My brother sets a twitter vss called #ThePush, and a recent theme was "shells and pebbles", which got me thinking (so it's his fault)...
Are we but hollow shells? Inside so transient and insubstantial? My outside builds a persona of who I am; around others I become a mirror of their expectation and my acquiescence. True depth is only found by recognising the void that fills within - the barren wasteland that we mistake for psychology. Better to say that it is a sense of being lost, alone, rejected from the world around. The mistake is to search in this absence for something to grasp hold of.
To assume a shell is without nuance and shade is to ignore the marks of time and circumstances upon the outer layer: the marks of limpets, the chalk scars of rocks and weather, the ridges and peaks of protection that form. Furthermore there are the many inhabitants who have existed inside the shell: hermits and parasites who have left their mark on their surroundings; multiple personas who have conformed to the needs of situation and role, sheltering behind the shell, leaving it to take the consequences of their actions, abandoning it when they have outgrown it - it's comfort no longer enough.
The shell of a man that I am has faced many situations and obstacles, but I wear their scars in the knowledge that who I am now is stronger in understanding my limits and desires, and able now to recognise my potential and capacity for expansion and creativity.
A hollow shell implies a lack of substance; but this is to assume that our character and personality is not linked to the world around us. I am a shell, but that shell has taken all the knocks (and glories), and wears them in my stance, my voice, my thoughts and my actions.
What is 'inside' resides upon the surface, but to assume it lacks texture or subtlety is to assume we never change. If this is so we write ourselves as victims in our stories, helpless in the face of events, unable to accept disappointment or comfort. Rather we stand and face what confronts us, sometimes buckling, other times leaping, but always responding.
My shell is chipped and cracked, but it is me, and it protects me still.