our identity. I would like to but cannot treat the subject of instantaneity which leads
well into the subject of instant gratification. I am purposely leaving many registers untouched. I am going
to go straight into the conclusion and hope that my point is made in the end.
(It is worthwhile for me to mention in parentheses, at this point, that habban, Old English for “to
own, possess”, from which our modern English “have” derives, is not related to the Latin habere, although
they do resemble one another in form and sense.)
Saturday, April 13, 2002 / Conclusion
Identity is constructed and can be constructed in many ways. We have seen possible ways in
which an identity can be built up, through the habit of having and having habits, through time, etc. All
identities, however, are, in essence, fake. The fact remains that there is not ONE thing that I am, one
expression that can contain my entirety; there is a vast field of interactions which commit me to a temporary
solidity at different levels and in different mixtures for different times.
So how can I even sit here and try to give an account of how identity is fabricated or how identity
works? I have decided to make this conclusion serve as a sort of self-destruction of this essay. Whether my
sentences have been poetic invention, nonsense, or philosophy, I leave this to the reader’s discretion. I have
decided that there is no right way to express/explain identity and its functioning and that any textual
experiment towards that cannot be all-inclusive or perfectly factual, but it is always a rewarding experience
nonetheless to undertake such a project. Whether or not this essay furthers any field of research or whether
it is completely up to date I feel is not of utmost importance.
In a way, it can be seen as a kind of farce. The seriousness of the text, its complexity and length
can make it a sort of parody of itself. At any rate, I did what I felt could teach something about identity.
I could easily sit here and refute all the ideas that circulated through this text. I could let the very
identity of this text disintegrate. What I am saying is partly what I realized while reading Gabriel Marcel,
when his words made me think of Sunyata. If everything is empty, if emptiness itself is empty, then if I
choose to write, I must realize that my words are empty, and so...