Earth is a mere planet in our thought to be an ever expanding universe. Many scientists have been able to identify some of the codes that build our universe and give it an identity based on laws of physics, chemistry and biology. Moreover, we humans are part of that space and time, and each one of us can resemble his own universe and act according to his own laws. Nevertheless, what factors govern the way we act or who we are? In addition to that, what are the factors that we build our character and personality on? A person’s personality can be defined as his/her identity that is comprehended by the way we act, speak, think and believe. One’s identity is a result of numerous factors that can be categorized under sexual decisions, personal experiences, impact of travelling, participation in society and religion, and connection to origins.
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The factors of identity are many, but sexual beliefs have almost the most powerful effect on a person’s identity. As we saw in The Diaries of Adam and Eve, one’s gender reflects much on the character and personality of oneself (Twain 363-78). Since the beginning of the human race, the first aspect that determined each person’s identity was his/her sex. Sex is a broad topic and has maintained much attention since Eve came into Adam’s world. The way we perceive life truly depends on our gender. Girls tend to view life in a loving and soft manner in contrast to males that believe in being tough and masculine. Our gender plays an important role also because of the way society looks at each gender. A female is required to act in certain ways as Mai Ghoussoub describes in her text “Missed Opportunities: Me and My Gender”: “you play with boys, you enter their classrooms, obtain better grades than many of them and then you are asked to obey them or accept the inequality that places them above you” (396-401). Moreover, today possibly the most talked about subject in the Arab world is sex before and after marriage. Starting with males, sex before marriage is encouraged and counts as a plus on a man’s CV for marriage. Since it is impossible to know if a man has had sex before marriage, he has been granted that privilege and is free to do what he wants. However, a woman having sex becomes marked. Before marriage, she becomes a social outcast and viewed as a shame to society, but after marriage she is honored to be giving her husband that special gift called virginity. These gender discriminations most definitely affect one’s identity since we are all free to do what we feel is right. One’s decision about choosing to confer to the inequality of genders or rebel against it or having sex before or after marriage is highly anticipated in the society we live in, and as soon as we decide what to do, we would add one more building block to our character or more importantly to our identity.
We grow up in different environments and are introduced to different things at different times and conditions. Our story is similar to that of Eve’s as described in The Diaries of Adam and Eve by Mark Twain (363-78). We are all born in to this world clear of thoughts and ambitions, but as we grow up we get acquainted with our surroundings and discover the world around us. Being newly introduced to this world, we tend to question everything and formulate our own understanding of the nature we are brought into. According to the empiricism theory, our entire knowledge depends on the experiences we undergo, but there is a question on the table today; do our genes determine our personality and identity? Berkeley, a British empiricist, believes that “The mind operates upon the ideas given to it, comparing or contrasting them; it does not merely record what is there” (Hamlyn). Hence, we can observe that one’s identity is strongly related to the experiences he/she witnesses in life. In addition to that, a person is influenced by other people as well. Furthermore, one’s actions are in a relation to the surrounding environment and depend on the conditions found in it (Hamlyn). The people we encounter in life influence our thoughts and the experiments that we base our hypothesis on.
As we saw before, personal experiences have a major effect on a person’s identity and travelling is one of the most impacting experiences one can witness. Travelling around the world introduces the individual to all the different cultures and traditions that define others’ identities. This creates a wider range of knowledge on which we construct part of our identity. People who travel often try to go back to their origins in a later time in their life; the farther they are from their homeland the more they feel the need to connect to it. In “House of Stone, Introduction: Bayt” we witness how the author developed a deep connection with his grandfather’s old house although he has travelled far away. He still appreciates the presence of the house and shows passion and regret to how he left his town and his roots. To him, the house is his identity, and had he not travelled, he would not have realized its great importance (Shadid 95-99). In Shadid’s text we see how travelling can make one realize his own identity, but there is a downside to everything. In “Downtown Beirut- A City of Ghosts?” the Lebanese people are invaded by new ideas and cultures to the extent that their land has lost its identity. Beirut became a place for everyone except the Lebanese people (Mohsen 117-22). From what the article states, identity is related to the land where a being expresses his self in, by creating memories in it and a place to call home.
Religion can be counted as the highest rank in personal experiences and due its major impact it can be considered a category of its own in defining identity. The true meaning of identity is rendered useless in a vacuum world. The answer to Fearon’s question “what is your identity?” may vary according to the situation and the surrounding factors. An example of multiple identities is the duality of light characteristics which is considered wave or a particle depending on its current situation in nature. Therefore identity is the definition of the characteristics of an object associated with its surrounding (Fearon). By comparing light to humans we can clearly see that each person’s identity is defined by his relation to other people. What we do in society is the true meaning of our identity. Society has many situations that affect us, and religion has been around for more than a century. It is a path that everyone has to take at some point in his life and it imposes its own identity on the person by managing to take control of his decisions and actions. Since we already saw how personal experiences and our decisions affect our identity, it is obvious that religion is a major factor that plays a role in each part of the identity equation. One’s participation in society is the key to developing his identity relative to it and to the world; however, religion imposes restrictions that guides the person to a certain position in society and gives him a predefined identity.
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Our identity is not only related to the present time we live in, but also to the past that lead to our being. What our elders left for us or what is called our heritage is yet another factor of identity because it marks the objects that we begin to build our thoughts on and narrows down the possible paths we take in life. An example of heritage identity is observed in Anthony Shadid’s text “House of Stone: Bayt” where the house of Isber samara becomes the symbol of Shadid’s original identity and his homeland (95-99). Traditions also count as a subset of one’s origins where they interfere with an individual’s experiences and thoughts by guiding them along the track of their elders’ identities.
Identity is a word used to describe an object whether it was a living human being or bloodless hard rock. It is a very general word with a very specific meaning and effect on the universe. Nothing is created to just fill space in this galaxy, and everything has a certain job it has promised to fulfill. We have categorized some factors of identity to be able to understand the concept more clearly, but after this analysis we can conclude that our identity is what we want it to be. In the end, identity is basically who we are and its factors build up in a chain reaction that we can control most of the times. We can choose to have sex, to travel, to experience what we want, to follow religious paths or not and whether or not to maintain a connection with our family’s and society’s past.
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