Authenticity, when used in the context of self help and new-age spiritual descriptors, is one of those words that I hate to love because of the plethora of overzealous, pretentious fucks that spew its virtues while masturbating all over themselves. That was fun to write. And I should really explain where I am coming from.
Striving for an authentic life is a genuinely noble ideal. What better pursuit than to strip away life’s frivolities and inconsequentials and exist in a plane of personal truths? To make conscious one’s choices and reactions to external forces? That there is some prime shit to work on. I love the idea.
I’ve seen many people try to live this way. It is interesting to watch, actually. Most of the time they fall in love with their words and think they shit nifties. Authenticity for beginners is learning to think for oneself and not be a slave to expectations. It is recognizing that you always did X because that is what your parents wanted and raised you to do, but you desperately want to do Y. You have that choice. Your parents are outside forces, and you are now allowing your internal compass to guide you. Sure, not listening to them means that you will never afford a Maserati, but you are happier this way, right? Who needs a Maserati? It’s just a bourgeois possession that happens to be sinuous in style, rich with heritage, and thrilling to control. And oh so visceral.
Fuck. I really, really want a Maserati.
Looking honestly at reality, how is one supposed to cast off external forces and come to their core when it is those external forces that help us to define ourselves? We live in the world and have no recourse but to exist there, in this place, ultimately outside of choice.
So we come to relation, which may be the single word that helps us to understand what the ideal authentic life is. See, we all understand and interpret the world in our own way. It is how we relate to the world that allows us to judge what is external and internal, what is good and what is not, and how we believe we should live. We see what our parents do, and use that experience to judge what is right for us. We watch our friends struggle, and wish we could be cool like them, so we judge their actions to be valuable. Your version of authenticity will be different from mine because we didn’t live the same life with the same emotions and desires and visions.
Now, I’ve known a few that approach their lives earnestly and soberly. They are truly impressive people. I see them step back from the pressure to make a decision and to exist in the space between while they feel out their options. I hear them talk about their relationships with both options. There is a humility about them, and in that humility I see their strength. I see how they allow themselves to feel their hurts so very deeply and to allow their highs to soar without losing their love of the ground. I see it as a difficult life. They are the most authentic people I know. I wish I were more like them, and they are certainly heroes to me.
I used to want to be great. It’s funny to contemplate now because I never really put in the effort to be great at anything. I was silly. And I was putting my sense of self worth in the hands of others to judge as great. I now recognize that as foolish and without balance. I don’t think either extreme is good for us and our souls. Balance is a powerful thing. Could finding balance be the true way to an authentic life?