Culture is loud. Becoming authentically YOU means turning down its volume.
I’m often accused — or credited, depending on one’s perspective — of leading an authentic life. As nearly as I can tell, the accusation or accolade refers to the following definition from Merriam and Webster: “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.”
Fundamentally, aren’t we all true to our personality, spirit, and character? How could we act otherwise, in the absence of multiple personalities? I have concluded that we’ve been captured by the culture in which we’re immersed. We are unable to escape without killing ourselves, yet the culture is killing us.
Ultimately, I wonder why any of us bothers trying to be a good person. As Ernest Hemingway indicated: “The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed.”
Vulnerability isn’t so bad. But few knowingly bring on their own destruction. Instead, I suspect most humans — even those who consider themselves good — actually benefit from and even promote contemporary culture, the problems with which are legion.
Do good people promote patriarchy? Do they pursue and promote the notions of marriage and monogamy even when knowing these ideas are steeped in the patriarchy of a culture gone seriously awry? As examples of patriarchy, marriage and monogamy are obligations of empire rather than outcomes of natural law. Instead of abiding and supporting imperialism, shall good people attempt to reduce or eliminate patriarchy, hence civilization, one act at a time?
When we recognize patriarchy and its impacts, where does that leave those of us pursuing authenticity? Indeed, attempting to conduct an authentic life in a culture dominated by patriarchy and engendering destruction is analogous to pursuing meaning in an uncaring universe. Does authenticity have meaning in such a universe? Is authenticity a desirable goal, if goals are merely cogs in the machine of a culture run amok? Is authenticity another stumbling block on the road to happiness? Is authenticity yet another piece of propaganda promoted by the thieves and liars pulling the levers of civilization to trap decent people into lives of service? Do we ultimately and perhaps unwittingly serve civilization, hence omnicide, when attempting to serve humanity?
If a life of service is a trap, why step into the trap? In avoiding the trap are we embracing nihilism, “a viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless”? And, if so, does the embrace constitute a pact with the proverbial devil?
As individuals and a society have we become so broken we cannot pursue the truth about ourselves and our culture? Have we become so marginalized, demoralized, and humiliated by this insane culture that we are no longer able to rise up against cultural insanity?