Saturday, July 27, 2013

Authenticity: Who Are You, Really?

“How slow and slow and slow it goes to mend the tear the always shows…” ~Neil Young

I woke this morning with a theory about the people who write books about Bob Dylan. Upon waking I riffed through the bibliography sections of Robert Shelton's No Direction Home (current bedtime reading) and Lee Marshall's book that I finished last week. One of the titles that caught my attention in Marshall's bibliography was a book by David Boyle titled Authenticity: Brands, Fakes, Spin and the Lust for Real Life. It brought to mind book concept I once outlined 15 years ago titled Boomer, Do You Know Who You Are?

My book for the baby boom generation was intended to be an antidote to some of the maladies friends of mine and I had noticed in our peers (and ourselves): a feeling of superficiality and fakiness, of having to play games; creeping deadness... lack of enthusiasm for life, work, etc.; aimlessness, lack of direction; weakness, helplessness to change situations, powerlessness; aware that we are not changing the world, our lack of social impact.

In response to these I'd hoped to strike a chord and re-affirm the ideals our generation once professed way back when: Authenticiy, Passion (Motivation, Enthusiasm), Purposefulness, Personal Power, Social Consciousness.

Boyle's book focuses only on the first of these, in a comprehensive manner that dissects everything. What's amusing to me is the opening line of the book's overview at

"David Boyle guides us through the next big thing in Western living -- the determined rejection of the fake, the virtual, the spun and the mass-produced, in the search for authenticity."  

To call "Authenticity" the "next big thing" is to have forgotten what the Sixties was all about. Young people were realizing that their perceptions about how things are was being crafted. Have we come full circle?

As far as being authentic ourselves -- authentic to who we really are -- it's not as easy as it appears. Two decades ago I participated in a Meyers-Briggs personality workshop at a company where I formerly worked and learned a lot about how differently we are wired in many fundamental ways. As anyone who knows me knows, I am an extrovert, but in one exercise where I was to solve a problem with four other extroverts I became more introverted. Being thus out of sync with myself made me uncomfortable. What it also showed me is that who we are is often determined by context.

Since who and what we are seems to be in flux and is to some extent defined by our relationships, this may be why our lives sometimes feel like a quest to find relationships that bring out the best in us. Not every relationship or set of circumstances does this.

If we step back to the big picture, there's a historical context, a genealogical context and a global context worth noting... and then there's DNA and the imago dei. That's a whole 'nuther story.

I'm still looking forward to reading Boyle's book.

1 comment:

ENNYMAN said...

Here's the rest of the overview of the David Boyle book which I have ordered now and look forward to investigating...
"The charms of the global and virtual future we were all brought up to expect, where meals would be eaten in the form of pills and machines would do all our work, have worn rather thin. It's not that we don't want all the advantages of progress, we just want a future that manages to be local and real too. Tracking the struggle for reality from Japanese theme parks to mock-Tudor villas and from Byron to Big Brother, 'Authenticity' explains where our reactions against spin and fakeness come from -- and where they are going. The current revival of real food, real business, real culture flies in the face of expert opinion from politicians, economists, advertisers and big business -- and they're having to run to keep up as our hype attention-span gets ever shorter. Optimistic, witty, highly thought-provoking and packed with fascinating stories, Boyle's search asks whether coolness is dead, how real reality is and whether realpolitik can ever change into real politics. He puts authenticity firmly on the map, lifting the lid on all the other symptoms of this powerful new phenomenon -- revealing the unexpected force that looks set to change all our lives."