Authenticity is not unveiled in a swoop of the cape. That only goes to show the last few days or hours or minutes– whatever the length of time has been since the previous flourish of unveiling– have been inauthentic. What the flourish reveals is the port of entry to our truth’s harbor. You enter by submarine. Your instruments have failed. The ballast is leaking and the batteries are dead. The hull is creaking and popping in a very unsettling way, and you settle on the bottom of the harbor on a barge of sand.
(You wait for Hafiz to knock on the air lock!)
Authenticity is what we emerge with. We need a lifetime to get down to it, and often even the moments of our most uncomfortable vulnerability and of our most passionate honesty are but preludes. But we can’t know that until we have them. Without them we would be stuck. They open the door.
I’m not sure that honesty and authenticity are quite the same, but I think we need a great deal of the former to reveal the latter. We are not our most authentic when we are chronically lonely, when we are painfully uncertain, when we are angry about a failed relationship or bitter about a recent diagnosis. We can’t know this until later, though. I am not saying authenticity cannot peek through at any moment, or even be spurred into revelation by these conditions, but I am saying they are not our most authentic patterns of being. We have to be honest about this, without shame or blame or denial, in order to make contact with what is authentic within us. If we want to give it room to grow, we have to give it room to grow.
A day of suspended judgment is a good start. Then we can be ill and broke and alone and authentic simultaneously.
If what is authentic about us is that we are tarnished, defiled and helpless, then Jesus and the Buddha and many other wise and loving beings have wasted their time. And I don’t believe that is so. There may be honesty in admitting we find ourselves in these patterns. Again. And again. But our addictions are not authentic expressions of our given nature.
We can have needs without being perpetually needy. Our authenticity is a bridge between resource and need. When we don’t know this we wander impoverished, or we stockpile.
We can fail without being a failure. Our authenticity is equally revealed in its response to both success and failure, and by that measure cannot differentiate between them. When we don’t know this we play it safe, hedge our bets, position ourselves strategically, or we fall into the pitfall of taking more credit than is due for the events and conditions of our lives. By the same means we can succeed without being a success.
We can be honest about our brokenness, and very often this is helpful, but we are not broken so it is important to recognize the gift of the temporary experience of it. There is some skin to be shed. Some mask or costume we’re wearing. Some ideal to which we yet cling. Something that is not helping. Authenticity knows how to remove these cloaks, and wash the old wounds gently.
Authenticity knows how to regrow a split tree, to unwind a knot, to mend a heart, to discover a path. Authenticity knows how to dead-reckon across fields and fields and fields of endless futility, to find the lit house just up ahead.
We can be authentic in our brokenness, and that is in the instant when discover that it need not be. In discovering this we find we are able to carry the weight of our present. This is not a show of strength or heroism, but a display of what is true. Inside of us, in our authenticity, there are legions of possibility and succor. There are medics, chieftains, informants and counsellors. There is peace.
Sometimes we use our brokenness as evidence of our failure and compound our difficulty. But authenticity doesn’t judge. Authenticity extends a hand. Authenticity says follow me. Trust me. I have done this many times. Your case is not as special as you think.
When we are authentic we can receive help when it is first needed, rather than when we are forced to submit to a crisis.
When we are authentic we are not telling ourselves how it would be if we were being authentic. We don’t try to calm seas to prove we have the truth inside us. We don’t seek for powers or gifts that have not been given. Nor do we run from the ones that we have.
And when we are inauthentic, it is our honesty that will bring us back. But it is a special kind of honesty. It is the kind of honesty that says even though we don’t know how to be authentic, that is okay because we don’t have to know how to be what we already are. There isn’t really a knowing involved. We just need to be honest we’ve been living in the dark. It is the kind of honesty that looks beyond difficulty, keeping the truth in sight.
It is the kind of honesty that refuses to weigh the evidence our pasts have produced against the inevitability of our given nature, but says instead, Yes, these things have been so. So what.