Identity.

Can it really be a decade? It makes you think.

I was on a beach at the time. Relaxing in the sunshine, considering how to tackle the shoreline in my swimshorts without squealing. When the text came from home.

We’d been at a wedding. A feasting, musical, chair-raising celebration of the future’s loving possibilities – a future that would contain two splendid new little humans for this particular couple. And one that was cut short for some people in London that morning. ..And what do you do with that?

Sitting there in stupid shorts under a stupid parasol looking down at the simple words in my palm, the UK had been attacked. I didn’t know what to do with it, there’s no making sense of such things. Not from miles away. But surely most especially not if you were actually there in the blinding moment it happened.

It does makes you think, but you don’t know what to think, or do. There or here.

It would in time make me think more philosphically, more abstractly, more uselessly, about identity. It’s the real issue fueling world politics and corporate machinations this century, isn’t it? As economies and cultures collide into each other as they grow and fill the planet, who I am matters. Because who I think I am motivates me.

It made me think something about how your culture isn’t simply to do with where you’re geographically from or even who you want to be with but more to do with where you find yourself individually at any moment, and what you do then. In that moment. Because I was safely wrapped up in sunshine and love miles from the attacks of 7/7 and wasn’t part of the story of terror and violence that morning. I felt safe. Yet I was in Israel.

My cousin Mel was beautiful. I’m not sure there’s a fairer way to put it succinctly. I think I’ve mentioned her before, because I miss her. She brought light into a room.

Caring, elegant, gentle, fun. When she died in the summer of 2005, her mother cared for her back at home and wouldn’t let anyone else see how the cancer eviscerated Mel’s beauty. My abiding memory of a final time with Mel was after she died. It was the complete looks of loss, of bewilderment, on the faces of her close friends who had made it over from her home in Switzerland to be at her funeral. They stared down at the wreathes in the carpark and could find no response but numbed disbelief. It was real loss, that moment I intruded upon by catching sight of it – the sheer incomprehension that someone is just gone.

Neither that experience with Mel and her family or the publically broadcast experiences of the 52 people who died on the 7th July that same summer were stories to do with me. I was simply caught watching their stories unfold, trying awkwardly to be respectful and make sense of it despite the no making sense of any of it. I tend to feel that way with death; it’s so important, it’s so sacred, I have no place being near the deepest grief. It’s for other, worthier sufferers. Or maybe I just refuse to let it rob me of life. Or really maybe, I refuse to face how it always does.

I was simply on the right beach at the right time in that particular moment. But. That lurking truth behind the pageantry and formal mechanics of defence and sovereignty and cause is that wars aren’t faught in arenas, purpose built for the Hunger Games – they happen in all our everyday places. Our streets, our tube stations, our buses, our beaches. And actually, always, our heads.

What does influence how we see ourselves? Our individual sense of identity is personal, in the end. The culture we ultimately weave around our own consciousness, is the filter through which we see everything. We are each individually responsible but collectively shaped. There is no escaping that we are each responsible for our own decisions but we are all thrown into this together. By degrees of course the stories of conflict and loss do involve me. Because we’re all here in space and time together for a moment. Facing the same horrors, one way or another.

And in that realisation, surely, is the key to defusing many existential threats. That’s what it made me think. I am still working out what it will make me do. But I started by writing it down.

Today I think of all those connected most directly with 7/7, ten years ago today. And of those caught up in Tunisia, on a beach there, just a week and a half ago. And I think of friends in Kuwait, and in Israel and in America. And I think of my family, past and present. And I thank God they have been who they have been, in each moment, with me.

Identity.

Flotsam and Get Some, all caught up.
We drink in gulps from the same cup.
Ride up high, look around;
Roses blooming underground.

Take a stand, or sit, but see it through.
Who am I? And who are you?
Catch a train, or walk, or take the bus;
Who is them? And who is us?
We are We, and I can see you bow your head.
Though unplanned, you take my hand and…
It’s better left unsaid.

And I’ll remember you exactly the way you are.

Seeing paper, seeing ink;
Seeing green and seeing pink.
My little box begins to sink
As you tell me what you think.

Rub together, juxtapose;
Minds will open, eyes will close.
I am orange, you are blue.
I only vibrate next to you.

Take a stand, or sit, but see it through.
Who am I? And who are you?
Once again I’m chalking in the dust:
Who is them? And who is us?
We are We, and I can see you bow your head.
Though unplanned, you take my hand and…
It’s better left unsaid.
Sounds better in my head.

Contexts change identity.
I hope you find yours next to me.

And I’ll remember you exactly the way you are, still, in my head.

IDENTITY ON SOUNDCLOUD.

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