Well, people, it’s 2017, and the hip thing to be this year is something that you weren’t born as. Furthermore, it’s the Hallowe’en season, and the hip thing to be at Hallowe’en… is… something that you weren’t born as. Clearly, the timing of this post could not have been more appropriate.
The question of being, in philosophy, is called ontology. (It can also, sort of, be called ‘metaphysics’. Don’t worry about it. It’s complicated.) The exploration of ontology forms one of the cornerstones of this blog: trying to figure out what things are, what it means to be something, what categories things go into, how various kinds of things fit together. What, for instance, is a flockbinker? Are YOU a flockbinker? (Don’t even pretend that you’ve never wondered.)
And people, it just don’t get any more ontologically interesting than this recent trend toward identifying oneself as something that one… well… isn’t.
You want some examples? Sure.
A retired schoolteacher in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania recently proclaimed herself to be an ocelot. A different retired schoolteacher in Plano, Texas, not wishing to be outdone, has proclaimed herself to be TWO ocelots. Yet a third retired schoolteacher, this one from Des Moines, is marketing herself as an ocelot that identifies as a manatee that is actually a bottle of Dr. Pepper. A 47-year-old plumber in Bozeman, Montana proclaimed himself last week to be a character from Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion, except it’s not a character who actually appears in the book, but would have, if Jane Austen had known what she was doing.
And there are apparently even more unsettling modes of self-identification in the offing: one young lady in South Bend, Indiana recently came out as a three-layer yellow sponge cake with cream cheese frosting, and at the time of this writing there is a breaking story about a fellow in Cross Creek, Florida who has chosen to identify as a (so far) undiscovered chemical element. He is calling himself “Nunayurbidnium.”
It’s the newest thing: Give yourself a good looking-over, then say “Well forget THIS, pal,” and announce to the world that you are something which you clearly are not.
To help us all get into the spirit of things this Hallowe’en season, i’ve come up with a handy list of items that, so far as i know, no one has yet identified as.
Pro Tip: If you choose to identify as one of these, you’ll want to get on it pretty quickly. Now that i’ve published the list, there’ll be a stampede (not at all surprising, in the case of ‘a herd of reindeer’ and possibly even ‘four weasels’) and you’re gonna want to establish your own identity ahead of the crowd so as to appear original.
So here are the possibilities. Identify away!
I, ______________________________, choose to identify as:
- A fruitcake
- A chaotic, shapeless, featureless mass (ah, but it seems we repeat ourselves)
- A linebacker for the New York Yankees
- A naughty, naughty fellow
- A fellow who’s not quite mischievous enough to be called ‘naughty’ but who is, nevertheless, not an entirely reputable citizen
- A weasel (meaning the animal, not ‘a naughty, naughty fellow,’ which of course is another thing that ‘weasel’ can mean)
- Four weasels all living in the same box
- A set of pastels that have been gently used
- A blank canvas
- A herd of reindeer
- What the snow looks like after a herd of reindeer have been through
- The discarded wrapper from a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup
- The square root of peace and justice for all humankind
- The Thirteenth Floor
- Your Mom
- A remote possibility
- An unfortunate fashion statement
- The drive-through window at Frank’s Burgers on 3rd Street
- Beans, beans, the musical fruit
- A flockbinker (the regular, treadknicious kind)
- A flockbinker that isn’t EVEN treadknicious
- Something treadknicious that isn’t a flockbinker
- A wamwam
- A wambinker
- A flockwam
- An intransitive verb
- A mathematical impossibility (but something other than “the square root of peace and justice for all humankind”)
- A faux pas
- A social blunder, but in English, not French
- Seventeen different genders, all at the same time, and most of them previously undiscovered
- Snow White AND the Seven Dwarfs
- An intermediate-level class in cross stitching
- An Arby’s roast beef sandwich with horsey sauce
- A subatomic particle
- A neutron in search of an atom
- An atom in search of a happenin’ party
- A happenin’ party in search of a meaningful occasion
- A meaningful occasion in search of its place in the universe
- The Bay Area
- Stanford University, but with no students, faculty or buildings
- Conan O’Brien’s haircut
- An alien civilization
- A family of five aliens whose civilization has been destroyed by other, even meaner aliens from a nearby planet
- The internet
- The web, which apparently isn’t the same thing as the internet
- The cloud, which apparently isn’t the same thing as the web or the internet
- The Tempest, which is neither the cloud, the web nor the internet, but is instead a play by William Shakespeare
- A grunt of dissatisfaction
- An expression of disbelief
- A timely disclaimer
- A single tear from the eye of a unicorn
- The look on Jimmy Fallon’s face when he’s just said something amusing
- A bright new world, full of possibility and hope, that lies just around the corner