Are you authentic?

A friend recently discovered the true meaning of the word “authentic.”
She was in NYC with her family.
After taking in the sights, they headed to a restaurant.
On their way, they past a young homeless veteran sitting on the sidewalk.
She asked her husband, “What if we ask him to join us for lunch?”
He didn’t think it was a good idea.
So they kept on walking.
But while she and her family were still eating, my friend became “authentic.”
She got up, walked back, and offered to buy him lunch.
And the young man agreed and accompanied her inside.
And they talked.
He shared how he had returned from Iraq to his only loved one.
And how he was crushed watching that loved one die from cancer.
She sat quietly and listened to his story.
And discovered the essence of being an authentic human being.
Ask someone to define authentic.
You’ll hear words like “flawed,” “imperfect,” and “real.”
People mistakingly equate authenticity with automaticity.
If you feel something in the moment, simply say it or do it.
Thoughtfulness be damned.
Click, whirr.
But automaticity doesn’t come from your inner, authentic self.
It is the result of learning, repetition and practice.
Social training designed to protect the self.
The world teaches us to walk by the homeless vet.
It teaches us to sit idly while a fellow passenger gets dragged off an airplane.
It teaches us to stay safe and keep our mouths shut in the face of injustice.
Authenticity is about subverting those automatic “teachings.”
It’s about listening to our quiet inner voice.
Our first-order intuition.
Our curious, compassionate, creative spirit.
And ignoring the loud, conditioned voice of the world.
The one that pushes our proverbial buttons of fear, anger, and shame.
That’s what makes heroes so special.
Their second-order intuition never kicks in.
They deal with the situation in order to achieve the best outcome.
For everyone involved.
The social self be damned.
Here’s the paradox:
You’re not being authentic unless you’re aware that you’re being authentic.
That you are consciously choosing the best actions and words possible.
And in an unselfconscious way.
Everyone is flawed and imperfect.
And everyone embellishes and wings it.
But that’s not something to flaunt, especially as “authentic.”
To be authentic means to be conscious and considerate.
To be authentic means to stop being a conditioned, emotional robot.
To be authentic means to stop denying your higher, inner self.
To be authentic means to truly care about the effects of your words and actions.

Fight or flight.

My last article created a bit of a stir.
I think I understand why.
It came to light during a brief conversation with a consultant.
When I was asked my opinion about a well-known industry axiom.
I expressed ambivalence.
And was immediately met with aversion.
I tried to explain my contrasting view, but was cut off.
“I’m not interested,” he said dismissively.
And walked away.
I felt a visceral antipathy.
I found out later that he teaches and recommends said axiom.
An so he has attached his identity to it.
I felt bad for him.
I mean, what choice did he really have?
Fight or flight, right?
I’m not being flippant or dramatic.
The man experienced a strong physiological reaction to me.
As if I pointed a deadly weapon at his head.
Because his brain couldn’t differentiate between the annihilation of his body.
And the annihilation of his identity.
To his conditioned mind, both are the same “self.”
And so when it was threatened, it instinctively responded.
In this particular case with flight.
That same reaction is increasingly prevalent in today’s modern world.
Instead of calmly and intelligently dealing with cognitive dissonance.
People either rail like hell against whatever threatens their beliefs and identities.
Or they simply tune it out.
Fight or flight.
It’s a sad and dangerous scene.
F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote:
“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
And Viktor Frankl wrote:
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
First-rate intelligence (consciousness) and freedom.
They’re directly proportional.
Or fight and flight.
And so are they.
The choice is ours.
And so are the very real consequences.