Who needs it?
Robert L. Fielding
I don’t need most things. I just need food and water, and something to read – a newspaper in the morning, a book in the evening. And I need something to keep me abreast of the times in which I live – not just a newspaper, but something that will let me keep up with everything – my culture. I need a television – I like watching films, documentaries, cartoons, the weather forecast – my needs are simple.
But however simple my needs may be, and I think you’ll agree, they are simple, relatively simple, I am having difficulty meeting them – having them met, if you prefer.
Last week, I misplaced my wallet. I didn’t drop it or leave it somewhere; I put it down in the house and the dog ate it – that kind of ‘misplaced’.
Since then, I have had trouble – big trouble; I can no longer prove who I am. The people where I work can’t or won’t help me, and even if they did – even if they came with me to the bank and vouched for me, who believes anyone anymore?
That stuff in your wallet – it’s you – it’s who you are! Your bank cards, your Driving Licence, your Library card, all that – and the numbers too – they tell people who you are.
It’s like I’m suddenly the invisible man, too. I lost all those cards with my mug shot on them. Now, I can’t even prove who I am when I show up in person – it’s like nobody knows me, or wants to know me – that’s nearer to the truth, or maybe I’m just paranoid.
Everything I was, everything I undoubtedly am, all of my past, and the here and now, and my future – all that has been wiped, as these nerds say. It’s gone, finished, and now I’m wandering around cold and hungry.
I’m alone in a crowd, hungry at a feast, bone dry thirsty by a well full of crystal clear water. I’m nobody anymore.
I spoke to the only pal I’ve got left, a man by the name of Luke. Luke’s a philosopher – teaches Ethics at that university over there. Guess what he asked me the other day: “How can I prove who I am?” I nearly hit him.
“That’s just it,” I told him, “I can’t!”
“Do you think?” he asked me. What a curious question.
“Sure I think,” I replied.
“Then you are,” he laughed, and walked off to one of his classrooms.
That gave me an idea. I thought, “If I think, I am!” From that day on, I’ve been successful. I have my life back. I grew in confidence day by day until I didn’t need those cards. I am a person, and I can prove it. Here is something I have just written. Let me read it to you.
‘Life is all there is, your heart beating against your shirt.
Life is all there is, thoughts tripping out of your head.
Be what you think you are, be what you are.
Don’t wait for anyone to tell you who you are.
You tell them who you are, and that’s who you are!”
That was two years ago. But today, I’m a man with a need to be recognized. I bought all that philosophical stuff – ‘I’m pink, therefore I’m spam!’
But I’ve got needs, physical and mental – emotional and real – rational and irrational. And all I have that shows the world who I am is this card I found in an old pair of trousers hanging in my closet. I exist, but only in cyberspace, and that has its good possibilities and its bad sides.
Robert L. Fielding
Language lecturer - Writer
I mean, if you take a look at my homepage, there’s a shot of me from way back when. I was a kid of 24. What am I talking about? I wasn’t a kid, but a fully grown man. It’s just that now I look at that photo of me walking the hills and valleys of my country, it seems like I didn’t really know anything about life – not real life – not living for years and years – existing, but not really living. Living without being; oh, I was real alright – still am, only now, as I told you, I’ve got this identity thing – I don’t think it’s a crisis – maybe it is. You tell me.
So I got to thinking, if I don’t exist, if I only exist in flesh and blood, and in cyberspace – out there, maybe, just maybe, I can go back to being who I really want to be – a 24 year old hill walker. Let’s pretend I’m this 24 year old – let’s pretend I’m fit – that I can walk 10 hours one day and do it all over again, day after day.
I look at the card I showed you. I’m a writer now. I was a writer back then. I just never thought to tell anybody about it.
So I got a nom de plume and wrote and wrote and wrote. Fame is the spur. That’s true, but it isn’t my spur. I prefer anonymity – this from a guy who was just talking about losing his identity. But losing your identity and gaining anonymity are worlds apart, let me tell you.
You’ll have seen my recent titles, won’t you?
‘Re-inventing yourself: it’s never too late!’
‘Getting your life back on track!’
Don’t look for me by name though. Remember, I don’t exist, least not in the ways you mean!
Robert L. Fielding