This might interest some of you…

I’ve just moved to Beijing! I’ll be studying here for a year, so I’ve set up a separate China blog, which you can find here, Which might just interest some of you guys.

Last time I was in China the lack of a VPN meant that this blog halted for a whole year, but this time I can (at least currently) still use websites banned in China (including wordpress)

But now…I can run this blog, AND a China-focused one too. Oh the possibilities.

So if you want to know what I’m up to this year when not dropping into deep thought, or learning languages (at the other blog…), drop by TVGinChina

Identity – Do you know who you are?

I’m thinking currently about identity, more specifically what my identity is.

This is a word that carries much weight. It builds pride. It fuels hate. It’s formed communities. It’s caused wars.

It’s a very hard concept to define, seeing as an obvious description would almost certainly circle round an idea of what, or who you are. The problem lies in a wrenchingly difficult question –

Do we actually know what, or who we are?

In both more literal and more philosophical terms, I without a doubt don’t know who I am. I challenge anyone to honestly answer the above question.

Whatever answer one gives is innately affected by ones opinions or world view, which can dramatically turn a similar set of circumstances in physical terms into a completely different story. One could perhaps say that it is in fact these differences in opinion which make up our identities.  Perhaps our identities are a sum of our experiences in life.

But then we have no fixed identity. The sum of our experiences changes by the second. If our identity is defined by our experiences, then my Identity has changed since I started writing this article, and your’s has changed since you started reading it.

Given this concept – that Identity is never fixed – why has it on numerous occasions had such destructive power? Why is it that ‘identities’ such as white, black, woman, man, red guard, nationalist; has caused such painful divides and violence in the past? Where did this ability to feel so secure and ‘right’ come from such a transient concept?

My belief here stems from the understanding that the above questions actually regard collective identity and not personal identity. I would also go as far as saying that such group identities are not truly identity. I accept this is a difficult claim to make considering my inability to define identity contently, but hear me out.

The only way a collective identity can form is for it to be exerted on others and then for it to become accepted by the individual. One can prescribe to this collective identity, but they can always leave. You might join a political group, or be a fan of a particular sports team, but is that who you are?

I’ll put this into perspective with myself. I’m born in the UK, to parents from New Zealand. Do I need to consider myself part of the collective groups of British and New Zealand nationality? No, states are essentially areas of land held together by invisible lines that only exist in the minds of world leaders.  I’m a student of German and Chinese, so must I only speak those languages? No, I know a reasonable amount of a few others. I’m pretty left wing, so must I vote for the labour party? No, I can vote for whoever I want to.

But many will prescribe to supposed given collective identities. Born in the UK, must support England in the world cup. Family is athiest, must be athiest yourself. Friends listen only listen to metal, must listen to metal to fit in. Born a guy, can’t become an au pair. Born a girl, can’t become a professional footballer.

…really? Collective identities are more often than not external pressures to conform. They can trap you into thinking in a way that isn’t necessarily what you truly think. They can make you be what you aren’t.

And yet they offer security. to be part of something collective is to have a common aim, common joys, common pains. For many, it’s a beautiful thought and in a world where so much is illusion, a comforting illusion it must seem all the better.

And yet, it is truly a self-absorbed view to think that many don’t become parts of a collective identity because that is exactly how they identify rather than having that identity pushed onto them. The difficult thing to try and dissect is how much exactly is pushed onto a person, and how much identifies truly with the person.

But whatever the case, there is a huge divide between personal identity and collective identity, although most of us will take the sum of our collective identities as our personal identity.

Now, my personal problem with this, and where this article loses any momentum it had, is that I can’t agree that a personal identity, with it’s innately unfixed, ever-changing nature, can be a construction of ones numerous collective identities, with their fixed and exerted-on-others nature.

It leads me to only one possible (rather non-) conclusion, that we have no personal identity. At least, that is, until we find it independently of our collective identities, which seems near to impossible. The closest that seems possible, is a total acceptance that we are. This is something that I can only do in writing, and not yet in reality, and this is almost certainly the case with nearly everyone alive.

So now you have read this, I want you to go to the top of this page again and read the second line, with this question in mind. If personal identity is nearly impossible to know, and collective identity is exerted onto us, why does it carry that weight I mentioned at the start of this article?

Perhaps, given that knowledge, it is best to disown identity, and try to do independently what you think is closest to who you actually are. It might save the world a lot of pain.

Brilliant Disguise


We all wear disguises.

Some are elaborate, entwined with layers of truth and deception, so closely wound that no one can tell one strain from another.

Not even the wearer of the disguise.

Some are simple, a brief disguise to get out of a meeting, or to say you’re ok, when you’re actually sad,happy, tired, excited, angry, at peace.

I have disguises. You do too. We all do, but Some don’t know they have disguises. They worked on them for too long, without paying attention to where the thread and needle went. Now they are tied up completely, helplessly.

I have many disguises.

One is a brilliant disguise.

For an age, no one would break that brilliant disguise. Until necessity called for the string of deception to be cut. and cut. and cut.

And one day, my brilliant disguise will be gone. A painful yet beautiful truth let loose to a world that burns and punishes the unknown.

I await the final cut. I await a brilliant disguise to become a brilliant truth.


part of blogging101, inspired by the given prompt ‘Brilliant Disguise’

Blogging101 task 2 – what about a snazzy blog name?

You may notice that the name of this blog has not changed in the slightest.


So what’s up with the annoyingly misleading title today then?

Despite ‘thoughtofVG being a rather mundane name I’ve also grown rather attached to it and even if it affects readership negatively, I want to keep it…

Doesn’t stop me changing the language blog though! ‘PolyglottingofVG has after much scribbling and deliberation hence become ‘Lost for words’, and kind frankly I’m so happy with it I’m lost for words. In fact I’m so happy with it that I definitely Don’t need to ask you guys whether it’s a change for the best…

Is it?

I’m not really sure…

Still, given everything, A change whether staying or not can give me a false illusion of progress. That’s got to count for something!

start of ‘blogging101’ about

Blog 101. That’s the name of today’s game, and actually really the game of the following month.

As some of the more regular people on this blog may have noticed, I have certainly not been regular in my content. Ever. I even claimed I was leaving this blog for another, but it was too hard not to come back…

Luckily, WordPress came up with an idea to get me writing again. ‘How about an organised course with ideas for everyday to play with for a month?’

I like a challenge.  Unfortunately I’m giving myself a stupid challenge for today on top of the main one – mainly being to write this in five minutes so i’m logged into the university system in time for results (uni results today for me!)

Soo…let’s see how much reasonable content can be created in five minutes….

Today’s challenge is an introduction post. I’ve done these in the past, but the for the sake if the challenge, I’m happy to oblige. It’ll just be more in a sort of retrospective way, so rather than ‘what will I do on this lovely little webpage?’ I want to say where blogs have taken me so far.

My first blog was this – thoughtofVG – A mad conglomeration of ideas, criticism and poetry with little direction at all. I loved it though, and it has managed to collect a reasonable, if not large following over the time I was more avidly using it.

Then came TVGinChina, which unfortunately had to be created on a horrible website called offexploring due to The great firewall of China blocking WordPress. This blog tracked my experiences of being a volunteer Teacher in Far western China for a year. This was also when ThoughtofVG originally started to disappear. It’s hard to post on a blocked website.

Oh and there’s the five minutes over, uni marks are available…I want to carry on writing instead though. Sorry university marks, you shall remain neglected a while longer!

Now I’ve started a language blog at polyglottingofVG, and this is my main blog currently. This post I however decided to stick on Thought as I see it as a kind of central point for my other blogs, even if it isn’t the main one currently!

So, about me for new faces, or as a reminder, or for those who really really hate about pages which are separated from the main blog thread…I’m sure that’s a thing…

I’m Tim Van Gardingen, I’m 21 living in the UK and I’m a language student. My degree is in German and Chinese, but I learn Swedish, Arabic, Dutch and a little French on top of that. Languages are awesome, and I like to give them the attention they deserve…which when you have so many on the go at once is a serious lot of attention.

I also have a soft spot for music, art, literature, philosophy and travel too. I had a whole year where in my spare time I was able to travel across China, and that certainly gave me a travelling bug.

For blogging aims, I’m now wanting to learn after 3 years on various projects how actually to gather a following with shared interests. That’s why I’m taking part in blogging101. With a following with such a mutual interest, I hope that there can be to some extent exchange of ideas and experiences. Sharing ideas and knowledge is powerful, so with a bit of luck I can learn a bit about how to gather a following like that!

And thats blogging101 1. Too many 1s…