I am now of the age where some of my friends are getting married and the question ‘When is it your turn?’ comes up now and again. Whenever someone answer, I realise the concept of character comes out a lot. ‘Oh, I am waiting for a good guy.’ ‘He is nice but…’ This made me think about the human character.
The human character is a complex topic. If I were to ask you how well you know this person Adam, how would you reply? Perhaps you would reply that you do not know him very well because you have only met him a few weeks prior. Or if you do know this person well, you might answer with something that he uniquely does, or what he does after work everyday, and maybe even his political stances. The question of the human character is one that I have pondered about for quite some time. What makes me, me? How am I different from you and you? Beyond genetic makeup and physical appearance, what is our individual identity? After long thoughts about this, I have come up with a list of 5 attributes or factors. I am neither a psychologist nor sociologist nor a philosopher, so this piece is merely a blog post written by a 23-year old who has nothing else to do on a Saturday evening.
The 5 attributes that I have come up with are, in this particular order,
The reason for this order is that I believe that each attribute is built upon the previous. This is not to say that two people having different temperaments will certainly have different interests but I do believe that it does lead in some way. The romantic in me would like to believe that this is a nice classification.
Temperaments are behavioural profiles that are independent of cultural background and systemic beliefs. The ‘four humours’ concept by Greek philosopher Hippocrates is what inspired me to think as such. According to Hippocrates, people can be phlegmatic, sanguine, melancholic, choleric, or a mixture of the four (which is the most likely). This later branched out to be models of many personality types such as the Myer-Briggs and Type-A-Type-B Personality indicators. I say that these are the basic building block of what makes us human because behind every rational thought and decision, everyone will encounter an immediate, almost knee-jerk reaction of emotion and levels of eagerness to things that happen around them. I cannot vouch for others but this is definitely true for myself.
Once this person with a given temperament experiences society for a period of time, they will be drawn to things around them. This may be activities, ideas, and people. It is not necessary that these interests are practical or even useful. They just are what they are. Examples of these are interest for trains, spy movies, romance novels, food, or perhaps even intellectual debate. It is purely an inclination of what tweaks that switch in a person’s mind. This jump from temperaments to interests is surely large and society is the dominant player in this transition. A person who grew up in suburban Vietnam is likely to have different interests from someone who did so in downtown Manhattan. It is not impossible, but by virtue of the different concepts that they were exposed growing up, they will latch on to different things.
Once one has a list of interests, it does not take much effort to convert those into involvements, or actions. A person whose interests include trains might often visit train museums or read more about trains in books and watch documentaries about them. It is not a far-fetched idea, but the jump from interests to involvement is most significant in the time spent. An interest does not take very long to cultivate because they are often innate. But to be able to involve one’s self in activities revolving around those interests take time, and in many instances, money. This stage is most evident in one’s daily life. What does one do after getting home from work or even on the commute? This stage, being most visible, is also the most commitment heavy and thus most fragile. You know that a person does not like to go the gym if he buys the membership and only visits 4 times in the next 6 months. This is the stage under most scrutiny and the real interests will shine among the faux.
Naturally, knowledge will come with involvement. People can be severely misinformed, no doubt, but that is it. Misinformation is not the lack of information. The knowledge in someone’s head may or may not be useless but they are certainly there. Remember, this article is mainly about what is and not about how it is. If the involvement attribute is the most visible in a person’s daily living, knowledge shines the brightest. Imagine meeting someone for the first time. To you they are a blank page. As you spend the next two minutes on small talk and the next ten trying to figure out what they like, you will start to unravel what this person spends a lot of time doing by what he knows. You might only compliment him on the timepiece he is wearing and he starts narrating the tech race between the Japanese and the Swiss watch industry and that would be an indicator that he spends a lot of time on watches. It does not take much to reveal this.
The last, and definitely not the least, attribute of your identity is your beliefs. I initially wanted to stop at knowledge because involvement and knowledge can drive each other in a never-ending cycle fueled by interest but beliefs cannot be ignored. I do not know if putting this at the top of this simple ‘hierachy’ is right. When I think about it, you can move this anywhere in the order and it still makes a little bit of sense. Beliefs is the most complex of all. Some might also name it conviction or calling. This may be moral, religious, or political. It is an entire league on its own compared to those I wrote about earlier. Your moral beliefs that all animals including pets and insects have the same right as humans might sound absurd to me but it may certainly fuel your desire to change your dietary habits and be advocates of some organisation or movement. Whatever your beliefs are, they are strong drivers of behaviour and character. I do not trust anyone who say they do not have a belief system. It simply means they do not think but just act on feelings and carnal desires or that they are lying and do not want to face them.
Having said all this, take it with a heap of salt. Nothing in the world is so linear and simple; I am just a curious little boy whose romantic side likes to venture into the ideal world in my head.