Who Are You?

I wonder how many times I’ve listened to The Who singing “Who Are You?” at the beginning of every episode of the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation television show. “Who are you? I really wanna know.”  I can hear it in my head now. Can’t you?

Kind of a weird song, but the part used on the show is highly effective because it has a double meaning in the context of a crime show. Since each episode involves identifying the murder victim, that person’s identity ultimately answers the “Who are you?” question. The question can also be addressed to the killer, though, who desperately needs to be identified and stopped before committing any more murders.

I was talking with my wife, Kathleen, about that recently. More specifically, I asked her how she would respond to the question “What are you?” and what she saw as the difference between “Who are you?” and “What are you?”

I foolishly thought she would respond the same way a man would when meeting someone new and being asked, “What are you?” Surely she would answer “a telecom analyst” or “a crocheter.” Or maybe “Mo and Trina’s mother.”

Nope. Not how women think. Instead, she got down to basics. “I am a human being.” The rest of our discussion was too confusing to go into here, but it was interesting. So much for writing about the difference between “Who are you?” and “What are you?”

On the “About Me” page on my website, RogerBruner.com, I have a link to HowManyOfMe.com. It’s a nifty place to enter your first and last names and see how many people in the United States have the same name.  There are actually thirty instances of Roger Bruner, but 520,918 of Roger without regard to the last name, and 18,475 of Bruner without considering the first name.

So identifying myself only as Roger Bruner doesn’t automatically eliminate confusion between me and some other Roger Bruner. HowManyOfMe.com doesn’t allow for checking middle names or initials, but if it did, searching on Roger E. Bruner would probably come close to confirming me as an individual. And searching for Roger Ellis Bruner might really do the trick.

Then again, since there are 40,444 people having Ellis as a first name, I suppose it’s possible one of those other Roger Bruners might have Ellis as a middle name.

But you know what? All of that really doesn’t matter. They say no two people have the same fingerprints. And they say no two people are exactly alike otherwise.

God could’ve created people who were exactly alike, but that wouldn’t have reflected well on His role as Creator. Using a cookie cutter method to create people wouldn’t require any creativity at all.

But God is creative. More creative than I–or you–can ever imagine. No matter how much alike we are in various ways, I enjoy knowing that I’m truly one of a kind. Before I was conceived, God knew who I would be and what I would be like. So I thank Him daily for every one of those characteristics that distinguishes me from other people. Characteristics that are far more important than my name.

And that helps me to accept myself the way I am more easily. Yes, having more hair would be nice. Being permanently slim would be even nicer, and I could go on listing things about myself I might be tempted not to like. But the bottom line is this is the way God made me. I shouldn’t dishonor his handiwork by complaining about any of my characteristics.

Do you look at some of your traits with regret or do you accept yourself as you are–totally? How about leaving a comment?

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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Who Are You? What Are You?

Meeting someone you didn’t know used to be simple. At its worst, it was a matter of extending your hand to a stranger and saying, “I don’t think I know you. I’m so-and-so. And you are…?” One of the smoother variations of asking, “Who are you?”

Only in the rarest of circumstances would a question like that result in an irritable or negative response. Uh, okay, maybe more often when teen boys who were anything but “hot” finally got up the nerve to try to meet the new girl and hope she hadn’t already met the real “hotties.”

I’m not really thinking of teens, however, but of full-fledged adults.

Especially if the meet-er and meet-ee were both men–and often if the meet-er was a woman–the “what are you?” question was a frequent follow up. “What do you do for a living?” or “I see you’re driving a Porsche. It would take me a lifetime to save for the insurance alone. You must work really hard. You, uh, …?”

Perhaps that second variation wasn’t the most subtle one, but it still served the purpose of acknowledging interest in the other person’s occupation. Along with showing a little friendly jealousy. At least the well-practiced man would attempt to make it sound friendly.

It’s not surprising that men often asked one another a question like that. Then, as now, they not only took pride in their jobs–or at least in their ability to provide for their families–they were apt to think of themselves as being what they do. I must admit I still prefer thinking of myself as a published novelist rather than a bald-headed sixty-nine-year-old man. And I especially prefer saying, “I’m a novelist” to “I’m retired.”

I started this post by implying that these introductory practices might belong to the past. The “Who are you?” is probably still safe, but the “What are you?” might result in unexpected answers. Especially t if asked that bluntly.

Let me explain.

Years ago while working in a state job service office, I noticed someone sitting in the waiting area. This person wore jeans, a very loose-fitting flannel shirt, and a short haircut. The overall appearance was that of someone who had lived a hard life and probably needed a job badly.

How I prayed that I wouldn’t have to be the one to process this person. Before learning that she was a woman–at least in theory–I could’ve flipped a coin just as successfully as try to determine her gender from her features.  She didn’t have the first distinguishing gender characteristic. Not any sign of a woman’s figure or a woman’s face. Or a woman’s mannerisms.

And yet she didn’t look like a man, either. Her appearance was utterly neutral. I thanked God that day that I didn’t have to ask her what she was.

Sure, that was an isolated incident, and it took place many years ago.

But let me share something a little more relevant. I was the editor of the store newsletter where I was working, and a particular young lady had written an article she wanted me to publish. The best I can recall, it was on tolerance in the workplace. I thought it worthy enough and well written, but she shocked me when she expressed doubt that it would be well received by her co-workers. I didn’t ask why, and apparently she thought I understood.

Not until months later did someone tell me this young lady was a lesbian. Although I was shocked, part of my reaction–I only thought this–was something like “what a shame for some nice man not to have any chance of romance with a nice, attractive gal like her.”

I’d never had a reason to ask what she was, nor would I have done so.

But now that so many people have come out of a very crowded closet and have gained wide acceptance except among conservative Christians like me, I’m doubly thankful I’m a happily married man. I’d hate to think I’d have to ask a woman what she was before daring to ask her out. And whether she’d always been what she was now.

What do you think? Please leave a comment.

~*~

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

Who Are You?

WhoAreYou

How many times have I listened to The Who‘s song “Who Are You?” during the opening of CSI? I’d never noticed that I had that song on my Best of the Who CD until long after we started watching the show.

But no. This post isn’t about The Who or about CSI. It’s about how people (men, especially) identify themselves. And, ultimately, how I identify myself.

If you ask a man who he is, he’ll normally answer first with his name. Uh, if he doesn’t cross his arms defensively and ask why you want to know.

But chances are he won’t feel he’s told you adequately who he is until he tells you what he does for a living. Even though some women are like that, too, it seems to be a more typically male characteristic.

Why do men do that? I’m no psychologist, but I’d guess it’s because our sense of worth is based so much on our work. It’s almost as if we feel the need to justify our existence.

Pride may play a role in it, too. If we’re some of the fortunate men who thoroughly enjoy what we do for a living and feel we’ve become pretty good at doing it, then telling other people our vocation is a bit like bolding and underlining our names.

I used to feel that way myself. Not so much when I was teaching school. Or when I worked as a job counselor/interviewer at a state job service office. But when I returned to college part-time to study computer programming and maintained a 4.0 average for the twenty-four credits I earned, that gave me a higher sense of self-worth than I’d experienced in my two previous careers.

And when I became really good at what I was doing–the workplace was quite different from the classroom, so it took a while–I became so proficient at the kind of programming I did that I knew I could probably get a good job almost anywhere in the world.

Maybe I couldn’t boast about that when identifying myself as a programmer, but it gave me the greatest sense of self-worth I’d ever had.

But then came my last year of employment in Information Technology. No need to go into specifics, but I was assigned to a task I simply failed to catch on to. So when the company I worked for downsized, I wasn’t surprised to be one of the people laid off.

From a purely secular point of view, it’s a wonder my self-worth didn’t totally evaporate at that stage. But as a Christian, I came to appreciate the fact that I had worth–tremendous worth–that had nothing to do with my vocation. Or my success at anything I did.

The Bible tells us that everyone is a sinner. That doesn’t mean we’re all horrible people, but it does mean we’re all unacceptable to the perfect God who made us. Yet God sent His only Son to die and be raised to life again to make us acceptable.

What could give us a greater sense of worth than that?

Who am I? I’m Roger E. Bruner. Yes, I used to teach school. I used to help job seekers. I used to program computers. And now I’m retired to do what I really love: writing fiction. But writing novels–even novels that have sold several thousand copies–doesn’t make me who I am.

I am who I am because I am His..

I realize that today’s post is bold. For some people’s tastes, it may even seem a bit “in your face.” But it’s part of who I am. A part that won’t permit me to remain silent when discussing what makes me who I truly am.

Are you a believer? Do you agree or disagree with anything I’ve said? Please leave a comment.

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”-check it out here. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list here.

Best regards,
Roger