How do we better connect with what is genuine, authentic and meaningful within us and also in our world? Most of us want to live an authentic life and especially at the beginning of a new year we tend to ask in one way or another, “What will bring meaning to my life this year?” I think that this is what new year’s resolutions are in the end, a quest or at least an attempt to live a true life.
In a world filled with fake news, political correctness, self-projection, polarisations and easily available platforms that give anyone an amplified voice on which to project their ideas no matter how good or terrible they are, I’m longing for truth and authenticity. I know I’m not alone in that desire.
I long for that within me and also in my world.
How do we penetrate the deceptions of the self and our world in order to find what really matters without having to retract from life altogether? Howard Thurman called this discerning the “sound of the genuine” in us and in our world.
What does it look like to discern the sounds of the genuine? In Parker Palmer’s new book On the Brink of Everything, he gives someone advice and says that we should stop marketing our lives and start living.
That resonated with me.
We swim in an environment today where each of us more than ever has the opportunity to project our best self in the public forum. We have become so clever at it that not only do we project our best self but alternatively, we can also project a version of our broken self, a kind of “curated imperfection” in order to “market” ourselves as Palmer facetiously suggests. I believe that living in a way where we are continually “marketing” ourselves, stops us from connecting with the sound of the genuine around and in us.
What does it look like to start living our lives rather than marketing ourselves like products? What does “the genuine” sound, taste, feel and look like in a world that is all about self-projection, self-promotion and an exhausting drivenness? Here’s what I’ve been thinking.
A posture of Rest
Angst can be a great driving force. If we are continually restless for more in our lives and driven by a sense of torment that things are not the way they should be, it means we are more likely to be activistic and influencers to change our damaged world. But I’m wondering what it looks like to make peace with the angst within us and instead bring change to our world from a place of rest. Rest in the fact that it’s not all up to us, rest in the fact that all things have their season and that a benevolent Power greater than us is driving our universe. This isn’t about apathy or resignation but rather about trust.
Basking in the Ordinary
In the platforms and forums where we engage, the most charismatic, loud and bold voices dominate and we begin to think that this is where we ought to find authenticity and meaning. Authenticity and meaning can be found in those platforms but the deception is that we think that is where it is primarily found. We want to follow, and so the louder more persuasive voices woo us. But this can cause our heads to turn increasingly and permanently towards those places rather than paying attention to the more ordinary and mundane things where the sounds of the authentic can also be found.
Practicing the discipline of secrecy
There is something very special about doing good in secret rather than in public. We all know this and remember that Jesus taught us to pray and give to the needy in secret. it doesn’t mean we don’t do these things publicly but there is something disciplined and sacred about quiet faithfulness compared to public shows of our good works. I think this is a spiritual discipline for today’s world which is all about amplifying our voices so that all hear the messages we have to share. In a world where we constantly hear “your voice matters”, a call to project, we can say yes but sometimes it’s ok to remain quiet and unnoticed as we faithfully do good in our world.
Revelling in Innocence
Curating our self is something we all do. This means we intentionally present a version of ourselves to our world. I’m wondering however what it looks like to live an “unintentional” life. Again this does not mean a resignation or apathy but replacing a self-conscious striving for transformation of ourselves and our world, with living in an atmosphere of grace where we are surprised by the things that emerge before our eyes. When I was a child my mother and I would make bread. We would mix all the ingredients together including the yeast. This required a bit of work. Then we would cover the mixture in a bowl with a tea towel and I would run off to play. When I returned a while later, to my surprise, I found the mixture had grown and there was something resembling bread sitting right before my eyes. This reminds me of doing the ordinary work of God today in our world quietly and humbly, then hopefully, being delighted and surprised when we see the good that rises before us in its own time because of our work. This is different to intentionally curating or “marketing” ourselves where we expect certain results or impact and instead it means living in a state of continual wonder, delight and surprise as those grace moments pepper our lives.
What does it look like for you to discern and connect with the “sound of the genuine” in 2019?