In the interests of authenticity…
- The fact or quality of being true or in accordance with fact; veracity; correctness. Also (overlapping with sense) accurate reflection of real life, verisimilitude.
- The quality of truthful correspondence between inner feelings and their outward expression; unaffectedness, sincerity.
- A mode of existence arising from self-awareness, critical reflection on one’s goals and values, and responsibility for one’s own actions; the condition of being true to oneself.
- The fact or quality of being real; actuality, reality. (Oxford English Dictionary, 2014.)
Unveiling. The action of reveal. Is the “condition of being true to oneself” a possibility?
Recently my partner and love wrote me a revealing, unveiling, letter that blunted me with authenticity – a quality of herself that she was questioning in that very message.
Self-awareness. Sincerity. Something corresponding to actuality, reality. Genuineness.
How often do we present or re-present ourselves authentically? Do we all wish to? What would it look like? Sound like? Would we lose friends? Lovers? Jobs? If our outward expressions matched our inner feelings?
WHO AM I?
The complaint was compromise. Pretense. The wriggling falsities of “fitting in” or “being useful” or “surviving” in the world of humans. In social groups and situations. In life. The feeling that what “works” or garners respect, interest, desire in the commerce of human beings is not authentic to who I actually am. That what I am “liked” for is a misrepresentation, a partial product, a fabrication, a mixed message, does NOT “correspond to actuality, reality.” And is it possible to undo that? To live authentically in the variegated, unpredictable, situational and relative world of humans? And is authenticity of an individual even a potential actuality / reality?
This has prompted me days of thought. In effect it was relieving, releasing – my lover is exhausted of the “play of living” – the work of “fitting in,” “surviving with others,” “belonging” in ways that feel partial, inexact, false even, untrue, ALWAYS incomplete, inaccurate, inauthentic.
I felt freed to say my honesty. When I father, I pretend to be a father. I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t know what I should be doing. I don’t know what it means to father children. I love them, I care about them, I am frightened by them, I am exhausted by the responsibility, I gauge my activities based on parenting behaviors I DON’T feel comfortable with, or that I wished for…I act, I pretend I’m a man who knows how to love, instruct, “raise” children! I do not know what I’m doing. I feel inauthentic. Like I’m reaching, practicing, experimenting, trying to be what I think a good “father” might be.
For years and years and years and years I have “feigned” being a writer, a musician, a scholar, an artist (it feels like). Yes, I’ve read a lot. Yes, I’ve studied, I’ve practiced, I’ve performed. Yes I think I “get” some things about the world and our human experience of it. Yes I LOVE writing words, mixing them up, crafting phrases and sentences with them, attempting to mate them to my internal experiences, ideas, emotions… but I almost ALWAYS feel an impostor not an expert, like I’m trying out voices, expressions, characters, compilations to FIND OUT if that’s how I think, feel, imagine?! So if ever I’m desired, complimented, responded to – I think it is an accident, a gratuitous kindness, a pitying. That I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m simply trying, groping in language in a thorough darkness.
As a lover, a partner, I have simply tried to please. To find out what is wanted and do, be, perform that. How does an intimate relationship “work”? I don’t know. Everyone is different. Nothing I learn to enact, behave, communicate, engage – is successfully effective in the next relationship (or, obviously, in the relationships ended before that!). Could I BE whatever mucky morphing “self” “living human organism” I am (at any given moment) and be loved? It seems so unlikely! I don’t even know what that is (the mucky morphing living individual human organism) to express or represent to the Other one… – do they? Does ANYone?
So do we ALL feel like we’re FAKING our way through being human? Adapting “roles” and “styles” and “opinions” and behaviors in order to survive? To be liked? To fit in? To feel good about ourselves? To feel useful? To BE?
Over decades, I have found that there are some things that steadily characterize me. I like to drink and smoke and read and write. I love to love and desire and be loved and desired. All of those things share the “actuality” and “reality” of being activities that I don’t understand. Things that seem to steady, nourish and keep me vital…and yet also damage, wound, hurt and make me vulnerable. That wobble. That trembling.
To my lover I responded theoretically. That my understanding of a living organism is that its “identity” in fact is created and activated in every moment’s situation and surround. That ALL of being a human is identifying oneself in relation to circumstance – a moment-to-moment relation and response to THOSE and THAT which constitutes its happening. That “living” involves trying style, voice, behavior, activity, vocation, perception, interpretation, thought after another after another – quickly realizing that in EVERY instance the “fit” is partial, inauthentic, somewhat true (what feels good) and somewhat false (what is uncomfortable) – that BEING ALIVE is a wandering experimental trial of sorts. That if we CHOSE or locked ourselves into an IDENTITY and attempted to be consistent in it – we would in fact deteriorate, become bitter – that the wisdom is NOT “I AM THAT” but “THAT IS PARTIALLY ME” for now, in this instance, at present…
The questions keep coming. We bemoan that when we take a job, a position, a role, responsibilities… we tire of them as we feel the constraint of structured, required, or expected behaviors and activities. When I compose a writing work – within pages I tire of its direction, its characters, its ethos – I can feel where a thing is going and whether it’s interesting to me or not, I tire of it – feel constrained by what’s created, feel fake in pushing it in another direction…even innovation and inventiveness feel PRETEND.
Perhaps LIVING = the tension of partiality. Striving to “fit” to “belong” to “match” (be safe in, acknowledged, understood, allowed) means adaptation, alteration, invention, reciprocal construction, which would seem to inherently demand compromise, partiality, veiling and highlighting – what will seem / feel to be INAUTHENTIC, misrepresentation, “FAKE.”
And yet – it is through this wriggling tango that we also come to discover what “fits” us – what we enjoy, what our perspectives are, who/how/with whom we like to be, what feels “good” to us and what makes us afraid/uncomfortable/ and so on…
Cynical view: we’re ever pretending and untrue. Hopeful view: we’re navigating and discovering, becoming. And it seems that both are “real” and “actual.” Authenticity (maybe?) equals partiality and pretense for humans? Equals morphing and becoming? Equals uncertainty and acting (adapting)? Equals attempting to be?
5 thoughts on “Coming Bare”
children certainly take us outside our comfort zone. Happened here too. 🙂
This reminds me of the Vonnegut story, I think it was mother night where he states something like
“We are what we pretend to be, so we should be careful what we pretend”
And I would say, that no matter what you think or feel, the actions you choose to live by make you who you are at that moment. The good news
is we can always change. Happy living and loving – bw
Children do make us question everything we do and know and don’t know about ourselves, our role as parents, what’s ‘expected’, ‘right’, ‘wrong’ in participating in their lives and caring for them. It’s a thing that sets one reeling, and that never really changes, even when they are grown.
Process over product, always, in all things. Because each moment changes us and brings us new awareness(es) of what we are and what we aspire to be. It’s never ‘done’ – never the same two days running. An elder friend once said to me that she felt that as time passed, we became more truly ourselves. Perhaps it’s more a matter of finding out more about what feels authentic to us as individuals – and – being less afraid to stay in that place, regardless of what others think.
Amazing exploration, Nathan. This resonates. Being half-Chinese but not looking Chinese, having inward feelings of home when I do certain Chinese things, while not being accepted by others as Chinese has been my experience of what you write about. I love the idea of becoming housed in the condition of Unhousedness. Because in the end the rest is artifice. Or so I wonder. Thank you for stirring this all so deeply down there.
In a parallel universe, I was having a conversation with a friend, a shamanic healer by trade, about what we had been experiencing during what we like to call here “the shift.” My friend had gone out to Joshua Tree to help the partner of a friend who had just lost both legs below the knees and the digits on one hand after contracting a virus, the most drastic example that we could think of as “the shift.” The woman had a nine-year-old child, so there was no option of just checking out. My friend said that everyone who came to help came completely naked in the sense of “coming bare” to the situation. As my friend and I spoke, we both came bare without shame. It made me think that coming bare without shame is a condition of Paradise, that each time we do this, we get back to the Garden a little bit, and that this condition is a precondition of being able to heal or help anyone else or oneself. Over the last several months, you have laid it out there for everyone in a miraculously healing way with a bravery that comes of (I presume) going out on a limb beyond the point of no return. Kafka says that this is absolutely necessary, in order, I suspect, to sprout wings. Who could possibly understand this place, I ask myself, on the ledge? Rilke? And then I think, Nathan Filbert!
extending beyond return…risk…the flight and the plummet…thank you Lise. Your comments humble me. Thank you for reading.