Wednesday, January 14, 2009

on the origins of the name (Part II)

or identity as an instrument of non-reciprocal self-interest

*for the story of how I came to be called pii see on the origins of the name (Part I).

Pie O’ Pah is a character in Clive Barker’s epic and mystical love story Imajica. Pie is a type of being known as a mystif: rare individuals who are born with a peculiar genetic “defect” that results in an utterly unique ability; mystifs can alter, at will, any aspect of their physical body whether eye color, height and weight, or even sex.

One of the things that drew me to Pie O’ Pah as a character was that “he” had no sex yet had multiple sexes, “he” was simultaneously genderless and all genders. This feature of his being was both a condition and an ability. It made him utterly different and therefore always one wholly “othered” yet it allowed him a type of radical freedom from the constraints of sex and gender. He was able to opt into whatever physical form was ideally suited for providing for the needs of his lover. Dedicated to the pleasure and well-being of his lover, the exact nature of his form did not trouble him. That his condition made him uniquely suited to an orientation towards the other before and beyond the self was highlighted in harsh terms when his soul mate, in a careless remark during a time of irremediable melancholy, told Pie that he should become either a prostitute or an assassin. The former subsists by submissive servicing of others whereas the latter subsists by detached eradication of the other. Pie O’ Pah was thus verbally reduced to an other-oriented function, whether it be a provider of fleeting pleasures meaningless to Pie or else a sharp instrument of destruction equally as meaningless. Pie’s great gift was, in an instance of verbal abuse, recast as a novel albeit utile freakishness.

What attracted me was that Pie not only had this gift of being non-gendered and all genders but that he was thus one naturally inclined toward the fulfillment of others. “Commanded” by his lover to become either a whore or an assassin, Pie chose the latter. He could not bring himself to defile his great gift by using it for the basest of functions. The fulfillment of the other was his calling and he himself was fulfilled in the filling of that function. Gentle (his lover) rendered the gift useless and Pie became an assassin. In thinking about this recently, it occurred to me that Pie was happiest, was personally fulfilled, when he was able to be exactly what someone else needed him to be at the time. His own identity was utterly subordinated to this calling. I wonder if our sense of self, our identity, is the most rigid, the most ossified, when we are the most self-serving? Is it the case that an other-orientation is best served by a negotiable identity, one that has elasticity and plasticity? Or perhaps, even, and ideally speaking, the best case scenario is one in which an other-orientation is served by the eradication of an essential identity for the sake of the greatest degree of freedom in performing virtual identities, ones that are crafted in response to the exigencies of a particular context and towards the fulfillment of others?


luxelife said...

it is very interesting to discover the origins of the name, and even moreso that you can still call on it to ponder these sorts of questions.

i know i never saw enough of you when we were in the same place, but when i did i ALWAYS thoroughly enjoyed it, for reasons like this. miss you.


piiopah said...

thanks becca. miss you too and hope that our paths will cross again sooner than later.