Inspiration Behind an Alter Ego

Τίποτα δεν είναι όπως έμπνευση για μένα, όπως τα φρούτα του ροδιού της. — Erastis Frootas

I have always been fascinated to observe and speculate on the virtual identities that are chosen by people on the Web. Noms de plume, aliases, avatars and nicknames certainly throw some light on a person's gestalt—they reflect the essence or shape of an individuals's complete perception. They often encapsulate succinctly their take on the world around them and their relationship with it. Even the clearly trivial and silly names, far from being random silliness, probably belie much of the owner's subconscious. According to the Berlin School and its modern developments and descendencies, the individual sees objects in their entirety before perceiving their individual parts.

Savants and others are known to have access to the raw holistic data, more common mortals must rely on the decomposed and analyzed version which has been passed through the perceptive filters to create subjective reality. Perhaps this is no bad thing and it may well be the shaping force behind what makes an individual unique. In fact, savants are most often maladapted in human terms in spite of—or maybe precisely because of—their raw sensorial vision of the world about them and because of a lack of those very filters of perception which form the individual character.

Certainly it is the individual's subjective take on reality which is of interest to artists, writers and musicians. The humanities are essentially based on comparative subjectivity and implicitly eschew the arrogance of an absolute reality as being possible in any one vision. If there is an absolute, it may only be approximated by the myriad of subjective facets of individual wisdoms. When a piece of writing, a work of art or a musical composition move us deeply, it may be because it resonates more closely than the commonplace does with the holistic view.

So it is that the alter ego represented by a person's choice of a Web identity can be a most fascinating insight into their essence. A myriad factors in the individual's life path go into shaping that moment of self-christening which takes place when choosing a screen name. I like to think of it therefore as a snapshot of that person's gestalt at the moment of its choice.

As we grow up and learn of the world, most of us will accumulate a long list of people, and of ideas and concepts, that resonate with particular vividness. I still remember many of the people and notions that fascinated me in my very early pre-adolescent years. I believe that most of us do, even though that process of recollection may take a significant effort, depending on how deeply those memories have been buried. But they are there. And it is often revealing to search for them. That little journey can repay the efforts of its making many times over by the insights it casts up.

When I first became a user and active contributor to Everything2, some three months ago, what I most liked in my preliminary explorations of this virtual place, quite aside from some of the excellent writing within, were the rich and eloquent alter egos represented by the usernames. As I grew to know some of the currently active frequenters better some of their choices became clearer. Others, instead, have remained a mystery to me, and that seems natural.

I have never asked the question of anyone, preferring to slowly let the nicknames tell their own story. Some people are very upfront with their biographical details, others cultivate much more discretion. I tend to favor the latter approach: there is time enough to know real life details—if ever. No, what interests me in the interactions within this community is the true nature and character of the individuals within it. The intellectual honesty, the empathy, the visions and idiosyncratic takes on things, the warmth, the generosity of heart: all these things come through in their behaviour. The darker sides come through just as clearly. But pettiness and small-mindedness are a perennial feature of most human society and it is no exception here.

One may always hope that in a virtual community, where the pressures of the physical world can be left behind, the better parts of human nature may shine through—sometimes that is the case, but interestingly it quite often is not. That fact alone is worthy of some reflection. What after all is the point of participating in a virtual community which has writing as its declaredly main objective, if one drags into it the petty and trivial modalities of everyday life? My view is that this empoverishes the place as a whole, and I salute those here that refrain from behaving this way, and who exercise self-restraint in judiciously choosing their words and their remarks. Of course, the actual writeups can be as silly as the writer likes, it's the bitchiness which sometimes surfaces in the catbox and in messages, that I refer to—though a certain amount of wit and acidulous repartee always spice things up pleasantly. On the whole, one tends to look to the good and to discount the bad—as far as one can.

My own username, pomegranate, derives from my great liking of that fruit. It is a fruit much sung of and written about throughout the ancient world, which has its origins in lands where the tree grows natively. Everything about the plant is inspiring—from the glossy leaves to the eminently carvable yellow wood of which ornaments and useful objects are made. The flowers are truly magnificent and have been an inspiration to many. But for me it is the fruit itself that is the most eloquent.

The leathery outside skin is of a most beautiful blush shade of pink with brownish overtones: The shape is enchanting, and as it becomes fully ripe, it starts to burst open, revealing the hidden jewels within. This notion is to me allegorical of a human life, where a thick protective skin is a necessary defense against outside attacks and influences. Under the tough exterior lies a layer of candid white downy protection which nestles the individual grains within. These grains, of a delightful bitter-sweetness, are of unequalled refreshment to the senses and have been used as such in lavish banquets throughout history, to clear the palate of a surfeit of richness and cloying tastes. In their allegorical role they serve the same purpose. The grains are also visually allegorical, for they resemble nothing as much as precious rubies.

Altogether, the pomegranate is a wonderfully symbolic fruit which mirrors the best aspirations a writer can have: a tough thick skin to withstand criticism, sufficent self-assuredness and maturity to protect one's core, and last and most glorious of all, that munificence of precious ruby grains, each of which in its joyful bitter-sweetness offers refreshment and stimulation to the partaker. It is to me a perfect image, and its perfection inspires me to continually strive in its emulation.

Many are the outstanding people that I have admired throughout my early youth and through into adulthood. The list is very long and I hesitate at quoting names, since, by inadvertent exclusion I would be slighting some, and also by inclusion I would be foisting personal preferences on others inappropriately and to little usefulness. One name alone I am prepared to quote, and this for several reasons which to me are pertinent.

One writer has been my earliest and most steadfast source of inspiration and admiration throughout my life. That man embodied for me all those virtues of having the guts to say your piece even in the knowledge that it would be ill-accepted—and sometimes much worse, even to censorship. The writer I admire most has always been of a truly joyful disposition and always candidly honest in his awe and his marvel of the world around him. He has even been considered a national treasure—but we have lost the continuity of his brilliance for ever and must now make do with what he has said, for he will write no more words of wisdom.

I have admired Ray Bradbury since I was a child. I feel as though I have lost a favorite uncle—a mentor and an inspiration. He paints with broad strokes and has a natural authority of line. What he says always makes total sense. It is not so much a personal opinion as a mirror of who we are. He was a great American. His words carried aloft the flag of liberty. His words dispelled darkness and ignorance. His words were candid and childishly sincere. God knows how much we will miss him. This is indeed a time of mourning—not just in this country, but across spaceship earth, for Ray Bradbury belongs to all of mankind. He embodies the universal aspiration.

I only discovered on the day that he died that he had likened himself to a pomegranate. That makes him a fruit brother. A shared analogy binds us with the choice of that word. A word that has profound significance for me, for the image of that fruit is a living symbol to me: the leathery tough skin which protects a sweet heart of pure glowing rubies. I am incommensurably moved that Ray Bradbury should have described himself by using the same word that has been my nom de plume for some time. It is illogical. Some may choose to consider it a presumption, even: I don't give a damn—they are the poorer for their judgement.

All that stuff that's collected up in my head—poetry and mythology and comic strips and science fiction magazines—comes out in my stories. So you get to a certain age and you're like a pomegranate, you just burst. And the ideas spill out.

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