Sunday, May 14, 2006

Classified information

Hello world! My name is Melanie and I am a classifier, a categorizer, an inveterate cataloguer.
Anyone with the urge to neatly catalogue the world will understand when I say that the first and most compelling instance of this arises in connection to yourself. How (and why) do we categorize ourselves? I'm amazed by the variety of ways humans have developed to figure out who we are.

Take me -- I could introduce myself as a Libra, as belonging to the Year of the Pig, or as a middle child, or as part of Gen X. I could say I am a green-blue (True Colors), or INFJ (Myers-Briggs), or even just an introvert. Any of these categories is a type of shorthand to understanding. If we are any one of these, then we must have certain characteristics which explain our actions and/or inclinations.

The problem with this is that life is just too messy. Nothing fits neatly. I must categorize myself further by stating that I am a librarian. This naturally exploits my tendency to catalogue. Even so, I know from experience that cataloguing is an art, that one piece of information can be assigned to a number of different places. Knowing this does not prevent me from trying to find a pattern into which I can fit the random elements of my experience.

Life is a long and rambling mystery; but I can't help myself, all those -ologies draw me in. Where things fit matters to me. I am convinced that a life is a cosmic jigsaw puzzle -- the pieces have a specific place, and once the puzzle is done, some sense will be made of it. It is while you're doing the puzzle that it's hard to figure out what goes where.

Even having said that, I am sure that I will fit the same thing into different places a few more times during my life. I can only enlist Walt Whitman in my support :

"Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes."

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