authenticity

Blissful, beautiful, bountiful, blessed holiday weekend! Y-a-a-a-a-y! While the ‘Zonies and East County gangstahs crowd our beaches, I strategically retreat to my Palenque, my well-enclosed, pretty much overgrown backyard, where I can catch-up on my “conscientious reflection,” the infinitely renewable high octane fuel that fires my fuel-injected, turbo-charged cognitive engine…and therefore my writing. I’m down with E.M. Forster, who said, “I don’t know what I think until I write it”; and here’s something I thought I never would do in any kind of respectable prose—quoting no less an authority than Britney Spears, “That’s just so totally me.” Feel free to boo, hiss, and stick-out your tongue as the spirit moves you. Still, the bottom line doesn’t move: here’s me, happily sequestered in my sun-drenched backyard, conscientiously reflecting on and therefore writing about the last week’s history-making events…and all the words that went with and swirled all around the big red spots on the new American timeline.

Reflection all by itself soothes my troubled spirit and calms my twirling-like-a-banshee mind. “Conscientious” reflection allows lots of latitude for my relentless questions; and, when I get some provisional answers, I feel—yes, that’s right, I feel—they mean something. Although the Catholic woman of me probably has deviated from or flat-out broken every Church rule, the good Catholic schoolgirl of me still strictly follows her catechism, examining everything in light of conscience, making “rigorous inquisition” through my soul, fervently praying or least happily chatting with The Great Author at every opportunity, and pretty much standing firm in my unorthodox faith. You can see why my brain twirls like a banshee and occasionally overheats; imagine the gazllions of farenheits to which my little spirit soars.

Although I obviously study and “deconstruct” politics, I honestly can claim, “I don’t do politics.” I follow my conscience’s dictates. Works for me.

Now quoting no less an authority than Erik Erikson, pretty much the Big Daddy of everything we think and surmise about “identity,” “Meaning it” comes from combining “the most exquisite sublimation and liberated craftsmanship.” Let that one sit and ramify in your holiday weekend. Think about it: not just any “exquisite sublimation,” which would mean working your whole self, right down to your tumpty-toes, to redirect your whole self into your thought and expression. Your ordinary “exquisite sublimation” would set the standards pretty high; but “the most exquisite…” sets the standard at Gold Medal or just keep walkin’ The One, the Singular, Unique, Nonpareil—one of those great SAT words ya hardly ever see in Nature—Erikson’s demonstrative article, the “the” that directs pointer man to this One, and only this One, puts the gun to the head and the pedal to the metal. “The most exquisite sublimation” demands that you take every thought, every feeling, every transient notion, and the fire of every little synapse, gathering their energy and force behind your expression, and you manifest all that overdrive in your very best words.

So, yeah, here’s me in my sundrenched backyard, tasty beverage within arm’s reach, and a fresh pack of Pall Malls cherry-popped just for the occasion, putting my whole exquisite self into the words representing all I think and feel about this week’s historic events.

What? Like that’s difficult?

Barack Obama has himself some mighty fine taste in women.

C’mon, regardless of your politics, even if you’re a depraved and often-raving racist pig, still you must admit that Michelle stands apart from most women, standing single on the strength of her intelligence, courage, determination, principles, integrity, and general attractiveness, which includes both personal magnetism and unmistakable good looks.

Also regardless of all that stuff I listed earlier, you must admit that she stood under the kind of pressure that would waffle most women and all the bois; she endured that agonizing pressure as she ascended the stage on…what was it? Tuesday night? The point is the pressure, not the day. And most burdensome or forceful or whatever physics-correct unit you choose to measure the pressure, the one that hit harder than almost all the others combined: “She must be ‘authentic’.”

When you first heard the pundits press the point, pounding it home with their little jackhammers, you probably thought, like I did, “Okay, so she’s gotta keep it real. The folks’ll know if she’s fakin’…or the pundits will tell us.”

Of course, on the surface of it, that premium on keepin’ it real was exactly what everybody had in mind; but if that’s all they had in mind, that’s what they would have said. When the big kids choose a word like “authentic,” they’re diggin’ in the mother lode of meaning-laden words, and they’re grabbin’ one behemoth chunk.

When we say “authentic,” we drag-in psychology, literature, rhetoric, homiletics, and all that other multi-disciplinary stuff we love to love so much. And when the big kids assert, “She must be authentic,” they’re not just setting a standard; they’re also setting up a condition: If Michelle speaks truthfully here, introducing herself and her husband honestly and accurately with all of America and God Himself watching in primetime, then we probably will forgive and forget two ginormous rookie mistakes—the one about “this is the first time in my adult life I have felt proud of my country,” and that other one about worshipping for all those years with The Reverend Jeremiah.

“No pressure here, Michelle,” we lie so bad. You have a shot at total redemption and perfect pitch, all of it worthy of a ten-point bounce in the polls; or you can…well, you don’t really have any other choices. “But really, no pressure; just go up there and have a good time.”

Yes, “authentic” stands for all of that stuff…and more.

When the big kids demand “authenticity,” they’re insisting that Michelle show perfect correspondence among character, thought, value and choice, speech, action. In other words, when Michelle speaks authentically, she will manifest the perfect congruence between the interior-invisible of her and the external-perfectly transparent of her words and actions.

Her development and delivery proved Michelle understood exactly what hung in the balance; and, honestly, it was way more important that she hit it right into the audience’s mitts than that she launch it out of the park. Remember that, when you catch the ball, you get your mitt on it, and then you squeeze it, making sure you have it completely in your possession and under your control. Michelle’s words had to hit every man, woman, and child right in the place where he or she could clutch and hold on.

If Michelle spoke authentically, then every listener would find something with which to identify.

The speech’s substance proved that Michelle knew where and how to aim and fire.

But wait! There’s more. When the big kids demand authenticity, they expect us to distinguish between “the real deal” and something that seems “sincere.” “Authentic” is the real plaid Van’s, the genuine Roxy surfgear you got at the factory outlets; “sincere” is the excellent knock-offs which so sorely tempted you at the swap-meet.

Sincerity demands saying whatever serves your self-interest and creating the illusion that you really mean it. Authentic will radiate from the very depths of your soul; sincere will have soul.

Remember when Polonius advised Laertes, “To thine own self be true, and it shall follow as the night the day, that thou cans’t not be false to any man”? Polonius counseled sincerity, urging that every speech and act would be weighed and measured against self-interest; and, no, there would be no falsehood, because a single selfish standard would inform all Laertes did and said. Because Laertes was a pretty good kid, his authentic self, left to its own devices and natural inclinations, probably would have spoken and chosen a little less politically or selfishly. Knowing his kid, Polonius stood firm in his advocacy for intrepid selfishness. We all know where Polonius ended-up. So much for sincerity.

In real life, you will find no one more sincere than the salesguy who, holding your eyes in his and resting his strong hand reassuringly on your shoulder, insists, “Of course, this is an excellent value. I have one myself, and I love it.” Salesguy reassures you ever-so-sincerely as you ponder a Hyundai. Then, when you roll-up in your brand new Mustang ragtop, you will find no one more authentic than your teen-age daughter who effuses, even against all her desire to remain cool and aloof, “that is sooooo wicked cool!”

Michelle’s authenticity had to reassure us of her husband’s.

When Michelle proved herself trustworthy, then we could believe her declaration, “He is that good.” C’mon, if you’ve been somewhat reluctant to jump on The Love Train, you’ll have to admit that your reluctance came from your suspicion, “No one can be that good. When’s the bubble gonna break? When’s the mask gonna fall? When’s the MLK gonna evaporate and the Malcolm X show-through?”

Michelle had to get up there in front of God and everyone, proving, ‘I’m a good and decent woman, and I believe this man is for real. If I can, you can, too’.

If she had said just that much, we probably would have been okay with it, doncha think?

To be continued…

© 2008 Kieryn Graham for Tent City Networks

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