“We do not make ourselves, and however weak we are we have to put up with ourselves; the burden is not of our choosing. Not only have we to bear the burden of our real selves, we have to bear that of our acquired selves, and that is the heaviest burden of all.” The Bending of the Bough, George Moore.
Occasionally words and phrases lodge in my mind, some remain mainly dormant sometimes returning at apt moments like song lyrics, others germinate and start to take on a life of their own. The above quote about acquired selves was the latter. It seems to me that it is in one’s middle life that you are most burdened with acquired selves: a work self, a parenting self, a friend self, a physical self and an inner self. Of course you are the same person, but each demand made on you, I believe, involves a little adjustment and re-framing of self. Perhaps when we move into an older age we can release some of these selves…
Although I love the imagery of acquired selves, I see it in my own context more as a constant inner shifting like the colours in a kaleidescope:
sharp little pieces of coloured glass, reflected on and not always entirely comfortable with themselves.
This Norman MacCaig poem deals with the concept I am floundering in in the tightest and most evocative way. For more on the poet there is a programme I need to watch again here
Straws like tame lightnings lie about the grass
And hang zigzag on hedges. Green as glass
The water in the horse-trough shines.
Nine ducks go wobbling by in two straight lines.
A hen stares at nothing with one eye,
Then picks it up. Out of an empty sky
A swallow falls and, flickering through
The barn, dives up again into the dizzy blue.
I lie, not thinking, in the cool, soft grass,
Afraid of where a thought might take me –
This grasshopper with plated face
Unfolds his legs and finds himself in space.
Self under self, a pile of selves I stand
Threaded on time, and with metaphysic hand
Lift the farm like a lid and see
Farm within farm, and in the centre, me.