OBEY!

My book”see my book” and this blog seeks to aid the search for the authentic self, but I believe 90 percent of the world wants to obey. I believe their one and only single free will choice is what or whom to obey.

Freedom is fraught with anxiety and confusion. Freedom requires an endless chain of considered choices. Freedom is a world without red lights and green lights. It is not easy.

As this anxiety builds, the person makes a selection of choices that dictate behavior and mental processes. Religious choice probably contains the largest and most detailed of dicta. Christian, Jewish, Islam, Buddhist, etc. each having within them further choices finally arrives at a host of rules and dictates that control one’s daily and life-long choices. A strong second world of rules is cultural. National cultures, ethnic cultures, regional cultures all have stated or implied rules of behavior and thought.

Add in a variety of other sources of rules or expectations proceeding from schools, professions, affiliations, government, families, and you have little wiggle room left for independence or free choice. Diet books, health books, advice books and fashion further seek to dictate behaviors and limit choice.

We all champion freedom. We all like to think of ourselves as free, particularly in America. At least, in America, we get to make the first choice. There are whole countries and cultures where even the first choice of free will is unavailable. You are simply told from birth what you will worship and obey and you are surrounded by enforcers.

Run your day through your mind and consider how many choices you make are truly free. Look about you and see how dictated is your environment. Peer pressure alone is a significant influence. Even abstract theories, ideas, influence your choices. How many of your choices or life components are a result of belief in global warming, or protecting the environment, or political correctness….all ideas that are drumbeats in your daily life.

Now consider all of the above and visualize what a narrow slice of life remains available to free choice. “Am I in your play, or are you in mine” becomes pervasive. You are in a vast variety of plays, some of which you chose, none of which is of your own authorship. Even selecting what you want to eat off of a menu is less a matter of what you would like to eat, but more a matter of what you should or shouldn’t eat.

Freedom is hard. A daily litany of choices is stressful. It’s fifty/fifty that you will make the wrong choice. Existential angst is a real burden. What to do? What to do?

I think a healthy exercise is to review one’s daily life, as well as one’s larger life picture, and list and evaluate the various components as to which is a free choice, and which is a choice derived from another source and its influences. I suspect you will be shocked to see how little is a free and personal choice. If it is a larger proportion, you deserve to give yourself props.

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Legacy Scripts

As readers of this blog and my book,”see my book“, you know that narratives and scripts are the lynchpins of both. Watching someone create their own narrative should be instructive. To that end I encourage you, with your critical insights, to watch President Obama write his legacy script during his last year in office.

He has already begun. At this point, he is more interested in cementing his legacy than he is in legislation or international diplomacy. His primary avenue will be the granted “interview”. Although this will seem forthright and unrehearsed, it will be delicately crafted and controlled. What may seem spontaneous and sincere questions, are most certainly pre-written and imposed upon the interviewer. His thoughtful and almost agonized answer is a portrait in fine acting.

His speeches equally will seem spontaneous and unrehearsed in the “off the cuff” portions. But there too it is carefully planned and rehearsed. He only has a few months to control his narrative, and surprising events across the world will intervene this careful narrative.

Most Presidents come into office as egos in pursuit of history. To endure the punishment of running for offices over the decades and then the most severe of all campaigns is to show the deep determination it entails. To that extent, the final year is crucial to securing the ego part in history.

As an aside, I might suggest that our greatest Presidents in history, might well be those that were forced into office by circumstance. I think of Harry Truman. Forced into office in the midst of a world war and its aftermath, he had no wish for it, and no time to ponder his place in history. He found in himself capacities and wisdom he knew not he had. His post presidential life would confirm his ego-less humility. Humility generally does not get you elected to the highest office in the land.

Obama came into the Presidency fully afloat on his persona. He had no experience. He had no resume. A first term senator, a community organizer, an acolyte of Alinsky, he had a narrow vocal range within which to sing.

He could have learned on the job better than he did. Instead, he lingered in his ego. His Armani suit and Air Force One were VERY important to him. With so little history of his own, the trappings were critically important to his narrative. I do believe he never got outside his skin in this job. And still being so, completing and sharpening his exit narrative is more important to Obama than it has been to most Presidents before him. That is why the composition of his final narrative will prove so instructive to us as we watch his exit narrative co-exist with the other eight aspiring narratives that evolve in those who now seek his vacating office.

Postscript: Equally here, we have studied scripts and narratives for their authenticity and their opposite, the dreaded simulacrum. Because he has so lived within himself during his Presidency, I think it likely, that Obama’s exit narrative will be false and inflated and in denial of much of his actual Presidential history and events. To that extent, it will be in-authentic and a delusional simulacrum that he hopes will stand the test of time and history. With Ego, in-authenticity and the simulacrum as the three legs of his stool, I think it will not, in fact, bear the weight of time and history.

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van Beethoven

Since my book,”see my book” and this blog ultimately seeks the Holy Grail of Authenticity, I like to note people who may have achieved that state. Earlier I wrote a blog on the Three Roosevelts as examples. Today, I turn to Ludwig.

Innate genetics and circumstances combine to determine us. Beethoven was a childhood musical genius. He had an exploitive, harsh and alcoholic father who sought gain from his prodigy. After his mother died, Ludwig eventually achieved a “divorce”, through the courts, of his father and took over the care of his sibling family. And unusual tack to autonomy.

Musically, he stood on the cusp of classical forms as articulated by Vivaldi, Bach, Hayden and Mozart. It was van Beethoven who moved in his own musical direction….that of the personal, self-realizing romantic approach to music that distinguished his compositions from all those that came before him. He broke mold after mold. This gradual process continued, finding its fullest fruition in his Ninth, which for the first time included voices and a choir within the symphonic structure. He was following his own musical internal ear.

That brings us to the other circumstantial reason he may have been further enabled in his search for personal authentic expression. He was going deaf. He was descending inevitably into personal isolation. His music had fewer and fewer outside influences. His personal behavior also became increasingly idiosyncratic. He shuffled about town in odd clothing. He mumbled to himself and said outrageous retorts to others. He was withdrawn and angry. All symptoms of deafness and its isolating powers. But in his angry isolation, he found an increasingly different muse. Most music historians will accede that Beethoven was the singular break with the music traditions of his time and turned music toward the romantic and personal expression era that continues today.

I leave you, the reader, to explore Beethoven’s biography. But I think it is fair to say and note that he stands as an epic example of a person seeking and attaining his own personal valid autonomy and authenticity. He came back from frequent and brutal precipices in that life long effort, but he prevailed. He stands as one testimony to the struggle toward and achievement of personal Authenticity. And in that, he changed the music of his day, and left for us the works of genius that to this day tower in the world of musical composition.

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Epiphenomenon

This blog has focused on simulacra which are false alternative realities that are difficult to discern as false. There is another alternative reality that may not be false, but simply disconnected.

An epiphenomenon is a separate but included reality that has its own integrity and is not false. We can be engaged in an epiphenomenon and mistake it for a false sim. Such a moment may seem like a dream, a psychic disconnect.

Since this blog is also about the search for authenticity, I believe there is a revealing connection here. If one looks at art historically, it seems to often exist apart from or in the midst of destructive or unsupportive times. Whether the caves of Lascaux, or the Renaissance, or individual histories of artists, the creative moment and the resultant “art” is immune to the prevailing and often negative surroundings of the “artist”. I think the moment of personal creativity is a divorced, but authentic moment within an individual’s life that is a detached and isolated epiphenomenon.

There is no telling from where or when a creative moment may come. It is suddenly just there. Most artists or “creators” in science or mediums of various kinds will tell you that such moments exist out of time and place. It is a magical transformation. One exists outside of one’s everyday. But I would make the case that it is still connected to one’s own integrity and not a false simulacrum. It may be the very refuge from the false simulacra that this blog so reviles. It emerges wholly from within. It may be influenced by unconscious flows or lost memories, but it is integral. It is the fullest flower of personal authenticity, though it seems to exist in dislocated time and place. It would be well described as an epiphenomenon.

This adds a new component to our search for truth, self and authenticity. The very sense of detachment within an epiphenomenon may be the immunity we seek from false scripts imposed by others. This may be our internal refuge from “lifeastheater”. These “creative moments” should not be solely seen as moments of genius by select visionaries. They may reach to those heights. But they also exist for us all as truthful moments of self-inspection and honesty wherein we see ourselves and reveal ourselves with insights heretofore unseen.

The avenues to these moments are unpredictable and often surprising. They can occur in night dreams, day dreams, staring at clouds or seascapes, meditating or eating a Madeline. But they are treasures to be found and nurtured. Beware the dreaded simulacrum, but watch for and embrace the fecund epiphenomenon. It’s the epiphenomena in your life that may be the reservoirs of your authentic Self. Watch for them; live them; collect them; embrace them!

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The Brain and Self

Throughout his life and writings, Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis and “the talking cure”, believed and wrote that chemistry would most likely be the ultimate and eventual cure for mental illness. And so it has evolved. Drugs have replaced psychiatry in large part in the treatment of mental diseases.

Equally now, the brain itself is the landscape wherein we seek the epicenters of our mind and emotions. This blog has focused on the Self, an elusive composite of ingredients that add up to our sense of existence and being. A recent study on the brains of young adolescents, seems to point to the existence of Self in a particular part of the brain. When adolescents were put into various experimental situations that made them self-conscious and embarrassed, the part of the brain known as the medial pre-frontal cortex showed extensive excitation and flared up in hyper-activity on the various monitors that showed the brain’s topography. Like Freud anticipating chemistry as his replacement, do we now have to assume that the fleeting figment we call Self is in fact to be found physically in a certain region of the brain?

If so, does that take out of the equation, all of the effort and social practice that we have traditionally acceded to improving our Self and our character? This same new knowledge of the brain would suggest not. While there well may be a portion of the brain, a piece of physiology that corresponds to the sense of Self, that same research also testifies to the surprising plasticity of the brain, i.e., the capacity of the brain to change itself physically in response to need and stimuli.

Just as we can train the brain to recompose itself in the face of a stroke or an injury to the body, so apparently can we change the circuitry and synapses of the brain in response to emotional and social patterns that are improvements in those important areas. This would suggest that the very premise of this blog, that life is a series of scripts, and if we change them, we can change as well, has sound footing. The added beauty is that this change is not just some ephemeral modification in the psycho-sphere, but may in fact be a change effected upon the brain itself, that circuitry and synapses have altered and adjusted. I take comfort in that possible permanence.

The plasticity of the brain, to be able to change and adjust its neural physicality, is encouragement for those who would not just overcome a new physical challenge, but also for those who would overcome and change a social or psychological challenge. Much like having the confidence as we exercise that we are changing and improving a muscle or muscle group, so we can now have similar confidence that the physical organ of the brain, too, is able to grasp and incorporate the psychological and emotional changes that we wish to press into our existence.

It may take repetition and dedication just as any exercise does, but its results may prove to become natural and intrinsic.

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Life as Theater vs Life is Theater

I have chosen Lifeastheater vs Lifeistheater as the title for my blog for particular purpose. I have chosen the simile over the metaphor for a particular focus.

“Life is theater”, implies that is it. Life is a dumb show, a Punch and Judy show, an existential nihilistic theater of the absurd. Whereas, “life as theater” implies that there is that, but there is also something else. The “as” suggests that there is something beyond the theatrical version of life. That life is not just a series of “performances” that we enact over days, weeks, months, years and decades. Rather, there is something beyond or beneath the surface of “life as theater”. For those of you who have been reading this blog or my book “see my book“, you know that that other life is one of “authenticity”. Life as theater and authentic life are the two opposed levels of living, elaborately discussed and analyzed here.

The Authentic Life is the one to which one should aspire. The inauthentic life is the one commonly given to us as a variety of “scripts” that are written for us by family, friends and society as large, both current and historical. To be able to discern the difference between the simulacra of false narratives and scripts that others would have us live, and the true script of our own authentic self is the purpose of my book
see my book” and blog. To achieve that clear-eyed status is no easy endeavor. To maintain it, if found, is equally hard. Everything, and most everybody, conspires against you. First, one has to achieve the clarity of mind to see the difference. And once having that, one must work diligently to maintain that clarity and use it to transform oneself into someone who is true and authentic.

A word here about selfishness. Much of this search for personal authenticity and the battle against others for your own selfhood might seem a trip toward and final residence in selfishness. That is the beginning of the search, but not the end. Having fought the battle for your own identity, the next level is to find within that authentic identity where you now belong in the world around you. Sans scripts, you now need to find where you belong and how you interact with your friends, your family and your society. This is the final task. Once free of scripts, your value is enhanced. Your contributions are more vital and honest. There is less subterfuge. There is more truth. This is the opposite of selfishness. This is where you want to be, and this is from where you can be a more successful and useful member of the world around you.

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The Jenner Show

Since this is a blog on “Life as Theater” as well as “the authenticity of self”….how can I not write a post on the ESPY award night during which Ms. Jenner took the stage to receive the Courage Award.  Political correctness has prevented the mainstream press from assessing this moment with anything near clarity.  Only in the blogosphere can one indulge in truth as one sees it.

Let’s look at the first part, Life as Theater.  This was a consummate such moment.  Here was a moment in one person’s life made into a gargantuan piece of theater!  This was French Absurdist theater at its best.  Stand back and let’s paint the picture:

Here is a vast hall of thousands of people, but in particular it is a vast hall of athletes….essentially locker room regular jocks for the most part.  They are here to extoll the special moments in a year of athletics.  Moments of physical prowess and excellence.  Moments of extreme effort and mental discipline.  For most of the evening, the videos and audience are rock and rolling with just such focus on events in the spectrum of sports.  But then comes “The Entrance”.  This is not an athletic moment.  This is not an end zone catch or a buzzer beater.  This is an abrupt turn from the night’s theme.  A great athletic champion has decided to cut his dick off.  And he is here to tell you about it.

Now, I am not here to question Bruce’s personal decision to become a woman.  I can never know his internal processes.  But in a vast room of jocks, when suddenly, one of their own, a former Decathlon champion, walks onto the stage dressed as a woman, it has to boggle the mind that times have changed so much that the room didn’t erupt into laughter and catcalls.  It is a testament to the power of our current pc and inclusive atmosphere, that this high risk moment got carried off.  The cameras panned the audience in close-ups.  The slightest slip would have been found and replayed.  There wasn’t a snicker, a smile, an aside, an askance glance in the house.  This was the Supreme Test of liberalism and cultural diversity.  Fill a vast house with locker room jocks and bring out one of their own, Bruce Jenner, in drag, and see what happens!  There he is, alone, walking downstage center, complete with wig, lipstick, eye shadow, earrings, breasts, cinched waist and high heels.  Every facial muscle in a thousand faces is under control.  Not one person giggles.  Instead, they give a standing ovation!  A theatrical triumph!  Jenner and the culture of diversity pull it off.  The moment works!  You cannot help but give it a look of wonderment.  This is Life as Theater at its most extreme.  I would be hard pressed two years ago to imagine this moment, and even if so, give it any chance of success.  He did it!  No matter your personal feelings about the matter, you have to give credit to the risk, the curtain call and this triumphal moment of……. Life as Theater.

Life has large moments of “theater” that often accompany great moments of change.  I think of Nixon’s farewell wave from the steps of the helicopter.  I think of the McCarthy trials when Special Counsel Welch asks Joe McCarthy, “Have you no shred of decency, sir?  At long last, have you no shred of decency?”  This Jenner moment may stand as symbol of one such sea change in a culture.  One could very well call the Jenner moment, tawdry, silly, pretentious, hilarious, dismaying, sad.  But you do so at your peril, and no one on that night betrayed any such thoughts passing across their mind or face.  The theatrical risk worked!  We have to take that fact into account.

Now a brief thought on the authenticity.  Neither I nor anyone else can know what Ms. Jenner’s inner turmoil on gender is all about.  We can only take her at her word or not.  I think he/she is honestly seeking authenticity.  Whether Bruce is now happier as Caitlyn dressed up in women’s clothes, I don’t know.  If there are now new hormones flowing through his body, do they induce a greater authenticity?  I don’t know.   It seems like an effort against the stream, against the grain.  Can it end in happiness for him, time will tell him.  That a person will go through all this social and physical hardship to seek the feeling of authenticity goes to the heart of how important authenticity of self is these days.

Though the theatrical moment was successful.  And that’s probably a good thing for inclusiveness and tolerance.  I, and we, will never know whether is truly engenders an authenticity that wasn’t there before.  That is for him or her to one day assess.  In the meantime, I don’t need an ongoing tv series to follow.  It will tell its audience nothing about the inner truth.  Even he/she may never know.  The tv series is only titillation, voyeurism and commerce.  None of that will aid Bruce in his odyssey, his Search for the Authentic Self.

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