Monday, October 28, 2013

Being true



I am putting aside what was ready for today as I have been thinking about Lou Reed's passing. And I can't say that I was a fan. I don't own any of his records and we couldn't afford the tickets to his concert in Arles' Antique Theatre a few years back. But I am an admirer. Because I know enough about him to have seen that he was true, to himself and to what he wanted to create. He was...a word that I tend to dance around gingerly these days...authentic. 

Let's see how that word is defined... well, there are actually quite a few options in Merriam-Webster but I'll choose what suits me: "Authentic: real or genuine, not copied of false. True and accurate. True to one's own personality, spirit or character." And interestingly, as related to music: "of a cadence: progressing from the dominant chord to the tonic." My musicians friends, is that appropriate for his music? Tell me, I am curious.

I am ambling towards a question and feel free to answer or not as it suits you. I know that there is talk in the popular parlance of "living an authentic life" but there seems to be so much space around that idea that I am not sure what to make of it. Or maybe I have put upon it a sticky veneer that is ready to be wiped away. Mr. Reed might have shredded such a feel-good cliché on his guitar while imperceptibly nodding his head in time.

And yet, we all need comfort. Reassurance. So often we look outwards for it but if I can remember, I will tell you along with myself that it is there within, that diamond bright of true. Real or genuine, not copied or false. 

What does authenticity mean to you? Does it mean the same thing as "being true"? Is it something that matters in your conscious thoughts or efforts? If I am being honest, really honest, I don't have an easy answer myself or at least not one that I could explain quickly. But I have a feeling that it is not in the absolute nor in the gigantic. Not all of us can soar through a life but we do, each of us, have our  wings.



I am going to read Ben Ratliff's article on Lou Reed this afternoon. If you would like to join me, you can find the link here.


And I will close by saying that I did wait on Lou Reed once in New York, while he was dining outside on a warm summer evening, leaning in closely to his companion, Laurie Anderson. I am no gossip but I find it worth mentioning that while Lou Reed will remain acclaimed in music history as a "punk poet" the man I saw that evening was every inch a gentleman. 

33 comments:

  1. Growing up in a household where abnormal behavior was never honestly acknowledged, "authenticity" has always been important to me. I intensely dislike affectation, the opposite of being true. Writing about topics that feel real and important to me (insert italics) is much more rewarding than trying to be a cheerleader for stuff I don't care about. As I've gotten older, "being true" in friendships, writing, and other arenas has become more important than ever. It's a big topic, lots to think about here. This is my first stab at participating in this conversation.

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    1. By "abnormal" behavior, I mean bad behavior that harms those who live with it. It was a poor word choice. What I hated most was that it wasn't labeled honestly.

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    2. Your response gave me a lot to think about too, Judith. A lot of this strikes home for me as well. The mislabelling of behavior when we were too young to know for ourselves...the importance of "being true" in friendships (and that being reciprocated, VERY important to me)...what we are trying to make...lots to think about and it seems a conversation worth continuing, as we get older...

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  2. A very sweet post! Nice that the passing of Lou Reed inspired your thoughts today. It is hard to find truly authentic people because it seems that everyone or many at least are always trying to get something or achieve something and they leave their authentic selves at home.

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    1. Unfortunately so true, Michel. Perfectly put, thank you for that...

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  3. Clear and true. No pretensions like a samurai.

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    1. I love the image of a samurai sword cutting through the crap (sorry but it was the most polite word I could think of)--kashlam!!

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  4. Authenticity is, for me, being true to yourself. I have yet to attain, completely, this exalted status. But I am finally letting my gray hair grow in....do you think that counts? ;-)

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    1. tehehe I most certainly do! But in asking (I know my questions were very vague), I am not so sure that it is an exalted place or one most of us remain in all the time...?

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    2. I do think it is a different place, if not exalted. Because I think too many of us (really, I should only speak for myself) have forgone authenticity to try to fit others' expectations. Just sometimes, at least. And those times were wasted times.

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  5. I understand what you're asking but I don't know what to answer. How's that for a response? It fails miserably, I know. I want to be true to myself and I wish that I had the courage to leave the corporate world and follow my heart. But I'm just too darn scared

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    1. And nobody will judge you for that Loree, not in this economy. And your blog is your heart on the screen--all of it so clearly comes from the heart!!!

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  6. TELL IT AS YOU SEE IT SISTER.................being honest.Being yourself.

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  7. Freud might comment that it is impossible to not be authentic to yourself in that the true person always comes out, one way or another.

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    1. What a fabulous response, Mr. Laoch, right on the nose. *ouch* ;)

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  8. Oh Lordy Heather….this post takes some time to contemplate…lots of fabulous food for thought in there…but authenticity, I think, is the difference between people who inspire one and those who don't.

    Oh, and just for the record (boom, boom) I loved his music…that deep voice...

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    1. I don't know if I agree with you V. I think you can be true and live a perfectly quiet life "under the radar"...But I also know that it is easy for me to just toss these questions out there! :) It is good to think about...I see a whole lot of "being true" in your family unit...what you have created, who you are as a whole...

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  9. These are difficult questions. I think I am authentic but not necessarily true to my entire nature. I think I may be true to a small essential part of my nature; the part that I want to grow, the part I want my whole nature to be, the part I work at to make come true.
    If I were being true, right now, to the greater part of my nature I would probably be a lesser person and a self-indulgent one, and most likely not very nice. Wow, it's complicated :)

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  10. It IS complicated and thank you for your brave response--it solidified something that was dancing around in my brain that I couldn't quite lasso: "I think I am authentic but not necessarily true to my entire nature." When I was younger, much younger and acting I certainly gave priority to "being true" in a really exigent manner that at times made me a bit of a monster...

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  11. Reading your post on "authenticity" makes me recall a passage from Michael Cunningham's novel, "The Hours", in which the eighteen year old, female student/groupie of an unavoidably "Radicalized!", gender-theory-obsessed, aggressively lesbian/feminist professor decides (for some all too obviously under-examined reason) to take her teacher into some snooty-boots NYC department store to buy some ill-defined new stuff. The young girl (who's pretty and perfectly "normal" looking) stands there with her professor (who's the sort you can, for better or worse, immediately categorize from thirty yards away, if you've ever attended a school with a Women's Studies Program) as they're suddenly approached by a perfectly coiffed, immaculately made-up, wasp-waisted, smiling saleswoman in high heels and sparkling jewelry.

    The young saleswoman (is that what we still call them?) makes the Big Mistake of stopping about five feet from them, looking the radical-feminist professor up and down....from crew-cut head to army-booted toe.....and then sweetly asking "May I help you, Ma'am?"

    The ultra-butch, middle-aged professor looks the salesgirl throughly up&down.....and then flatly declares "Help ME?.....Bitch, you can't help yourSELF."


    I hope that literary anecdote (does winning the Pulitzer Prize validate something as "literary"?) doesn't seem hopelessly tangential to your posting.

    As for me? I haven't held a "real" job for 23 years, have never had children whom I've had to guide through life's hoops&mazes.......and there's any number of other reasons that, if I have a problem in this life, it's recalling that, when I venture off this property, I have to put a bridle on this business of being "authentic". In short?...if I have a problem, it's recalling that there are plenty of occasions when I have to forcefully remind myself that one has to be inauthentic at times.

    I'm guess I'm just lucky in that way.

    For instance?....I'm taking the dogs to their very skilled groomers in exactly half an hour. The assistant will cooingly refer to me as their "daddy" and to them as "your babies!". I will smile and nod my head and bite my tongue. The alternative, and genuine, reaction will be to tell her that these are DOGS, And I am a Human, and she is more full of shit than a Christmas goose.

    But?.....I won't say it. So much for authenticity.

    Level Best as Ever,
    David Terry
    www.davidterryart.com

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    1. This isn't exactly the song to post in response but it'll do...

      http://youtu.be/upuHPq6lDwg

      Admiringly as Ever and with my Gratitude for the laugh(s),
      Heather

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  12. What does it mean to progress from the dominant chord to the tonic, I wonder? That sentence snagged my imagination.

    As for the diamond within you, Heather Robinson, I can see across an ocean how true you are. You are strong and good and light-filled. That is something that cannot be faked and can be perceived at any distance. May these words affirm you, as that is my wish.

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    1. Your wish is fulfilled although it brought tears aplenty. I am like that these days and so take in your affirmation with the greatest respect. But I will hold onto your words, a strong rope when needed.

      I am still waiting to hear from my Sister and her companion (a true punk poet if ever there was one) about the music issue... I bet there is something interesting there...

      You are quite someone, my dear friend Suze.

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  13. My true (or authentic) self is the best I can be in this world. Discovering what that is (in all its dimensions), and working toward becoming that, is my core life, and certainly lifelong (or many lives long), challenge. Making that challenge particularly difficult: having been raised in a culture, and at a time, in which women were to adopt the code (and mask) of "nice," and having grown up with a family, and their culture, in which adopting a certain mask (and thereby hiding and never knowing one's true self), and accomplishing all by manipulation, was the goal.

    I have not come to know Lou Reed's music, but given what I am reading about it now, with his death, I will.

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  14. Hello Heather
    I was only lightly familiar with Lou Reed's work but since his death have been researching his life and music. I do feel he was true to his art. This is one area where we can be authentic. (What an interesting face so full of character).
    It is also fascinating that you served him in NYC. You were meant to meet
    Helen xx

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  15. Hello Heather
    Your story of meeting Lou Reed brought back a fond memory of my meeting Bobby Orr.

    I have given you credit for this.

    Many thanks

    Helen xx

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  16. Ack - late to the party!! First - the tonic to the dominant: the dominant is the "resting tone", the key that a song is in (think the last note/chord of a song). And the tonic is the 5th ("sol") - when played, it creates a pull back to 1! I don't know his music well enough to say if it is characteristic, but I did hear cadences in the little bit of the clip you posted! I might defer to David who, I'm sure, has more knowledge about him/his music!

    As for authenticity, I this word doesn't enter my consciousness so much - I am thinking more about changing my "negative" qualities (ego stuff) and to be more compassionate, letting go of anger - Buddhist stuff!! And I think authentic qualities aren't always positive, but better to feel them than to stuff them - feel them, but don't impose them on others or ruminate - let them go. And maybe the authentic self has to do with the pure self that is at our core, before all of the insecurity, depression, and ego-grasping come in; maybe it's a striving to get back to that!
    At any rate, I agree with Suze - your blog post is a representation of authenticity; it reminds us to be mindful and grateful for the beauty that is all around us, but it also shows us what a beautiful soul you have! Hooray!

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  17. Ah, the passing of Lou Reed. I have to say I was really shocked and a bit embarrassed because I thought he had already passed away, long ago! I am VU fan for sure, but I guess the "where is now?" never interested me as much as his music. He was certainly authentic, managing to capture downtown NYC in the 60s through his music. It must have been a wonderful time to be in New York....

    Authentic is as my mom would say: "marching to the beat of your own drum." I love this expression and the visuals it evokes.

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  18. I was living in Arles that summer night he performed, too. No ticket for me either, but I sat in the dark on the stoop of someone's house and just let the music wash over me. I had never heard his music before. I still don't own any of it, but that night was special.

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  19. my father always told me "be, don't try to seem". as a kid, I didn't truly understand what he meant, probably because I was a heart-on-sleeve kind of kid anyway.
    today I think that our society has been lulled into the chase for "indivituality" but people who aren't authentic in the first place end up as decals of a type. how individual are you if you wear the uniform of "unique people"? it's like etsy OOAK pieces that, upon closer examination, are regretsy-worthy pieces of mass-made junk.
    but being authentic is sought after anyway. look at the popular culture, who we admire, the slightly autistic genius: house md to miss salander. being authentic only hurts those who are not; because even if you disagree, you can disagree in style. you can't do that if you're a decal; your skin is thin because you're on the fringe of being recognised as a fake. you defend your position with more fear in your back.
    I hope I could make my point clear in a short comment. and I hope blogspot won't eat it once again :)
    love&light
    n

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  20. my father always told me "be, don't try to seem". as a kid, I didn't truly understand what he meant, probably because I was a heart-on-sleeve kind of kid anyway.
    today I think that our society has been lulled into the chase for "indivituality" but people who aren't authentic in the first place end up as decals of a type. how individual are you if you wear the uniform of "unique people"? it's like etsy OOAK pieces that, upon closer examination, are regretsy-worthy pieces of mass-made junk.
    but being authentic is sought after anyway. look at the popular culture, who we admire, the slightly autistic genius: house md to miss salander. being authentic only hurts those who are not; because even if you disagree, you can disagree in style. you can't do that if you're a decal; your skin is thin because you're on the fringe of being recognised as a fake. you defend your position with more fear in your back.
    I hope I could make my point clear in a short comment. and I hope blogspot won't eat it once again :)
    love&light
    n

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  21. This piece has so moved me that I have printed it off and filed it in my inspirational "words" folder. Since my father died, I've frequently been pondering the fragility of life and the idea of being true to myself - authentic. What would I do if I didn't feel the weight of responsibility for other sit on my shoulders? Have I got the gumption to follow my dreams and bear the consequences? Strangely, while I'm in this state of flux, I find that I can't do the things that I love - writing, photography, gardening and being there for others. My energy is sapped.
    Thank you for your wonderful words - it is always an absolute pleasure to visit your blog. Warm regards.

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