What Defines You?

One of the questions I traditionally give my Narrative Writing students goes like this: “How does your writing reflect who you are?” I give it to them at the beginning of the semester and tell them that it will be on their final exam. None so far have given me what I would consider a defining answer. And in a sense it’s a trick question. College is that time when you are still getting sense of who you are. You’re away from family, you have no (or very few) people telling what you can and can’t do, and you haven’t yet entered the lockstep that comes with being a responsible adult.

I could have called this blog entry, “What is a soul?” And even though many people have a variety of answers for that question is that my soul is what defines who I am. When all is said and done, when I have nothing else left, I have my character, who I am. The big question is, do we know who we are?

The issue of a “soul” was brought up in one of my short stories, “The Well of Souls,” published in my first collection of short stories, The Stranger and Other Stories:


stranger cover            “Sure,” Mainbridge said. He leaned back in his overstuffed desk chair and looked up at the ceiling before answering. “OK, a few questions to begin. First, let me ask this. What makes a human being a person?”

            McFeather frowned. “Hmm, that’s a good one. I’m not really sure.”

            “Separate a person from his arms and legs, and he is still a person, isn’t he?”  Mainbridge held his hands out to his sides as if appealing his case. McFeather nodded.

            “I suppose.”

            “All right, how much of his body does he need? Do we need our stomach, liver and spleen to be a person? What about our tongue? What if we were a disembodied brain that was able to think and feel? Would we still be a person?”

            “And your point is?”

            “My point being, if these ‘souls’ you have captured are still able to function in order to solve problems and interact with you, then you are dealing with human beings. And if they are, indeed, people, you have to consider that what you are suggesting is no less than a form of slavery.”


Christians would probably say that who they are is a follower of Christ. But for me that is not enough. So what? Where do you go from there?

I have had a general idea of who I was and what I was doing for quite a while. I wrote secular as well as Christian-oriented books and stories. All of them are intended to make you think, to broaden the horizons of Christians and non-Christians alike. So I don’t know if this is technically correct or not, but I guess I could call myself a Secular Apologist.

Everyone knows what secular means, but far fewer understand the word “apologist.” It doesn’t mean I am apologizing for anything. Webster’s Collegiate defines it as: “One who speaks or writes in defense of a faith, a cause or an institution.” I add “secular” to my label simply because much of what I write is not directly tied to Christianity, but is there to challenge thinking, yours or someone else’s, preferably in a Christian direction. As for the Webster’s definition, faith and cause, yes; institution, not so much.

And so there we go. It helps you understand the concept of The Great Adventure. I have an ongoing experience I am trying to share with you through my fiction. Whether I succeed is determined on our relationship, where you are in your life, and my ability to tell a good story.