And then this dude rolled by in a Camaro, with a Transformers badge on his front fender, fantasizing that Bumblebee is his friend--and, from the cocky gaze he threw my way (I was only a pedestrian after all and he was riding in a robot that turns into a car that can save the world from evil!), it was clear he, like the overweight boys in Ninja outfits, also lived partially in a world of make believe—at least when it came to estimating his own abilities and others’ perceptions of himself. He'd never even think to consider he was doing the same thing all the Game Con people were doing, but there it was. And instead of spending $120 and a Saturday afternoon with Mom and her sewing machine, he'd spent $35k to accomplish his real life fantasy.
And at this point, of course, I began to think about how common this sort of imaginary behavior is. Entertainment news about movie stars, rock-star fan clubs, sports-teams’ jerseys, Superman stickers on the rear window of the truck, using possessive pronouns when referring to a favorite baseball team, etc. In essence, these things are done to transfer some of the essence and glory of a person’s own hero back onto them (perhaps in the same way that wearing a cross is supposed to transfer the glory of something larger back onto the wearer?).
I’m not quite sure how I should interpret all of this. It’s one thing to pretend and know we're pretending, but another thing altogether to actually believe it. And then there’s the question of, ‘how do we know if that person takes themselves seriously or is just having a bit of fun’? And, of course, there’s the question of why we should even care what others do. It’s easy to just say, “laughing is the corrective behavior we have when we witness discrepancy”, but if that was all why do people take such malicious delight in it? Perhaps it's nervous laughter, a defensive mechanism we utilize to protect ourselves from admitting that we, too, are guilty?
And all this goes back to the story Letitia Stevenson’s vanity (the dresser, not the estimation she had of herself), re-introducing a more modern formulation of the question, ‘how do we know if the image we’re projecting is an image of who we really are or if the image we see in the mirror is just a fabricated version of who we (or someone else) want to be’? (And do people really believe it or are they playing along with—or without—their own knowledge?)
There is no formula, no 9 step verification process to establish validity to our identities. You can’t trust anyone else to tell you any more than you could expect someone to verify the world is real by asking someone, “hey, is this world fake?”
Whatever the case, sometimes the mystery of never really knowing who you are is kind of fun and gives us a freedom that no other creature has. If there was some sort of machine or MRI test that could provide us with a clear, rational, lucid picture of our ‘real’ identity that could be calculated, validated and confirmed, I wouldn’t want it. The way things are gives us a window of freedom in between self-delusion and determinism to choose whatever version of ourselves we want. The key is to identify that and become it, not just affect the appearance.
Living authentically requires validating our own ideas of who we are through action, deeds, and achievements (or at least attempts). Action removes uncertainties and provides us with far more than just a glimpse or notion of who we really are. That doesn’t mean you’re going to find me at the top of a building, ready to demonstrate engineless flight in a red cape and blue spandex pants. There are limits, of course. Quite simply, if I’m both the author of and protagonist in my own life, I’m definitely not going to be Don Quixote--and I sure as hell am not going let someone else’s pen decide my fate.