January 25, 2008

To hell with authenticity

For a long time I was hung up on the importance of being 'authentic', which runs from Freud to the Beats and so on. The angst over stresses and contradictions, the repressions and denials that supposedly come from not living up to oneself. The supposed need for a transparent personality.

Sometimes I think this isn't such a problem in Asia, that the traditional image of the self is very different. More socially constructed - a case of context rather than essence - it's OK to have different selves in different situations. Sometimes you're a parent and sometimes and a child, sometimes you enforce the rules and sometimes you break them. This may seem dishonest or hypocritical, but I think that's demanding an unnecessary consistency in behavior. Things are not black and white, either / or.

When I stopped worrying about being real a lot of things that once seemed to be problems disappeared, and it's hard to remember whatever it was that used to frustrate me.

Of course, this is likely to be a passing phase, and I'll wake up middle-aged and screaming at the waste of years, content when I should have been raving ecstatic. Buried by my own contradictions.

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