Marina Warner and Paul Ricoeur on the mystery of identity.

I am still trying to digest the impact of the virtual gathering, of almost 100 people from some 13 countries, that took place at 5 pm on April 29th., the occasion of the book launch for Mary Modeen and my Creative Engagements with Ecologies of Place: Geopoetics,Deep Mapping and Slow Residency (Routledge 2020).

In a review of Sally Bayley’s No Boys Play Here: A Story of Shakespeare and My Family’s Missing Men for the London Review of Books (6th May, 2021, p. 41), Marina Warner identifies the issue of “personality as contingent, mutable and dispersed, a kind of quantum field psyche that is both here and there at the same time”. She goes on to suggest, via a quotation from Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun, that the difference between a living person and an AI robot is that: “a person’s uniqueness “ is “distributed among those who love her, and secured by their consciousness of her”. An observation that reminds me of Paul Ricoeur’s discussion of narrative identity in Oneself As Another (1994), where – having identified identity in terms of “the dialectic of self and the other than self (p. 3),  he later asks: “do we not consider human lives to be more readable when they have been interpreted in terms of the stories that people tell about them”? (p.114, note 1).  

For whatever reason, both Warner’s observation and my connecting it back to Ricoeur’s concerns, seem relevant to the impact that the virtual gathering of such a varied and scattered group of people on April 29th. has had on me. Perhaps a recognition of my own contingency, mutability and dispersion, not as something to regret but something to embrace and celebrate?