There are still Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museums in the world, and a few days ago I passed one. There was a loudspeaker in front of it trying to draw you in. It was talking about the lizard-man, who had had his entire body tatooed as a lizard, and he only had a little bit left to go. And he would be a lizard entirely. I thought this was interesting. If you tatoo yourself in a certain way, you become the picture of what you want to be, and then somehow you become that or at least they were indicating that he would become a lizard-man. There are tatoo parlors all over the place. People put on themselves pictures which sort of signify who they are. And that goes into this whole understanding in our society of trying to identify who we are.
From the time you’re a little kid in America, people come up to you and ask you, “Well, what are you going be when you grow up?” And usually kids answer something like a fireman or a policeman or a doctor or a lawyer or president or a thousand and one other things. Somehow we have gotten into our heads that you are what you do or you are what you look like. You are something that’s visible, that can be seen, that somehow you portray yourself as something. Imagine what it must be like for somebody who came from a culture far from this one like any immigrant who came from a culture that’s very distinct from the American culture. And they brought with them all their identity clues and identity fixations and identity parameters that they covered themselves in and they identified themselves with. Then, they came here and they had a kid. And they sent their kid to public school. And this thousand years of culture that they came from, where everybody was like their parents, was like their parents, was like their parents, all of a sudden had a child who’s nothing like them, who speaks a different language than them, who doesn’t accept what they tell them, who has no loyalty to all of the things that they knew, that are now, by the way, shadows in their own head because they can’t even see them anymore because they’ve left that place, but it’s as if they carried it with them here.
There are people who come from other cultures and when there is a group of them, they all gather together in small places, and they continue the culture. And some of them never leave the area because that’s reality for them. And to step outside of that is to step outside of reality. In other words, this place that they’ve moved to isn’t real. Everything that’s going on here isn’t real. They just happen to live here. But they’ve created a reality on their block and a half in Queens that’s entirely as close as they could get it to where they came from. We need to think about identity because one of the first questions on this spiritual path is, “Who are you?” And if you can’t get a handle on “Who are you?” or “Who am I,” if you can’t get a handle on all of the various influences that impact you in that understanding, you’re never going to get a handle on the reality of who you are.