Sunday, October 4, 2015

"A" for Authenticity

That word, Authentic, has been rattling around in my ever-diminishing brain for a while. Trump is deemed to be one along with Bernie, Yogi and the Pope. That’s quite a choir of disparate voices. The two candidates claim authenticity by virtue of speaking truth to power seemingly unscripted though at distant poles from each other. One lies, the other doesn’t. But the rhetoric, at least, sounds fresh.

Yogi blurted. Francis intones. Either one gets them in column A. Authenticity is apparently the virtue of the day. Hillary can’t quite fake it. Sloppy dress, messy hair, stubbled face all qualify. Film-makers have hit upon a sure way to gain the Authentic label…an obligatory vomit scene. How about an un-zipped fly? A sliver of spinach on a front tooth? The poet, Charles Bukowski, would urinate while on stage. Nothing more authentic than that. Or is it? Sorry, addiction or alcoholism doesn’t necessarily confer authenticity in my annotated book.

Public displays of authenticity such as this are over-rated. They can be a schtick, an inauthentic affectation. After a while they don't pass the smell test.

On the other end of the spectrum is Artifice. We don’t like pretension, the ornamental and adorned yet artifice is the stuff of art. Get over it. The fiction tells a greater truth. The curtain goes up. Actors act. It’s OK to suspend disbelief. Let the alchemy happen. Open the book and enter an alternative world, sometimes alien, sometimes actual. Afraid of being labeled archaic, me thinks, poetry has become too conversational and anecdotal. Audacity ain’t bad if it’s meant to astonish and amaze…. short of anaphylactic shock.

The irony is that authenticity is merely being oneself. It suggests vulnerability. It doesn’t require exertion. It is inclusive because the Self includes multitudes. Amen.


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