Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Getting Real

An entry in response to Nicki Elson's "Faking it" article.

Well, one could say that faking it is all well and good, right? It gets you started, and then doors start opening up, and then you come to realizations ('realization,' root word: 'real') that you wouldn't have, otherwise.

Good, no?


But perhaps not. We see the 'perhaps' side of the equation from Nicki, and the comments in response to her post, so here I will tackle the 'perhaps not' side.

Faking it, bluntly, sucks.

We done here?

Obviously not, because this world is now populated by fakers and phonies, and that's not news anymore, folks (and please crawl out from under your rock if it is news to you), that's the way it is.

That's the appalling thing: people fake it and are totally fine with it, seeing nothing wrong with it, in fact, because everybody does it, and how else do you get ahead, anyway?

Yes. Yes to all of that: everybody does it, and that's how you get ahead.

Or that is a way to get ahead, but it's not the only way.

Let's get real here for a second.

My dear wife had our girls do a free-write exercise: describe today.

Today is Ash Wednesday, by the way.

Remember thou are dust, and to dust thou shalt return.

You can't get any more real than that, by the way ... more on that later. What 'that'? Reality.

What did my girls write:

Li'l Iz: "What do I write? Mama, what do I write about this? I just don't know."

EM: "Today is Ash Wednesday in which we fast and abstain, abstinence is not eating meat, and fasting for lent is one meal and two small meals not as much as the main meal."

Factual? Yes. Real? No.

Because this is what they were actually thinking, when pressed: hungry, hungry, hungry!

Why didn't they write that?

Because, they were faking it.

Here's what happens when you fake it. You disassociate yourself from what you know, or (more accurately) what you think you know.


But ... what if they just wrote, 'hungry, hungry, hungry!'

That would have started a conversation, wouldn't it have? And that conversation would have been about what they really cared about, and the words would have been more impactful for them.

Instead we spend time complimenting, coaxing, prodding and digging so that we could get to some sliver of truth under the facts that meant nothing to nobody. Who cares? And why would they?

You fake it because you're saying what you think somebody else would like to hear. Why? Because you want to look good in their eyes, and you do not want to look bad.

Why has my writing earned me three marriage proposals (until they found out I wasn't a girl), have saved at least three people's lives and has a devoted following.

Just like yours, right? You have your fans. You've gotten marriage proposals. You've saved lives.

In short: you wrote to share your heart with somebody else. You wrote to make someone's life better, or at least a bit more bearable, right? Even if that writing is an escape to a fantasy land.

Let's look at that caveat. That 'even.'

It's not an escape to a fantasy land where no rules apply: that is, utterly fake. It's a reality. As a write, you are creating a reality and populating it with characters your readers care about.

And if they don't care, if they don't escape into your 'fantasy land' (the reality you create), then you hear about it, and how.

"How fake! How dull! How boring!" "This author is so out of touch with her feelings, and she wants me to read this why?"

But you put your heart on the line, you risk it all, you cry and cry and cry as you write, you hear about that, too.

I do, anyway.

And it's not by faking it, by playing God with the characters, pushing them this way and that, popping up a deus ex machina James from out of nowhere to advance the plot, because that's all that matters, the plot.

Let me ask you something: what's the plot of your life? Is it all-important? Or is it that what really matters is the people (the 'characters') in your life and how you treat them and how they treat you?

People fake their friendships with you and stab you in the back with their other fair-weather friends and you're okay with that?

Or, write me a document on category theory. Fake it.

Oh, by the why, category theory is at the fundament of understanding of quantum physics. So you fake your way through a cat-theory paper, boom,  Three Mile Island or Chernobyl.

You don't want people to fake an answer to you for ... well, anything, actually.

And ... not faking it is very liberating.

You know how freeing it is to say 'I don't know' when I don't know?

I didn't.

Until somebody came up to me, after asking me where such-and-so was. I said: "I don't know."

Sometime after the person came to me: "You know, I really appreciate that when you don't know something, you just say that. Everybody else I talk to says, 'Well, I think,' or 'I guess' and I waste more time going down blind alleys that they sent me than if they just told me that they didn't know."

"Oh," I said.

Why don't you just say, 'I don't know.'

I do know the answer to that: because you're scared. You're afraid of looking bad.

I know I feel that way, every time I say, 'I don't know,' I have the fear that the person will think less of me.

But that's up to them.

And it's up to you, to cop out and to fake it until you make it, so you can be in like Flynn ...

(You do know what that means, right? Pædophiles do.)

... or to get real, and 'fess up.

That does take courage. And that does take a willingness to look bad.

But then, nothing ventured, nothing gained.



You can hold on to what you've got, your fake little world, that you've build up from supposition to guess to ... okay, outright lie...

Or you can let that all go, and just breathe in for once in your life, and not be afraid that somebody's looking over your shoulder to catch you in your lie this time.

The lie... and reality.

Okay, so, time for me to get off my high horse, and for me to 'fess up to a lie I've been telling all this time.

But everybody buys this lie, they buy it so badly that it's called 'reality' now, but before it was called 'Transcendentalism' then 'Phenomonology' then it was called 'Existentialism' and now we just call it 'reality.'

This is not reality.

Everything you see, everything you know, it's not reality. It's all lies.

How do you know the lie from reality? You don't know, in fact, from Wittgenstein on, it's determined that you can't know.

Your reality is what you see?

No. It's your perception that 'reality is what you "see."'

Because animals see, but they don't have this whole conversation about it. They don't cry three weeks, three months, three years after their husband left them for another woman.

We 'see' by declaration, and when we declare we create a distinction. We now have this and that, whereas before it wasn't all just 'this,' because before you were part of the thisness of this. Before everything was nothing.

But as soon as you had language, you declared, then distinguished, and everything-nothing became this reality and the thisness of this reality is that it is distinct from that.

You see table and chair, floor and ground, ceiling, window and sky, and seeing these distinctions, they become real for you.

And as soon as you define your (own) reality. You start to lie. You build the walls to protect yourself, because you are so, so tiny and this world is so, so big, and the only way you can survive is if you can control your reality (that you created, by the way) somehow, even if 'control' means you becoming small, and your abuser becoming bigger, or even if 'control' means you have to take charge of the issue, because nobody else will. You know. You see it every time.

So you pad your resume, or you write an article that you have no idea what to say.

How about starting the article off like this: "I have no idea what to say here!"

Just get the lie off your chest, call up your friend, scream and cry.

Then get to the heart of the matter.

They asked you to write an article because they saw in you what you don't see in you. They saw a person who could talk to this issue because they saw you help that author over that hurdle or they saw you publish book after book after book and they want to know what you have.

And you so don't have it. Because you so know it.

So, instead of getting real with it, you lie and fake it. "To be a successful author like me you have to ..."

And you list the three good-sounding advices you've read before that sound good, and everybody nods their heads and says things like 'how wise!' 'how sage!' 'now here's somebody who knows what she's talking about it!'

And the praise sure feels good, doesn't it?

But ... what happened? You had a chance to dig down and get really real with people who wanted to know, who are hungry, whose books aren't getting published, and yours are, and they are dying and you tell them this and that.

When you knew, deep down in your heart, that you should have said. "Look, Jill, you MS? It sucks! It sucks! It's not getting published because nobody cares, and nobody cares because you took zero risks. Throw the damn thing out. Burn the thing, get out a fresh piece of paper and write about something you really, really care about."

"But my life is so plain and boring, I don't know what I care about!"

"Yes, you do."

And you grab her MS, throw it in the fire, and she screams and cries, because that was her only copy after her hard drive crashed.

Boy, she cares about something.

"Now take a piece of paper and write about how much you hate me!"

And she writes and writes and writes and cries and screams, and you read it, and it ... hurts. It hurts like nothing you've felt before.

"That, Jill. That right there. You write that, and people will care. Drop the long descriptions of the golden orb setting over the saragossa seas and write about a girl so angry she does what this page says."

One example. But we all care about something, we are all living and dying and we all fake it and dull our senses and say 'everything's okay' or 'my life is so boring' when, in fact, the 'boring' is not doing what we know we could be doing instead of playing the sims or showing up at our same humdrum web-content-management jobs day-after-day-after-year doing the same old thing that a seven year old could do, and actually do better.

And we get real with that. That we don't know (we actually do, if something affects us, we know the effect, and, if we got real, we would know the cause), or we don't care, because we don't have to 'bother' to care anymore.

You don't bother with what some meanie says?

You know what you just told that meanie? They are a 'bother.' And you're not listening to what they said because what they say doesn't matter.

How many times a day do you tune out the meaningless prattle of nobodies in our lives, like our husbands, our children, our parents, our friends, our coworkers?

You know you just labeled a person? Yes, you do. And, oh, by the way, they saw you tune them out, and they know that you just labeled them.

I and Thou. Ich und du.

What does this all have to do with faking it?

Everything. The further you get from reality, the more you treat others, including yourself, as Other or as things.

The closer you get to reality, the ultimate reality, the more you see other as thou and the more you see other as thou the more you see you(rself) in thou.

And when I and thou are talking, heart to heart. You are talking, and I am listening to you, and I am speaking from my heart, and you hear me.

Then the closer we are to reality, and to each other, ...

And then I can say "I love you" and it hits you like a hammer-blow, because you see you in me and you are heard by me, loved by me, and that is the first time in your life that has ever happened.

This is how you get ahead in this world: pad your resume, look good, be professional, which is to detach, disengage and look at the situation (other people in your life) with dispassion.

That's faking it 'til you're making it.

You can write marriage counsel manuals: "How to mediate a no-fault separation and divorce" and get star reviews on the good advice you give.

But did you make the world a better place? Did you give somebody else life, hope and love, or did you give step-by-step advice on how to treat the big bad world of (whatever, who cares? publishing, writing, editing, writing software, running a company or a country, doesn't matter) so you can come out a 'winner,' which is measured on how many people's head you step on and by how many skeletons are in your closet.

And no, not by murder, but, yes, by the murder of, "Look, Bill, I don't have time [for you] right now [or, ever, actually], we'll do lunch sometime to talk about your [not getting a] raise, okay?"

When it was you who hired Bill, because you saw something in him, and now you've crushed it in your upward slide to success.

What is stopping Bill? Bill is. Why? Why do you care? Oh, you want to work in an environment of dead employees you've killed?

Why do you care?

Fakers don't care about others. By definition. Fakers care about themselves and about how they look.

Keep faking it. It looks good on you.

Or, turn it around. Right now.

"You know, Bill, I really don't know what to do here. What do you say?"

What happened: you said "I don't know" and "I acknowledge you."

The one-two punch.

Then, back that up. Stay, and listen, and say:

"Bill, okay, but that's not good for the company right now, we'll go this other way."

Be freaking honest!

Or "Bill, never tried that. Let's give it a go."

Be freaking daring! You exist (your company exists) because you've done something new and different, Bill is saying something different than what the fakers are saying. Fakers always go with the flow. So Bill's crazy idea just might work. It just may crash, too.

But while you're trying something different, you are freaking alive as you're doing it, and not commentating from the sidelines, your words having no direct impact on what's happening.

And Bill is alive, again, for the first time in his life, again, and he remembers why he went to work for you, because you were on fire, weren't you, when you started out, and he wanted to follow silly-crazy you because everybody else out there was dead-dead-dead-fakers!

Fakers look really good and give great advice.

Realers are crazy fools and you have no idea what they'll say next, but at least it's a wild ride, and at least you know you're getting their heart.

Fakers. Homework assignment. Start your next whatever with 'I don't know.'

And then find out what you actually do know, and do care about, and find out why.

Then share that.

I love you.