the past is unarguably authentic (kind of)

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Authenticity will be the buzzword of the twenty-first century. And what is authentic? Anything that is not devised and structured to make a profit. Anything that is not controlled by corporations. Anything that exists for its own sake, that assumes its own shape. But of course nothing in the modern world is allowed to assume its own shape. The modern world is the corporate equivalent of a formal garden, where everything is planted and arranged for effect. Where nothing is untouched, where nothing is authentic. 

“Where, then, will people turn for the rare and desirable experience of authenticity? They will turn to the past.

“The past is unarguably authentic. The past is a world that already existed before all the other shapers of the present day shaped today’s world. The past was here before they were. The past rose and fell before their intrusion and molding and selling. The past is real. It’s authentic. And this will make the past unbelievably attractive.

——-

Michael Crichton

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Well.

I am not a past guy and I believe “authentic” is one of those words that is currently being abused in a variety of definition-type ways, but, I would offer a reminder to everyone that if you want something authentic it is actually the past <I will expound on that in a minute>.

Let’s just say that it always surprises me a little when people start bitching about the other people who seem to be yearning for the past. While I am certainly not a past-yearner lets’ see what a past yearner sees:

 

Everything is uncertain in today’s world.

You have no idea who to trust.

There is a struggle to trust anything.

Facts seem to no longer be black & white

Truth now has an alternative version.

Common sense doesn’t seem common.

Opinions look much like facts & facts get confused with opinions.

Simple, or simplification, doesn’t seem that simple anymore.

 

Add in that all of those things are occurring in a world in which we are increasingly encouraging people to think of everything as “all or nothing.”

This all drives a lot of people to find any fucking semi-solid lily pad to stand on that they can find. And what seems solid, seems certain, and seems authentic … is the past.

 

Ok. That said. On to my ‘expounding’ comment.

No. We may not remember the past well or correctly. In fact <research> we typically do not remember it correctly <choosing to remember the things we like & discarding the things we don’t want to remember>. Yet, in our minds, how we do remember it is as certain as anything can be in this world.

And, yeah, aspects of this can be skewed into a generational/age thing if you wanted. In a world of increasing uncertainty the young, who have less to hold on to with ragged claws & look forward to ditching a lot of the existing shit so they can develop their own shit, leave the past behind <sometimes flippantly> .

In a world of increasing uncertainty the old … well … the old hang on with ragged claws to the only thing they know to be true, certain & authentic … the past.

But, suffice it to say, how we view the past goes beyond age <although age can exacerbate the issue>.

I any extreme case, it is important to note, a person might not know he is doing something he shouldn’t do.

There is seeing and … well … seeing. And there is a vast difference between the two.

Frederick Franck in “Zen Seeing/Zen Drawing” argues:

 

“The glaring contrast between seeing and looking-at the world around us is immense; it is fateful. Everything in our society seems to conspire against our inborn human gift of seeing. We have become addicted to merely looking-at things and beings. The more we regress from seeing to looking at the world — through the ever-more-perfected machinery of viewfinders, TV tubes, VCRs, microscopes, spectroscopes — the less we see. The less we see, the more numbed we become to the joy and the pain of being alive, and the further estranged we become from ourselves and all others.

 

Well.

That is a discouraging thought. He is basically suggesting that once we get on the slippery slope of ‘not seeing’ we very quickly enter, and stay, in this miserable abyss of blindness.

He may be right. But I would rather believe he is not. I would prefer to believe seeing, really seeing, is a discriminating decision made by you & not the world around you. I would like to believe if we chose we could see the past with open eyes, open mind, open heart … open to unapologetic attention.

This is about not really looking for something in particular just being ready and receptive to whatever happens around you and in front of you. And by not seeking anything in particular <because that inhibits true seeing> you end up, as someone wrote somewhere ‘… by your own eyes you will see, and there will be a conclusion.’

You don’t see based on your own ideas but rather you see based on … well … what you see.

 

Hey. I am not suggesting this is easy. I am simply suggesting that you can do it if you elect to. If it helps … we partially have evolution to blame on why I can say what I am saying to you:

 

…. evolution’s problem-solving left us modern humans with two kinds of attention: vigilance, which allows us to have a quick and life-saving fight-or-flight response to an immediate threat, be it a leaping lion or a deranged boss, and selective attention, which unconsciously curates the few stimuli to attend to amidst the flurry bombarding us, enabling us to block out everything except what we’re interested in ingesting. (Selective attention, of course, can mutate to dangerous degrees, producing such cultural atrocities as the filter bubble.)

 

Ah. The ‘filter bubble.’

 

the filter bubble — by definition, it’s populated by the things that most compel you to click. But it’s also a real problem: the set of things we’re likely to click on (sex, gossip, things that are highly personally relevant) isn’t the same as the set of things we need to know. – Eli Pariser

 

Evolution and Life experience has created this filter bubble for each of us. And, by the way, each of our filter bubbles are different <because our Life experiences have been different in creating it>.

This filter bubble idea also suggests that you can manage, if not actually change your filter bubble.

Yup. You can change the way you see things.

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“To learn to see- to accustom the eye to calmness, to patience, and to allow things to come up to it; to defer judgment, and to acquire the habit of approaching and grasping an individual case from all sides. This is the first preparatory schooling of intellectuality. One must not respond immediately to a stimulus; one must acquire a command of the obstructing and isolating instincts.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

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I love that one thought … ‘allow things to come to it.’ Allow what you see to come to your eye … and ultimately your mind. Seeing is in the mind … not in the eyes. Mentally we need to stop focusing on a specific destination but rather watch during the journey.

All that said.

While the past may be authentic it may not be truthful <or a reflection of truth>. There are certainly some problems with the past ‘truth.’  We are really sure about how we remember the past “… to some extent he is saying all the correct things. But he is not correct.”

 

And maybe that is the most important is lesson that lies within.

We say all the correct things … but aren’t really correct. Context and perspective is needed to share “real & absolute truth” and Truth, with regard to the past, is the sum of accurate information … not just some of the accurate information.

 

Now.

More research.

Just to make everyone feel better … beyond evolution … there is a real reason we do this. It is called ‘adaptive ignorance.’ This is no excuse … and this ‘adaptive ignorance’ gets driven by an out of whack barometer of what is important <kind of> to us crazy people … but at least there is a psychological reason:

 

This adaptive ignorance is there for a reason — we celebrate it as “concentration” and welcome its way of easing our cognitive overload by allowing us to conserve our precious mental resources only for the stimuli of immediate and vital importance, and to dismiss or entirely miss all else.

Attention is an intentional, unapologetic discriminator. It asks what is relevant right now, and gears us up to notice only that. But while this might make us more efficient in our goal-oriented day-to-day, it also makes us inhabit a largely unlived — and unremembered — life, day in and day out.

 

Not only does Life make ‘seeing’ difficult … our minds do. Our minds adapt more and more <which ultimately constrains seeing> because of a couple of things:

 

  • productivity <just getting shit done or out of the way or solved>
  • the ways we learn to see the world

 

All this adaptation <or I imagine we can call it ‘coping’> creates something researchers call ‘search images.’ These are things all of us employ when we need to narrow our attention in a goal-oriented task. Unfortunately … this is only helpful or even possible if we know what to look for.

And that, my friends, is ultimately the point about seeing … and really seeing.

 

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“… more is missed by not looking than not knowing.”

Thomas McCrae

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We don’t see because we don’t “look.” What a shame. Because by not looking … really looking … we miss seeing some really valuable things … like … what is authentic.

We all need truth goggles. Because we all want to hear what we all want to hear & see what we want to see & remember what we want to remember.

But all truth, even “the past,” takes a discerning mind.

Because … what happens when the past says all the correct things but is not correct? <you have a misguided view of what is true>

Truth takes work.

And that which appears authentic is often not what it appears to be. Just think about this whenever someone seems to be longing for the past. They are partially correct and partially not correct.

 

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Written by Bruce