1993-12-05 - Re: The Magic Question

Header Data

From: jordan@imsi.com (Jordan Hayes)
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Message Hash: 0cf8ce96c9d88155c1254c00d83099928823e9112a467b36913e287efcf26822
Message ID: <9312051716.AA14173@IMSI.COM>
Reply To: N/A
UTC Datetime: 1993-12-05 17:29:45 UTC
Raw Date: Sun, 5 Dec 93 09:29:45 PST

Raw message

From: jordan@imsi.com (Jordan Hayes)
Date: Sun, 5 Dec 93 09:29:45 PST
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Subject: Re:  The Magic Question
Message-ID: <9312051716.AA14173@IMSI.COM>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

	From ld231782@longs.lance.colostate.edu Sun Dec  5 03:06:00 1993

	You think you have the right to lie to anyone who asks, `who
	are you?'

I live in NYC, and am often approached by panhandlers.  Approached is
the wrong word, I guess I mean that I walk past them.  Every person
that walks by gets asked the same question: have any spare change?  I
choose to give to charity for a variety of personal reasons, but I
typically don't respond -- at all -- to requests from panhandlers.  I
don't look at them or respond verbally to the question.  Every now and
again, when I don't respond at all, I get an insult fired off at me --
like, 'You could at *least* say no' or somesuch.

I feel that so long as there's no reason to believe that the question
is an "honest" one -- that is, there's nothing to signal the start of a
conversation or a "relationship" ... I am, afterall, just walking by,
and the next person behind me gets the same appeal -- there's no reason
for me to respond, let alone with the "truth" ...

I believe that answering a question like "who are you" can and should
get different answers depending on the depth of the "relationship"
involved.  Is the question poser seeking some sort of "truth" ...?  A
"name" is simply a label, a tag, something to indirect through to
access the "named" ...  I'm sure we all know people whom we've called
"Jack" the entire time we've known him, and suddenly one day we see
Jack in a different situation and someone calls him John.  Has Jack
(*our* Jack) been "lying" to us?


One year I spent a summer at a visual arts workshop with a group of
people who knew nothing of my past, and I was sure not to know them in
the future (10 years later, I've had no contact with any of them).  We
gathered in a circle on the first day of activities and introduced
ourselves after the leader read our names off a sheet.  When my name
was read, I just ignored it.  My name was read three times, and then
the leader went to the next name.  At the end of the list, she asked
"was there anyone whose name I didn't call" ... a woman put her hand
up, and so did I.  The leader took down our names, and we continued.

That summer, I was "Nick" to everyone at the workshop.  We worked in
very close quarters, and the group of 40 or so quickly developed the
kind of "trust" that's required in such intense situations.  People
needed to count on one another, and often spent sleepless nights
together working on projects, helping each other explore their vision
and response to the work we were doing, and generally becoming
"friends" ...

Inevitably, I was drawn to intimacy with one particular woman.  It's
one of those things you suddenly find yourself in.  We shared many
secrets, dark nights, heat.  In the end, I was "found out" by some
other of the staff.  It's not even clear how many people "knew" all
along.  Even the staff member I worked closest with could have known,
but for whatever reason never said a word.  The fiction was nearly
complete for 12 weeks.  I did not intend to defraud, the "truth" was
consistant.  When word passed around that Nick was not my name, some
refused to believe it.  Some approached me later and started with "Nick
... er, Jordan ... er ... what do I call you?"

I said it didn't matter to me, and most chose to call me Nick for the
remainder of our time together.  I received a few letters from that
particular woman, a christmas card or two.  I had to tell the place
that receives my mail to look out for mail addressed to Nick Stames and
route it to my box.  We continued a correspondance, sharing some bits
of the next phase of our lives, and she continued to call me Nick.  I
was, afterall, Nick to her.  That's who she "knew" ...


Why do you care "who" I am?