The authentic self
Posted by Simon Parke, 28 March 2017, 10.42am
Many people I meet wish to be authentic, they tell me so.
It’s something of a holy grail; and as long it doesn’t become just another dull form of self-punishment, a legitimate one.
But how is authentic being approached? Is there a secret path to this place?
We might first consider the world stage, it will help.
There have been some wonderful teachers down the centuries with brilliant ideas, you’ll have your favourites - remarkable people with great insights on the human heart and species.
But despite these good ideas circulating freely, the most appalling atrocities have been committed and continue to be.
Holocausts, pogroms, man-made famines, massacre, torture, repression, calculated inequality, fear-driven politics and the systematic destruction of whole cultures and nations…and more.
And just when you think you’ve plumbed the depths, there’s something worse.
There’s always something worse.
And what do we learn from all this, as the screams quieten?
We learn that ideas, even the very best ones, do not transform human life.
Tragic but true.
And really, I don’t need the world stage to understand this. I need only look at my own life.
I produce my own atrocities, whether through negative perceptions, inner ridicule of others, the eagerness to blame, lazy assumptions, depressed cynicism or a damaging variety of stress-fuelled reactions.
I have access to the best ideas and in public, can play due lip-service.
But my raw emotions remain resistant to them, largely untouched; beautiful ideas do not seem to reach my subconscious.
And for obvious reasons, I tend to skip over this awkwardness.
Yet every day, we humans have evidence, both in thought and behaviour, that our ideals do not much alter our subconscious drives.
So we sublimate this difficult truth, rationalise it under the carpet… and yes, continue to press our ideals onto others and expect them to obey.
Like Trump, for instance.
Trump and other psychologically-stunted leaders are an easy target for satire, full, as they are, of self-aggrandising shit, their own unresolved issues played out on the world stage.
And so yes, a quite proper target of satire: beware of all leaders, power corrupts.
But equally pressing is a satirical take on my self…satire which sees the inner disconnect between my own grand ideas (gleaned from the very best teachers) and my less glowing emotional response to people and situations.
So we’re aware of two separate worlds.
We have our ideas and ideals; and then there is our compulsive inner reality.
Heaven and earth – supposedly friends, but rather cut off from each other, neither permeating the other very profoundly.
Hence the whiff in our lives of the dreaded inauthenticity, of disconnect, of, well - hypocrisy.
And the terrible thought that I might actually be a lie.
But that terrible thought is the clearing in the jungle we adventurers have been seeking.
As we contemplate our sense of disconnect, we discover another space, another world…a world between heaven and earth.
Not well-seen or much talked of; but it’s there.
If we wish to be authentic, to be true to ourselves rather than a cover-up, we need a bridge between these two worlds – a bridge built with honesty, awareness and
We need an intermediate space between earth and heaven – a place of reception, transmission, of connection between the two.
Rather like the ladder in Jacob’s dream.
This psychological space cannot be accessed by certainty or belief systems; they trample all over it, like hard boots over fragile flowers.
Neither can it be accessed with labels or moralising or self-punishment.
Here is a subtle space, fresh space, sensed rather than analysed – this is not a matter for the head - and entirely present to this moment.
It is found in the search, in the question, in my fault lines known… and un-judged.
And here in this clearing, this surprising space, is a quite different energy for the journey…the vitality of truth rather than the exhaustion of sly cover-up.
We may need to learn patience to stay here.
There’s the impulse to run away, to scuttle back towards heaven or earth.
The escapist intoxication of beautiful ideas, another self-help book, more scripture!
Or the stubborn treadmill of unexamined ‘I’m fine!’ reactions.
These are more familiar ways…but we’ll resist their siren call.
And here, in this third world, this linking world, our public and private personas meet.
Indeed, what we most feared becomes our path, our lie becomes our healing…we are made strong at the broken places.
This intermediate space of honesty and awareness is neither heaven nor earth but holds them both, the go-between… and we can go there now.
Here in this clearing is the slow meeting between our good ideas and untutored emotions, a melting of lines, like distant relations making friends of each other by the fire.
Everything noticed, nothing banished, no rules allowed, much laughter and all quite well.
There is only the truthful now.
So far away so close.