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Oryoki Bowl
February 03
Quaker buddhist, kinda quirky, loves cooking and knitting and movies. Dr Who fan, Scandinavian-aquarian and cat lover. Would love to be paid to travel around the world and write about local healing cultures. While eating and drinking and dancing. One day I will have a health cruise in the fjords.


APRIL 30, 2012 11:26PM

The Measure of Authenticity

Rate: 22 Flag

I have long wondered about the importance (or lack thereof) in ascribing authenticity to something.  Authentic.  

I think the first time I questioned it was probably about 15 years or so ago, living in Santa Fe, working in the restaurant world, when the Balsamic Wars were starting.  Authentic was a word you wanted to use, when describing the vinegar with which you would be massaging your hand picked wild arugula.  Followed by a topping of authentic manchego, perhaps, or in the style of authentic Italian cuisine.  The implication, of course, was that unless you had genuinely certified authentic items, you were lesser than.  It separated you from the hoi polloi of grocery items.

Santa Fe was a crossroads kind of place, where people come to simultaneously get lost and get found.  To shed their layers and take on new ones, to become their authentic self.  Shirley McClain flew off her authentic magic mountain, Oprah had an authentic adobe up the road.   We all lived the realest, most authentic way we could- sometimes just for the principle of it all.  And, as often as not, life was hard and people were still disappointing cads.  Perhaps, the real authentic self was not as exciting as the imaginary authentic self.  

I occasionally have mused over the media battle for the big descriptors, the nth degree, who gets to claim something so often it becomes meaningless.  When the word authenticity becomes an advertisement and loses its essence.  How is this meaningful, to me?  Some years ago, living in Scandinavia, I stumbled upon a beautiful handmade bag of sealskin, and bone or tusk beads, probably from Greenland.  It was sitting on the rack of other used bags at the little thrift store down the street.  I bought it for my sister, because she has an appreciation for these kinds of collectables, although I have no idea how authentic it was.  I mean, it looked, smelled and felt like what I imagine a handcut, air dried seal fur would be like.  There were no signs of industrial manufacture.  I had a little fantasy that an Inuit lady had crafted this bag, to carry her sundry items while kayaking among the bergs or collecting lichens on the rocks.  Maybe a real Inuit had made it for tourists. 

I live in Arizona, where the whole world of the real wild west really lives and breathes, authentic America.  My years of anthropology had me struggling with who deigns to designate this title.  Surely, handmade jewelry made by "real Indians" and sold to tourists on the side of the road was authentic.  Yet, when made with modern beads of plastics, and cords I could buy at the bead store, I wondered where the authenticity lay.  In the creator, or the buyer.  It's so important for people to feel as if something is real.  I had studied iconography, I had understood the importance the connection to a real (though imagined) person, place or happening.  As I would never be Native American, could I ever make authentic jewelry- even if my beads and threads and needles and patterns came from a Native American outfit?  

But, it is not beads or bags or balsamic vinegar that really matters to me.  At least not anymore, as I have looked past the persona of authenticity and thought about what really mattered.  My desire to collect unique things waned, as I had to weigh the cost versus benefit of acquisition.  Traditional had been vying with authentic in the parlance of genuine experience.  Material culture had to adapt to modern availability of materials and techniques.  It became more important, to me, to like something because I liked it- not because it appeared to have value.  I can appreciate a lucky find on Antique Road Show, but that is a world I have left behind me.  

A few weeks ago, I was at a spectacular lecture on a specific herb, Rauwolfia serpentina, and its traditional uses.  It is a strong cardiotonic, used to treat hypertension much the way one might employ a beta blocker.  Traditional use goes back thousands of years into TCM and Ayurveda, long before concepts like hypertension existed.  Instead, the paradigms of health used words like hot, excessive, manic, restless, red, pulsing, insomniac.  One is cautioned, if using Rauwolfia as a cardiotonic, to watch for mild depression.  The spirit lies in the heart, and depression is often linked to heart disease, trauma, loss, broken hearts.  Wild pulsing raging hearts caught in the throes of excess can be tuned down too much, slowed too much, cooled too much.  

What was most interesting about this lecture was not the specific actions of the reserpine alkaloids.  It was the speaker's side trip into the world of authenticity.   Why hypertension?  For many, a life of accumulation, of excess, of overconsumption, of constant acquisition, of identifying in those things.  When do we find depression, with Rauwolfia?  Perhaps, he suggested, when the heart is "toned" and the awareness of living this life- an unauthentic life- brings the depression to the fore.  The realization that all this excess, this consumption, this acquisition, this drive towards what we believe is relevant- and recognition that it is perhaps not all we have imagined it to be.  This tends to happen around mid-life, socially and biologically, but it can come at any time.  The moment of realization may be painful, but needn't be debilitating. 

How much of our lives are busy presenting our idealized self to others?  How much of that is authentic?  What if we don't like how we "really" are?  Can we change this, and truly become someone else, something else?  How many skins do we need to shed, or clothes do we need to try on?  If I make you something with my heart in it, is that authentic enough?   


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Quite good. And authentic.
"If I make you something with my heart in it, is that authentic enough?"

I'll have to see your orginal certificate of authenticity first to make sure it is authentic Arizona Heart and of course it will be dna tested to ensure that your certificate of autheticity is in fact what it seems. Presumably, you didn't spend enough time in Santa Fe to pick up any New Mexican impurities?? :-)
For some reason while reading this, I kept hearing these words:

Is this the real deal??

I got to digest this Bowl. But I will try to come back with my ehoughts, such as they are..
I've wondered on this, myself.

I like to believe that you can change yourself into the person you want to be and still be authentic. I have to believe that. We can't be doomed by biology. In fact, studies show that you CAN change your brain chemistry, in effect changing your authentic self, by being the emotion you want to be. You should be allowed to be who you want as long as you're not murdering, maiming, etc.

Families get upset if you try to break the mold they set up for you. On G H there's a character that went so far as to change her name to become her authentic self, but when her family caught up with her they started tearing her down because they felt slighted. And she has issues because she's letting them. That's where it gets tricky- when people take your change as a slight to them and label you as a fake. You have to hang in. And be yourself.

So yes, if you make me something from the heart, that absolutely is authentic, to me.
You are wondering about the definition of a word. Authentic is a vague generality that has to be tightly defined before it is applied to anything specific.
Thanks for Your mention of Rauwolfia serpentine. I take beta blockers and am interested in exploring this further - firm believer in alternative modalities.

Really has to be a Cover piece bc it's what a Cover ought to do...it provokes thought in several directions.
Reading along, I was going to say in my comment that my interpretation of authenticity applies to people rather than things, then you said it!

So I'll say something else. Somewhere around the age of fifty, I ceased trying to define myself–don't know why, but jeeze, what a relief. Around the same time, I realized that I was delighted by the woman I'd become. As a miserable fifteen year old, I wish someone could have whispered in my ear that I would fledge into this life. Sometimes, life requires a civilized face, other times, a primal animal face. Both seem equally authentic. Regardless, I don't think too much about the face I present. Which is perhaps, in itself authentic ;-)
Authentic strikes me as a "know it when you see it" deal. I've been to Santa Fe and found much "inauthentic" there. So much so that I wanted out of there within hours. Very interesting post. I have much to say but I don't want to be too real ;)
Lots of food for thought here. I could not help but think of daisy jane's recent admission to not being who she said she was on OS. This strikes me as inauthentic and manipulative.
Standing on a beach. Alone. Listening to the surf. And seeing a vista that goes on uninterrupted. Sea and sky. And me. Always brings me back to authentic.
The snobbery of Santa Fe (especially about food) is one of its few faults but pockets of authenticity can still be found there. This was a very timely post in light of the some of the phoney people here at the Open Salon.
I think something that you give from your heart is the only authenticity there is. And you just did!!!!!
Are authentic people sometimes inconsistent, fantastical, and flighty? I say "yes." Moods, not being afraid of life's ups and downs, not being afraid to be afraid, insecurity and its cover-ups, and real interests and curiosity count for authenticity , too. What do you think?
The authenticity hoohaw has become a personal thing for me.

I play plastic baroque recorders with classical, baroque and renaissance groups. It breaks my heart every time someone new shows up with a shiny new $500 traditional (wood) instrument that sounds like crap. Wood recorders don't play as well as under-$100 Yamaha plastic models unless you spend about $1,000 per instrument and take perfect care. No one does.

I get a lot of crap for my "p0olymer pets" from the authenta-nazis. But, I play better than Renaissance faire hippies.

That said, I would never play a plastic clarinet or use a polymer reed. They just don't sound the same. Gotta be a grenadilla or rosewood clarinet.

I suspect that if they had good polymers in the day, they would have used them.
I forgot to mention. . .

Lovely and Authentic.
Thanks for all the lovely comments.

Steve- I totally get what you mean. People who get wrapped up in the appearance of "authentic" forget the purpose of why they are there. You play instruments to make pleasing music, not to satisfy some god of wood carved instruments.

Thoughts on this had been kicking around my head prior to the recent kerfuffle. But, there are so many kerfuffles around here about identity vs authenticity vs honesty, it is hardly the first or last time.

Mark- the best way to do the research on that is to also enroll the help of a specialized herbalist- it is rare that only one herb is used to treat anything, and also in chinese medicine as well as ayurveda, herbs and acupuncture cannot overcome the deleterious effects of diet and lifestyle without changes there. A good acupuncturist is really trained in all of that, they know the acupuncture is only a small part of what they do. I know that beta blockers are no longer being used as the first line of therapy, as the side effects (from these drugs) is often too hard on the body. But herbs do not work the same as drugs, and it is definitely worth looking into. Just don't buy anything off the interwebs- especially herbs made in china (too much heavy metal toxicity and too much substitution of fake herbs).
Cool essay. I was just listening to an NPR story about a guy here in Colorado who has given up money altogether and lives in a cave. His story is absolutely amazing, and an example of how people become so dispirited with our rat race of a culture and all of the artificiality that surrounds us. R.
Deborah- interesting about the cave thing. Some years ago, I was pretty fascinated by a set of PBS series, such as Colonial House, Texas Ranch House, etc, in which they did their best to reproduce the living conditions of a certain era and watch how modern people faired. Which was, to say, lousy. The idealization of those simpler times didn't translate well when people realized that daily hard physical labor, particularly for women and servants, was not optional. Strict social, religious and legal roles were enforced. Virtually all of the groups would have died of starvation and disease pretty quickly. Amazingly (cough) those who got put in the position of governor or master seemed to enjoy the arrangements more than anyone else, and their wives had plenty to say about how others were supposed to be serving them. I was riveted, but also realized, I don't want to live this way. The Ingall's family in reality were hungry, piss poor, lived life from hand to mouth most of their lives. Now that's authentic prairie living. Only Laura's writing (much later on) helped bring them above the poverty line- and the writing included much idealization and embellishment of their lives.
your words ring of authenticity. for sure.
Love the last sentence.

Being authentic requires a great deal of vulnerability. Our facade stripped away we can be more easily judged. I think it takes a great deal of self confidence, that or a don't give a crap opinion, to show your authentic self to others.
Lord, woman, get thee to a college & take a philosophy course.
That's where totally cool chicks and nebulous guys go
to get answers and hook up.

"How much of our lives are busy presenting
our idealized self to others?"...50 percent. the other 50 percent we
present our idealized self (superego) to ourselfs..

" How much of that is authentic?"
Sartre said, " the concepts of authenticity and individuality have to be earned but not learned. We need to experience death consciousness so as to wake up ourselves as to what is really important; the authentic in our lives which is life experience, not knowledge."

" What if we don't like how we "really" are? Can we change this, and truly become someone else, something else? How many skins do we need to shed, or clothes do we need to try on?"

Dylan: "he not busy being born is busy dying"

" If I make you something with my heart in it, is that authentic enough? "
hearts are fickle ..they gotta be...
the heart of the moment
is all you can give, i think...
This piece is so interesting and thoughtful.
"If I make you something with my heart in it, is that authentic enough?"
Some really good food for thought here.