Mental Health Awareness and Art: From a Depression Addict

“shipwreck”

and gasping as one nearly drowned I come
      again
      to myself in mundane places,
having traveled to universal, starlit spaces beyond spaces where
silence is a tense exultation and not
the mute, forgotten, ordinary
      quiet of one’s often emptiness from which comes no
      art, no
      song, no
      sight, nothing but a
      longing for electric potentialities which will not rid the life of the
clutter but,
at least,
      organize meaningful minutes with mandolin;
      chords ascend and break through emotion
      transcend the splendor of the ocean and crash
and clang in roiling waves into steel hull of a now toppled ship at sea,
      all salty soldiers and sailors shouting and skidding sidelong into
foamy freedom
even as they come to be through my words.
Should I apologize?

Clouds part as red sky pushes forth taking first crying breath and lights the evening
      afire.
All of my wreckage strewn about I quickly
      clean with another typing,
      swiping motion
as the sea captain stands up now on sandy beach and dusts himself off cheerfully
after having a more exciting moment,
hearing mandolin cooing cooly behind
dense green ferns of wide, spiny leaves and dripping dew,
calling him to other worlds
where dreams, like sirens,
dine surreptitiously on desires.

.
.
.
Silence is very important for me, not only as a time to reflect and to pray, but also as a sort of meter of my mood. Having now been over a year out of a serious depression which took much more than that of my life, I have learned to be especially sensitive to how I am doing. When I am really doing well, even the small and seemingly insignificant silences find meaning and purpose as God meets me in a whisper and I am able to write and to hold fast to a sure hope. When I am doing poorly, silence is terrible and poses to me the choice of either staying in the silence and falling into the depression which is truly just a drug or bandage for pain and is a lie no matter how good it may feel at the time; or I can move away from the silence, find close friends and/or music (I actually play guitar, not mandolin) or sports (I love rock climbing with my girlfriend, even though I’m pitiful) or something else.

What is difficult is knowing that, for me, it is in the silence where I am most able to write and to think clearly. But that means I have to be in a good place, not in depression. Artists, especially those who struggle with mental illness, must be extraordinarily careful not to sacrifice their own well being for the sake of being able to write, to paint, to create music, et cetera. We think, “I have to have the intense experience of what I went through to write well, to keep people interested, to be authentic. That’s the only time I can really create good art.” This is utterly false, even though it is invoked so often in our culture.

Drawing inspiration constantly from pain and anger is self-destructive; art should use the pain to create beauty and health from that, otherwise it’s not really creation as much as it is an overwhelming expression of those issues. While it is vital for us to work through issues in different ways, even and especially for some artistic ways, that can’t be where we stay forever. There will come a time when we need to move on to better things and it is important to recognize when it is time for us to move on. To move on from the “shipwreck” moments that we think give us the best art we will ever make, give us the connections which are the most intense. In truth, this is the illness (like sirens) preying upon our desires for love and connection, for hope and clarity. We begin to sacrifice relationships (even fake salty sailors) for the sake of what we want to do.

Instead, it is in the well moments when we are able to see the simple and the ordinary as absolutely beautiful and inspirational. Every person is him or herself a wellspring of beauty obscured by a cloud of dust and smut which they have accumulated throughout life, from the actions of others and from their own actions as well. It is wonderful to be able to see through that and help him or her see through that as well. Artists need to be perceptive, not just emotive. And good perspective comes from standing in the light, not standing in the darkness.

There are so many people who blog and by so doing begin to work through their pain. I did this for a time, in my own way. But I fear for the people blogging when this working out goes on for years and years without any signs of light breaking in. I’m not saying those of us who struggle with mental illness are ever “cured”. Like I said, I still struggle all of the time. But there is more hope than depression these days.

Recently I have been able to begin writing again after two years of not producing much. I had to focus on getting to where I needed to be emotionally and spiritually before I was really able to create again.

This is my simple prayer for the others who blog through their struggles: do not let your art, popularity, desire to extreme emotions, or unhealthy methods of finding inspiration keep you from getting better, from seeking the help you honestly need to seek. If we are not honest with ourselves, how can we ever hope to create art (or anything, I use art in an extraordinarily general sense) for others which is authentic or honest?

“Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” -Jesus Christ

Marana Tha

.
I will
      wait
as a thousand rivers
      run dry
as our lonesome star
      sends out its final
      flame
as this idea of love
      lingers on and grows
      gradually, becoming
      concrete
as you and I are shaped by its
      intensity and shining
      silence and kindness
as a seed falls
      forgotten from towering
      tree onto bed of river
      run dry a thousand years
      yet in the future
as I wait still
      soaking up your bounty,
      becoming
      beautiful and mature
as heaven meets earth
      early in the dawning
      daybreak before cockerel
      crows but breathes in fragrant,
      fresh air
as I joyfully suffer
      sweetly violent purges,
      pointing towards hope renewed,
      resurrection of all souls
as You come in cool breezes
      breathing life abundant,
      absent no more

a walk in the dark

I leave out
soul tucked into a
      chilled heart socket
like a down coat breast pocket that it’s still too warm to wear in Texas
into a fall evening on a Wednesday
as the last of a sun’s rays
diminish with my mood.

I walk
      circles
around the most familiar buildings
of my city block
hemmed in by new condos
and the other side of the street where they don’t go.
     We don’t
     need railroad
tracks any more,
just simple streets
and lots of walls and gates and chains.
So it goes.

I proceed
     deaf
to the world with my ears plugged by better sounds
than real life and glugging cars and jogging peds
     a bicycle nearly runs away with my right arm.
I would’ve been upset,

     but I’m not
     alone
by chance meeting of moderate probabilities
if I really stopped to think about it and get a feel of these things
but I don’t
so we submit to life’s whims and walk the same dim road
          neon lights flickering
          hidden crickets start to sing in the weeds below my feet
          by the cigarettes and bottle caps
because where else have I to go?
I wish to God that you people could stop having somewhere to go
and live like a river flowing
knowing
it’s course by simply living it out
seeing no future but making it all the same,
not having to stand out.
If the water brook turns a bend it’s never seen before
     does it, terrified,
give up on its life?
Would you?

How are
     you?
Not a question from a stranger
but even stranger
that it’s an honest question and so deserves
     my utmost respect
and the truth, like all honesty deserves in turn
because only it honestly can deal with the truth and not get burned
but from the other side of the street you stalk
     cautiously
hiding behind a naked bush
     fruitless mass of twigs
so couth, put together, tie, watch, nice shoes
     and a blindfold –
all the things your friends wear –
but you’re friends aren’t honest.

The conversation somehow turns round three times to
          food
because who doesn’t like to eat?
     Talitha Koum,
     give the girl some food.
Everything tastes better when you’ve forgotten what it’s like to live
and someone wakes you up
with the truth.
He’s honest.

Beneath veiled conversation
     an undercurrent
exists and takes precedent
when we run away from the hesitant talk
and speak up desires that he wants to build a church
     back home
for all the beautiful broken glass lives crushed under our feet which we all know
is him, me and you behind the bush –
didn’t you have somewhere to go?

Speak the truth and the bush will
     phoof!
burn but not be
consumed,
just like honest conversation which can’t die
—I’m alive—
because even in the silence
of city crickets and graffiti walls and locked halls and cars and bikes,
     lives
being lived speak for themselves,
seek the truth and nothing else,
— no matter the hell that bursts forth —
I’m walking the same direction
As honesty
          Incarnate Philosophy
So honestly
     Can you try tell me
     or stoop to sell me
that I can do whatever I want on my own,
travel this life kicking solo,
irrespective of truth and honesty,
and all my friends’ lives and possibilities,
and forgetting to pick up after me,
after all that sticky, stinking mess of me,
and be fine?

We speak the truth
     goodnight
and I go into my room and turn out the lights
that outside
have turned off three hours ago,
but to my eyes my room was on fire
inside my heart
where even night couldn’t be dark
in the face of love,
truth,
honesty,
but honestly,
     goodnight.

Persistence: thou art the ocean

Persistence: thou art the ocean

I shout against the ocean but it rumbles all the same. Against persistence resistance crumbles away like rocks to salt and is swallowed up only to float on the face, like a tear from an eye across a soft cheek as it enters the mouth, and then drifts toward the inward parts, falling at last and collecting on a floor so distant from the sun that it knows nothing but cool darkness for a million years and a lifetime. But what is the sea without the salt? Caressed and cared for in the belly of the beast as it never was by the wind and rain that beat it night and day it finds peace in constant movement – resistance as rocks is so hard, but melts against an undying persistence; love is the only eternal thing as it never finds itself devoid of that skillfully wrought reality which it can pull to itself and love, pulling in and refining and letting go again more beauteous than before and promising a longed-for, safe return in a not too, yet much too, distant future; and all the hate and sadness of the rocks do, like rocks, become the salt and earthiness of the whole story.
The rocks are silent because they have learned their lesson well, as tiny and torn apart specks floating and breathing in and out with the movement of the ocean itself as the earth also breaths in and out, its broad chest and shoulders expanding in telltale rhythm; all we can do is listen and passively respond — yet what is the sea without the salt? A billion years in the belly of an omnipotent beast as salt becomes earth and earth itself churns and churns in its fiery heart and at last sends up the salts who have made peace with their existence without resistance up to the top to find life and breath anew. The rocks take their mighty places and stand like imposing towers for man to marvel at with ignorant envy, but they have a secret – they fold willingly under eternal persistence, from wind and rain and waves and even life itself as it takes root and draws upon the silent salts to find new and beautiful existence as a flower in its first and last day of bloom, both perfect and momentary, though the salts know that as they have flowed from rock to salt to earth to land to flower — and as they again are pulled back to the sea — they know that it was all really worth it. Beauty even in a moment flows up from that which is eternal and has roots that extend far beyond our land to the land and world that is God Himself as he breathes in and out and gives himself, like the salt, to life and beauty, momentary and eternal, solid and ephemeral. He overpowers all in time but does not destroy it wholly instead giving it true meaning as it learns to breathe only with him, the persistent One.
Thou art the ocean. I am a rock.
Teach me, O Teacher, to be the salt.

A Small Reflection on “Persistence: thou art the ocean”

I am quieter now than I once was but stronger than I’ve ever been. A cloud covers the sun and I rejoice as my eyes take ease; the sun comes out again and I rejoice because without it there is no life for me nor thee, my beloved.
There are many things I want to be for me and for you and for all the me’s which think they are real but aren’t but are in fact fake selves which I construct but which only give way to despair and self-hatred in time, and it’s the end of time which determines the now. The ocean has made peace with the end of time and is more than content to be and to do its daily work, to be just what it is. Overwrought and overthought, my peace lacks simplicity and contentedness, but when the stream of my life becomes this series of rapids and time is so in fact ephemeral then perspective is lost and wanders so far from the sea and the end of things. The persistent Almighty never ceases nor becomes hard to find but we ourselves run to inward parts or, if we cannot run or see that, truly, the sea comes to all, we put our faces to the sand and pray it does not come and drown us. We learn soon or we learn too late that we are praying to a fiction when the true sea is right behind our backs calling its persistent call in waves which are watery whispers, not to be mistaken for feeble cries, for that which can whisper we find can shout and will shout at a time of storms with our face in the sand submitting in the wrong direction, to our selves, not respecting the persistent eternal. Our hearts are rock and because we are all fools we think that it is rock which is eternal, but it is the waves which beat the rock as it crumbles before its God that endure.
If you are still rock then to you this is cruel. But how can it be that that which is most true could be cruel when eternity is a love which even now is beckoning before the rolling thunder above the breaking tide? But if you are me which was selfish stone; if you are me which was dissolved to salt and sank over a million years to a place of frozen submission beyond despair, yet with no light; if you are me which was churned by a fire which relinquished me and you of the grime I clung to; if you are me who graciously and once again was deposited on the earth as stone; if you are me then nothing eternal sounds cruel but only truthful and loving and deserving of my life which in reality is not my own – for all momentary beauty has its roots in something else, for nothing ephemeral plants itself but is planted and gives praises for its salty dirt whether that dirt breathes long life or whether it chokes the flower before its blossom, because no matter how short,
All that is life is a gift.
All that is love refines as it lifts.
All that is life is a gift.

Persistent One whose waters do sift,
Who are we to say
that life was not meant to be this way?

It is the only Way: the Truth, the Life.

When Catching a Cold Becomes Your Fault: Why depression is society’s blind spot.

I was watching a video, a youth TED talk, and the nineteen year old speaker asked a very poignant and simple question: “Which would you rather put on Facebook,” inquired the young man of his audience, “that you are stuck in bed because you hurt your back or that you are stuck in bed because you are depressed?”

The immediacy with which we know the answer is proportional to how misunderstood and under-treated psychological illnesses are. While physical medicine is using skin tissue to grow mini-brains to better understand physical birth defects (http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21584319-group-stem-cell-biologists-have-grown-organoid-resembles-brain), if you ask the average American what they know about depression, you probably wouldn’t get better answers than synonyms for ‘sad’. That is not even to talk of the willful disregard society has adopted toward those with psychological conditions, illnesses that have as much to do with a person’s personality and ethics as does the common cold.

Do I sound harsh? I hope so. But I don’t mean to sound angry, because I am hardly that. There is a knowledge gap; health classes spend weeks showing pictures of STI infected genitals in an antediluvian attempt to promote abstinence (quite ineffectively, I might add, which you know if you lived through high school and college) — and yet there are no weeks, at least that I have come across, about how to tell if your friend is depressed and how to help him or her. We know if someone has the flu, and either stay away from them or bring them soup. They’re achy, have a fever, runny nose, simple stuff to most of us. Depression is one of the most common illnesses in America, and the number of cases has been growing, especially for educated 20 and 30-somethings. Yet when one is depressed, it is very difficult to tell someone else (if you are even aware of it before a friend points it out), and when you do, often the friend has no idea what to do. Your friends will say things like “cheer up”, “things will get better”, “but your life is so good right now, just look at it!” These are not effective, not soup for the sick. You might as well tell a person with the flu to “cheer up”.

Why do I bring this up, all this talk of Depression awareness? Because I was diagnosed by a psychiatrist with depression. I take medication for it every day. I see a councilor at least once a month, once a week when I first submitted to being treated. My last semester at the university I slept often, with a strange rotating sleep cycle which meant about 10 hours or more of sleep at a time, but I would go to bed an hour or two later every day. So some points I’d be going to sleep at 7 in the evening and other points I wouldn’t go to sleep until 10 in the morning; when I did sleep I never felt rested. I had no motivation to do coursework. I had no motivation for writing, something I love to do. I had very little motivation to maintain relationships. I was irrationally angry very often. I stopped talking to my parents and got mad when they tried to talk to me. My money management went out the window, with me buying all sorts of things to make myself feel better, racking up quite a bit of debt. My diet was horrendous, when usually I really enjoy cooking and am mostly a vegetarian. I had panic attacks. I put due dates out of my mind. I stopped going to class; I missed three weeks in a row at one point. I am lucky I was never seriously suicidal, like many get to be after living with depression.

I did all of this without realizing something was terribly wrong, and that something had been wrong for a long time. Though it came to a head the previous spring, I would tell you it started in a mild form when I was at least 16 — that would be 7 years ago now.

Let’s look at that. I was so ignorant of the manifestations of basic psychological illnesses that I couldn’t even guess that I had one. That’s like if you vomited for a week and wrote it off as just a bad week, because you knew so little about physical illness. One in three college students report feeling depressed. I wonder how many have no idea.

Depression is not sadness. Being sad is a natural emotion that arises from circumstances in our lives. Depression is an enduring state of mind that is not connected to any single event, and thus can’t be overcome given time and “moving on” like sadness can. In my case, depression was mainly chemical. It was simply a matter of my brain’s chemistry working improperly. When your brain doesn’t work, just as when any other part of your body doesn’t work, things go wrong. But unlike when the rest of our body malfunctions, we don’t immediately go see a doctor or go on webMD and use grandma’s home herbal remedy. In my case, I really did not even realize how severely it was affecting my life until someone pointed it out.

Another reason why people suffering from depression—when they know they are depressed—are so often reluctant to bring it up is that so often others see their actions while depressed as a sign of a kind of pragmatic, moral, or ethical failing. In essence, this illness, which exists outside of the will, becomes your own fault for allowing it to exist in your life. Would we ever say that getting the flu for more than a moment was somebody’s fault? That they just didn’t want to feel better enough to make that a reality?

Others fear being medicated for psychological illness. Hollywood has been a great help in creating irrational fear of psychopharmacology, as it does with many things. Medication works, just as regular medication works. There are side-affects, prescriptions have to be changed, things can go wrong just like all medication. But it works. I have never lost my personality—I have gotten it back. I have more energy. I can think clearly again. For others it’s not the fear of becoming a medicated zombie, but simply fear that your brain has that much power over you. Well, that your mind can make you believe and act in ways contrary to your rational self-will is simply a fact. We praise it when in dangerous situations the mind gives you adrenaline to move quickly and makes you see options of escape that you never even noticed otherwise (this is one of Heidegger’s  examples of “thrownness” in his seminal philosophical work “Being and Time”, if you are interested in that sort of thing). But other times it can make us so afraid we can’t do anything—that is a dysfunction that is only an overextension of what the brain was already doing. Fear of your own mind in this way is much like fearing your own hands for their potential ability to kill another human being, or their potential to develop arthritis. Yes, mental symptoms of illness can be more serious, but that is all the more reason to treat them seriously, and not fearfully.

As a society, we have to make a pledge to the health and preservation of human life. We have to demand of ourselves the care to help others and to remove from ourselves unhelpful biases that make us ineffective friends. We need to educate ourselves; we need to love our friends; we need to remove the terrible stigma around depression that is daily pushing people around the world toward suicide and away from help. That’s something I don’t want on my conscience.

Prescient Memories: The Pursuit of Life

 
bertrand-russell-fools
:
I came across this bit of writing while I was perusing a blog by Stephen Fry. I thought, due to my immediate connection with it, both emotionally and intellectually, that I might as well pass it on.
:
It was written by the famous English mathematician and philosopher of the 20th century, Bertrand Russell, the father of the modern day school of formal logic, if that means anything to you. A monumental figure of the intelligentsia.He writes:

“What I Have Lived For

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy – ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness—that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what—at last—I have found.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.

Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.

This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

— The Prologue to Bertrand Russell’s Autobiography
:
I could not agree with this sentiment more, even though I may be only twenty two going on twenty three years old, hardly old enough to have autobiographical thoughts, or auto-anythings at all, scarcely coming into my own in terms of ideology and maturity. We cannot progress far, however, if we are not aware of our great lack of progress hitherto. “Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity,” as Kant says.
I have found it…
I have found it, if not helpful, per se, at least a matter of fact within my own life, that in the bounds of love and the hope of knowledge I most dream, and set my self a measure of success. This has a dual ability of making my dreams out of an ecstatic and innovative material, but at the same time ambitiously unattainable, devastatingly unreachable. But these are the ebbs and flows of my own pursuit of meaning. The dream to grab something in front of me does not imbue me with the motivation to even stand up. The dream to demand a better world, a better and more capable self, though often empowering then waning, inoculate me against lethargy and inaction.
But it is the reality of the horrendous conditions which we ourselves, as human beings, create for our social community, both immediate and distant, which depresses one toward an almost catatonic poignancy. Kindness is both an art and a science, something which we must put so much effort toward learning and inculcating that it becomes natural and its standards rise to the level of a fine art. Even if an over-kindness can seem fake to us, or even be fake, the very constancy of this idea of kindness in our minds will never let it die without resistance. Perhaps it is this constant reminding which has been lost to us, not kindness itself. And of course, kindness is the bottom of a mountain whose peak is selfless love, a quality almost feared, as if in being selfless anything could happen other than knowing yourself better than you could have any other way.
This summer I have been engaged in…
This summer I have been engaged in a final thesis for my undergraduate work at Texas A&M, reading a great deal about the political and artistic movements present and emergent in Russia in its revolutionary period, from roughly 1915 to 1929, at which point the Lenin era ends and the Stalin era begins, bringing revolutionary thought to an end, which every government must do if its officials desire to remain both unmalleable to public outcry and in a position of power. It is a fascinating look into a unique point in time when people both thought anything was possible, and the artistic and technological systems began to make this more possible and immediate than it ever could have been in the history of the world. Love, knowledge, and suffering — it was something the mixed very intensely in the Russian populace of that time. The peasants knew what it was like to find love only in their families, if at all, to know that they were kept far from any tools of furthering education and literacy, and to understand some of the most oppressive suffering that is only known to those who have all they create constantly taken from them. I would never say that we would do better had we more suffering in our lives, though in some sense perhaps it is true, but only that this was a people which knew suffering, and found a way, however etherial it was in reality, to change that oppression their families had known for at almost a millenium.
Fighting for love, gathering knowledge, tempering both through their judicious and wise use in the fight against cruelty and extraordinary and unnecessary suffering. That’s my thought (or Bertrand’s thought) for the week.
Hopefully I’ll have another blog up sooner than the two months it took me to suppress the crazy business of May so that I could gather to myself a little peace of mind.
~GFlatt
P.S. Any other good quotes about life’s passions and pursuits? Comment below!

Rethinking Authenticity: What does ‘Authenticity’ mean anyway?

Image

I have decided, for various reasons, to start a series of blog posts on the idea of Authenticity

It seems like everyday I come across this word in some different manner: a brand of jeans will say ‘authentic’, my ice cream says it’s ‘authentic’, businesspeople tell you they are ‘authentic’ ‘the real deal’, I’m told by Individualist movements to be ‘authentic’, my pastor or priest tells me to be an ‘authentic christian’, my professor tells me to be ‘unique, authentic, discerning’, I’m told that what I listen to, the way I dress, how I compose myself, what brand my computer is, what I eat and drink – that all of this in some way can make me either Authentic or Inauthentic, Real or Fake, a Punk, a Prep, a Hipster, a Goth, a Hippie, an Anarchist, a Liberal, a Conservative, a Cultist, a Christian, an Atheist: These surface level things can even make me look like a Scientist or a Librarian, apparently. 

Before we can even say, “what’s so great about being Authentic?” I think we need to get out there what the heck it even means to be Authentic.

That was a lot of words. Let’s start over. 

Definitions

Authentic comes via Greek authentikos, meaning ‘principal, genuine, first of order’

Alternatively, we have the word Proper, which used to be a very similar term in its initial usage, i.e. she is a proper lady. It didn’t mean “she is a nice lady” or “she is a good looking lady” or even “she is a rich lady.”

Proper comes via Latin proprius, which means ‘one’s own’, the same word from which we get ‘property’, i.e. That which one takes responsiblity for, is in ownership of. She is a proper young lady means that she is in control of herself and that she views all of her actions as her own, she owns up to her ‘mineness’ or ‘ownness’. 

One more alternative that may be helpful. An early 20th century German Philosopher named Martin Heidegger had a German term he liked to use for Authenticity: Eigenlichkeit. It comes from the adjective eigen, meaning what is one’s own or proper. Eigenlich means real or proper. The term Eigenlichkeit thus means the sense we have of our ownness, of responsibility towards our own actions and the consequences of those actions in whatever form they take.

In an Existentialist sense, this is the denial of ‘fate/nature/genetics made me do it’, i.e. a denial of any excuses for our actions, even while accepting limitations because of nature and genetics. 

A Bit of Reading

Here is a bit of quoted material I think might be helpful to fill out this definition of Authenticity and how to be authentic in thought and action. 

From How to Read Heidegger by Mark Wrathall: “For Heidegger…our way of being is found not in our thinking nature, but in our existing in a place with particular things and established ways of doing things. Our existence means that we can take responsibility for what we do. But it doesn’t mean that we are free to ignore the limits on being that the world sets.”

“When I inhabit [a specific] world, I settle on one of these ways to be, and hencefore do everything else for the sake of being that kind of person. Everything in the world now shows up in terms of this decision I have made about my existence. Heidegger believes that the world structures activities by providing us with different possible ways to give order to our lives.”

Alright, taking apart this philosophical mumbo-jumbo battle of words, what Wrathall through Heidegger is trying to say, is that the main part of our human nature is that we can take responsibility for what we do. Why are morality and ethics such a big deal, even in such a post-religious society as America? Because we perceive that ultimately, some will choose to be responsible, and some will not, and those who do not seem to frustrate any and all efforts towards what all can perceive as a sense of community, of togetherness, and the feelings community brings: love, loyalty, patience, even things like a business sense and how-to-be-a-decent-human-being. You can’t learn these things without being responsible for your actions, and being responsible means seeing that your actions and beliefs have an impact on other people. We want love and we want individuality, but responsibility is the mediator through which both can be attained. 

Let’s repeat that. We want love and we want individuality, but responsibility is the mediator through which both can [and are to] be attained. That is, if you want to retain a personal, non-homogenized identity and at the same time be something meaningful to someone else, you need to be an authentic person. Being authentic in this manner does not make you automatically stand out as weird, but as weirdly good. Someone people want to be, but are confused as to how to become. 

 

So is Authenticity just Responsibility? Not really. Responsibility is a term all of itself, meaning taking care of oneself as well as things that are put under the care of oneself. We aren’t so concerned about other people’s stuff just yet, as that kind of responsibility will inevitably stem from a solid foundation of authenticity. 

A little more reading. 

A key to understanding the owning up to our actions is to see every action as a choice, that which we choose because we think it is better. 

In his 1946 lecture ‘Existentialism is a Humanism,’ Jean-Paul Sartre said:

“To choose between this or that is at the same time to affirm the value of that which is chosen; for we are unable ever to choose the worse. What we choose is always the better; and nothing can be better for us unless it is better for all…In fashioning myself I fashion man[kind]….Action presupposes that there is a plurality of possibilities.”

This means that subjectively, that is, from the point of view of the subject (yourself), we choose things because in some manner we perceive them as overall the better choice. Not only that, but we believe it is the better choice for everyone, because what is good for one human being should be good for all human beings. This last point is something we learn to move away from, but the automatic associations of ‘good for me, good for you’ are always there to some extent, because it is something that we want to believe at a very deep psychological and emotional level. 

So how do we own up to our choices? They are the union of belief, thought (rationalization), and action (realization of thought and belief). Everything you are goes into doing every little thing you do. So when someone criticizes what you do, we feel that they are criticizing us as individual persons. This again is an automatic association which we need to dissociate from immediate negative emotional responses (that is, don’t be mad when someone criticizes you). 

It is against you in some manner. But being Authentic means you accept this, that there may be a tiny part of you, or a huge part of you depending on the issue, which may not be good at a working level. Authentic doesn’t mean you always have to change what you did, but that you will always seek to know yourself better through these instances of critique, to root out the bad and replace with something better through time consuming self analysis. 

Did I mention you have to spend a lot of time working on yourself to be authentic? It’s not that you, after hours of attacking your faults, become “Authentic.” It is that the type of person who would naturally spend some time analyzing any major critiques they have received is someone who we could call, to some extent, “Authentic.” 

 

Conclusion?

So, then. Here we are nearing the end to this first analysis of Authenticity. We figured out it means to take ownership of one’s self and all of one’s beliefs and actions, or at least, we figured out we have to pay attention to our actions. We didn’t spend a whole lot of time on our beliefs, but those are crucial as well. Our actions come because of our beliefs and reinforce or deconstruct our beliefs, in a constant cycle. We change our actions by changing our beliefs, we change our beliefs by setting ourselves up to act in a way in which what we want to believe and do lines up, thus the old believes are slowly eroded by thought and especially action, and the new ones built up by the same process. 

I think I’ll hit on this more later on, with more of the series.

I’ll be doing more in this vein, working titles include “Being an Authentic Christian,” “Individualist Movements in Commercial America: Punks, Hipsters and Alternatives,” “Individualism in the Center or on the Edge of Community? Or Neither?” “Authenticity in Literature, Art, and the Internet,” and maybe some others, including a political one if I feel like it. If you have any suggestions about things to put in the series, let me know in the comments section. I’m always around for questions, comments and suggestions. 

I declare this post:

Imageish

 

GF