Thursday, March 2, 2023

Keys to Identity

            Most of us are familiar with the keys on a typewriter or, in the current terminology, a keyboard. There are the keys with letters or numbers on them, but also the “special character” keys that lurk on the fringe as your fingers type away. I suspect that some people actually identify with certain keys, whether they know it or not.


            Some are obvious. We all know people who are exclamation points! That’s how they live – who they are – exclaiming through the day! Others may identify as question marks – know what I mean? Lacking the superficial energy and certainty of the exclamation point, they are inquisitive, perhaps to a fault. Question marks may be clouded by a paralyzing uncertainty. Yes, it’s good to question, but can we take it too far?


            Some people identify with the $. These same people also believe that a person’s net worth can be measured by $$$s. (This is too easy a target to discuss.)


            Others may find themselves in the @ key – seldom used before the invention of email addresses, but now, for some, the key to their link to the world. I suspect that young people (younger than 80) seldom use the @, as there are trendier ways than email to communicate digitally, but the @, to me, signifies the whole phony hand-held cyber world. But for some people, that’s where it’s @.


            Is there anyone out there identifying with what we used to call the “period” – signifying, I think, a feeling for when something, like a statement, is completed? When something is done, it’s done. Period. These days, however, it would more likely be called a “dot” rather than a “period,” and the . is often followed by “com,” “net,” or some such. If you identify with a dot, what does that say about you?


            I really wonder about people who identify with the delete key. Yes, it’s great to be able to erase mistakes, and it’s certainly better than the White-Out from my typewriter days. But don’t people who actually identify with that key experience a narrowing of their lives? Of course, I’m very fond of locating the “unsubscribe” link on many of the emails I receive, and our lives have become a bit crowded with information, so I do understand the appeal of “delete.” (I can think of someone on the international stage who I’d like to delete.)


            My own personal key is really the series of three dots known as the ellipsis. It signifies the omission of a word or series of words from a text you are quoting. I prefer to use the ellipsis at the end of a sentence, a lazy writer’s trick that invites the reader to complete the writer’s thought, or just to hint that there’s more to be said, but . . ..


            I also identify with parentheses. Some people (you know who you are) like to toss in clever and (hopefully) amusing comments into the ongoing flow of their lives. (These sometimes take the place of asides in Shakespearean drama – private comments directly for the audience that are not part of the conversation on the stage.) Parenthetical people do not commit themselves to that daily drama that is unfolding, rather preferring to live in the side comments.


            I’m also fond of the “Command” key on my Mac. I’m not sure what it does, but I enjoy the illusion that I am actually in control of my computer, not just suggesting or pleading for what I want it to do, but issuing a command. (I enjoy the same illusion of power, or, at least, competency, when I give orders to Alexa.) My “Control” key gives me the same illusory pleasure.           


            And I confess to being rather fond of the “shift” key. No, I’m not turned on by capital letters, but I do see the value in being able to shift . . ..


            I would associate Kim’s identity with the + key because (most days) of her positive attitude, but mainly because she is always wanting to do more. She says she is more of a ? than a +. She apparently questioned my assessment.


            For the first time ever, I pressed the “fn” key (fun?) in the lower left of my keyboard when my email was on the screen. It features a graphic rendering of what might be a globe. Up popped a bunch of what I think are called “emojis.” Never used them, never will. I suppose some people live emoji lives, identifying their emotional lives with cartoon characters. Whatever . . .. 



  1. Love this piece: thought provoking !…

  2. Never gave much thought to the keys on the keyboard except a means to communicate. Your blog is an interesting analysis of an everyday tool. Enjoyed reading it & thinking what symbol I identify with. It’s a mystery!