It was my birthday, not so long ago, and so I took to reflecting about a thing or two that I might have learned thus far. Ironically, it becomes more apparent that certainty becomes more and more a sort of myth the more I age. How can it be that confidence is to be gained from a predictable set of behaviors, a never-changing string of confirmations that our identity is fixed?

I’m reminded of that expression “empty your cup”. There’s not much to be gained by pouring beyond what a volume can hold. And yet, our identities seem an immutable tale, an irrevocable happening. Oscar Wilde (if his words don’t evoke cliche, believe me they shouldn’t), wittily, said this of consistency: “Consistency is the hallmark of the unimaginative.”

Whether Oscar’s truth is absolute or not, it deserves a bit of consideration. On a more pragmatic note, there are reasons for basing identity on consistency. It provides a framework through which we can interact with those around us, understand when they are, forgive the contradiction, not themselves. A break in the chain of expectations begs that we give comfort, that we show empathy.

There is another saying, “don’t pour from an empty cup”. Consistency serves as context, as solid ground on which we can explore our own and others’ sense of self. Consistency, in one manner, is really a subjective phenomenon. It’s not absolute, it can never be.

Taken as a microcosm of a much larger discussion, these ideas tie into much of our social interactions, set a bar for the expectations we have of ourselves and others. These ideas tickle our response when exhaustion finds us unawares, unable to meet our own expectations, and perhaps more commonly when we assume others have not met ours.