Saturday, January 28, 2023

On The Occasion Of Our [Almost] Sweet 16 . . .

This blog/website will be 16 years old later this year. It will indeed be a Sweet Sixteen and we're already planning for a celebration that's tout glacé

This whole thing started on a dare from Aimee Cirucci (now Aimee Lorge) who told us we could set up a blog in ten minutes. We barely knew what a blog was. But we went to a place called Blogger (the best known of very few such platforms at that time) and, after a few easy steps we were up and running. In the beginning we were just this side of rudimentary. But over time became more sophisticated, more technologically advanced and more up to date. We did this, and we continue to do it, to compete as best we can. Still, the basic structure and purpose of this site haas not changed. Though we've added much more video and become more of an aggregator of items culled from many sources, we've retained our distinctive look and view of the world filtered through our own gimlet eye. We plan to keep it that way as long as you keep following us.

Anyway, our first post on this site in November, 2007 was all about authenticity. The people and events we mentioned at that time were very much of the era and are now somewhat dated. But the point of the whole essay remains: authenticity is a rare commodity and our nation still thirsts for it just as it did then. Here's what we said:

Ed Rendell seems to have it, but Jon Corzine probably wouldn't recognize it if he tripped over it.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has it. Justice Anthony Kennedy doesn't. Thomas Eakins had it. Thomas Kinkade doesn't. Barbra Streisand had it a long time ago, then lost it. Martha Stewart lost it, but got it back again.
Though it's a hot commodity, Charles Schwab can't sell it, and Donald Trump can't buy it.
I'm talking about authenticity. And right now it's the one thing we seem to crave more than anything else.
Without our quest for authenticy, Ralph Lauren would never have prospered and plastic slipcovers would never, mercifully, have died. Our thirst for all things authentic gave birth to shabby chic, recycled paper products, the rise of Northern Liberties and the demise of Styrofoam.
It's also why expensive new items of clothing or furniture have been distressed, weathered, stone-washed, frayed and even torn so that they'd look like they've been used or worn for years. Authenticity is the father of retro. It's what inspires automakers to design cars like the PT Cruiser and the Scion and the Chevy HHR.
Our nation yearns for the faded colors of Old Glory, the familiarity of a real neighborhood, the intimacy of a corner bar, the security of an old armchair and the taste of almost anything that's in season and fresh cooked.
The philosopher Kierkegaard said: "No authentic human life is possible without irony." In recent times, what then is more ironic than the emergence of Ronald Reagan as an authentic American hero? Reagan was a movie star, steeped in the artificiality of Hollywood. But he understood and wisely embraced the yearnings of small-town America.
He not only knew how to tap into something deep within our collective soul but he also trusted us with that soul. At the same time, he always remained true to his core beliefs. And over the long haul, this combination of confidence and constancy proved comforting. It won our affection and, more important, our trust.
Being authentic is hard work.
It takes discipline. Authentic leaders know who they are. They are comfortable in their own skin. Their own quiet, practiced belief in themselves is what moves them to inspire others.
And they do that by first spending lots of time really listening to the people they hope to inspire. In a world full of cowards, genuine leaders are called on to chart new paths, take risks and even show a bit of old-fashioned courage now and then.
AUTHENTIC leaders are imperfect. They're distinctive, quirky and even eccentric.
And because they aren't afraid to trust their instincts, they can surprise us as well. There's little doubt that Churchill was authentic. So, too, was Harry Truman.
But what about those who aspire to lead us today? Is Mitt Romney really too good to be true? Will Barack Obama be able to find his own voice and summon the maturity to lead?
Is John McCain truly unique or just plain cranky? When Rudy Giuliani accepts a phone call from his wife in the middle of a speech, is that real - or simply rude? And in the end, is there anything at all about Hillary Clinton that's genuine?
Right now, we don't know the answers to these questions.
We only know that we yearn for authenticity.
But always, we must be careful what we wish for. And we must pay close attention to all that we see and hear and experience while the spinmeisters and image-makers toil away.
For while we continue to crave authenticity, some of us suspect that George Orwell may have been right nearly 60 years ago when he said: "We have a hunger for something like authenticity, but are easily satisfied by an ersatz facsimile." 

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