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Can you have Authenticity without Substance?

July 12, 2008

Last week I had great expectations of attending the Substance Summit in Portland.  This was billed as “The first in a series of conversations with the Portland creative community to help each other understand how we can be more inclusive, collaborative and effective.”  I’m all about creative conversations, so I signed up and was looking forward to the conversation!

Sometimes, getting out of the house on time is an issue though.  I told my family that I was planning to leave at Noon, but had to leave by one PM.  I left at 4:00 o’clock and arrived at the Summit as it was disbanding.  I was able to talk with my friend @brampitoyo, who created the Link En Fuego blog.  Bram is a very bright and creative young man and our conversations always have substance.

In fact, he’s the one who got me thinking along the whole authenticity track last week.  But after talking about the blog post I wrote on authenticity, we moved to the “substance” meme.

I mentioned in my last post that I “experienced more authenticity in that two hours [of Portland Werewolf] than I have in a decade of church attendance.”  There are some who think I shouldn’t make statements like that.  However, in order for me to be authentic, I have to recognize the elephant in the middle of the room.  To ignore it, would be, to me, an unforgivable issue.

I know that people who don’t go to church already see the elephant.  I know that many who do belong to a faith community, don’t.  To admit there’s a problem, that begins to take us onto the road of healing.

Newton said, That for every “action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  Now he was most likely talking about rotten apples falling on his head while he tried to escape the cacophony of mathematical equations in his head; or his wife.  He probably never realized that his statement, this theorem if you will, could be applied to parenting, psychology, addiction, spirituality, etc.

The opposite reaction to the the equation is this.  Though authenticity is lacking in church communities, substance is not.  Sometimes there is so much substance you can feel it.  I didn’t get a lot of substance while at the Lucky Lab last week, but I certainly will this weekend.

Yesterday I met with a 22 year old who is addicted to Dextromethorphan.  He is unemployed, uneducated, and has been arrested for a felony committed to support his “dex” addiction.  Why does one use a drug, to escape the reality of life?

Well, I can’t answer that here, but I do know, after spending some time with this young man yesterday, that he is looking for a God that is more real and relevant than what people preach at him.  He is looking for authenticity and he is looking for substance.

Where do you find authenticity?  Where do you find substance?  What is relevant in your life?  What is real?  I would love to hear your thoughts – I’m just a Dad on a Journey – and your opinion matters to me.  I’m thinking if just 10% of the 70 or so readers of this blog would respond, we would have a pretty good summary of Life101.

So, please, let us hear from you.  How do you define substance, authenticity, and relevancy?  How does this play out in your life?  What is your definition of these – either academically, or practically?

“Do not covet your ideas. Give away everything you know, and more will come back to you.”

Paul Arden (thanks to @swestbrook for the quote)

  1. July 12, 2008 1:58 pm

    Oh my. These are great questions Gary.

    I’m going to keep thinking and following the comments of others. I do want to offer a few of my initial thoughts.

    One thought I have, is that the “elephant in the room”, is that authenticity begins with us. We can certainly try to blame a church, a preacher, the person sitting next to us on a bus or in a pew, but it seems like it comes down to our own intentionality around relationships, with others or with God. We can engage others, listen to others, participate with others, worship with others authentically or not.

    If we don’t truly seek authenticity in others, by actually caring about them, how can we expect it of others towards us?

    What would happen if instead of seeking authenticity to share our stories, we sought it to be able to hear the stories of others?

    Again, it seems to me that it is about entering relationship with intentionality.


  2. July 13, 2008 5:58 am

    Thanks for the affirmation Rob.

    Also, you’ve opened my eyes to a couple of things. I was discussing this post with a friend via SMS/txt yesterday, and we were on the same track – “it begins with us.” I totally agree that if we’re blaming others, we’re missing the point and not taking personal responsibility. Your comment below, about seeking it in others – that is powerful. I’d never thought of that before.

    I’ve often thought that our blabbering can be somewhat narcissistic, if were not careful, but taking the time, and the energy, to actually listen to others. Now that is powerful.

    Now in my mind, some of what you talk about though is transparency, a very close cousin, if not sibling, to authenticity. To use a metaphor, I want the $20 bill in my wallet to be authentic. I can hold it up to the light to see the security stripe, etc. However, transparency, would be that when it says it’s worth $20, it truly is.

    I want the same in people, I want them to be who they say they are – and I can only know that when they are authentic and transparent. But what I got from you is this, “It needs to start with me and it means I have to pay attention to others.”


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