Every day we are assaulted with messages, images, slogans and sound bites that tell us of our inadequacies, the sad state of affairs that is you and me:

"With this product, you can lose weight. With this one, you can gain muscle. If your breasts sag, our bra lifts them up; if you have wrinkles, this cream irons them out; if you're sad, we have a pill that will make you happy; if you're too happy, we have a pill that will bring you down; if you're not as much of a man as you used to be, this pill will straighten you out (literally!). And everyone who's anyone has iTunes, the iPhone and the iPad, am iClear?"

And we participate in this maddening chatter unaware, telling our kids that in order to succeed they have to get the best grades, get into the right school and get the right job. We tell them that one day they must stop all this horsing around and get serious with their lives. We ask them who they are going to be when they grow up, warning them that life is all downhill after 22, declaring college the best four years of their lives. And finally, if they are lucky, they just might make something of themselves in this dog-eat-dog world. It's enough to stress you out completely—but of course there's a pill that can fix that too.

Is this how life really is? Is our identity simply conditional and fragile? Is who we are really defined by the things we own, our job status and the social circles we run in?

What it means to shine like the sun