Mindfulness, Authenticity, and Other Human Activities

Years ago I read an opinion which stuck with me, as opinions sometimes do…

this wasn’t one of those opinions which stick with you because they strike a nerve, it didn’t hurt or cause pain, it didn’t trigger an old wound, it didn’t make me sad or angry (emotions which often accompany a personal issue which has been stirred, poked, provoked, and which help to keep something alive in our minds, making it hard to forget), I wasn’t offended by it nor felt the urge to fight the good fight against it to prove it wrong…

it was interesting, it gave me a new perspective…

those who give me a new angle from which to view something, and the moment in which it happened, are rarely forgotten even if the details get a bit blurred by the passing of time and all the things which occurred since then (sometimes because of then)…

when a personal wall gets a hole knocked in it, and through the recently created ruins I see a world I didn’t know was there…

when a hole which I think I’m in is shown to be a ledge on a mountain, and instead of digging down I was actually climbing up (or vice versa)…

or when a something I thought was real is shown to be fake, or something invisible is suddenly made visible, or….

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It is not always predictable which opinions will stick with you beyond the moment as it’s not always the opinions which make the biggest impact in the moment that do that…

I’ve forgotten some of the biggest events in my life…

and only know that I have because occasionally I am reminded of them and the surprise of that reminder ripples through me awakening the knowledge of an event which happened, I know they happened but I just don’t remember them other than through knowing they happened because I wouldn’t be where or who I am now if they hadn’t…

while I can still recall some of the smallest…

like that time a friend of my father’s whom I had only met a couple of times gave me a note out of the blue without an obvious ulterior motive which encouraged me to be myself as I was…

I carried that note with me for a long while, it was a tiny light shining during a very dark time, and even though the note has long since turned back into atoms, I still carry it with me – I’ll never forget it and my father’s friend.

In some ways that note was (if I use the language which is trending at this time) saying – be mindful of your authenticity, keep being your natural self, and stick with it even when the world is telling you to trash it.

That in theory should be an easy thing for a person to do… but it often is one of the hardest challenges a person has in life (at least in the philosophical, psychological, side of life).

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Mindfulness and authenticity are the trending hot topics and ideal ideas of the moment…

you can see it in more than just the talk of people, but also in what they are doing, particularly what is ‘IN’ in design – such as the rise in using reclaimed wood (and other items which until recently we would have trashed because they were old and not new and improved) in home decor…

the other day I went to a local secondhand furniture store and their display area is now full of old refurbished crates and palette furniture, when I asked about it the owner said what would have once been considered ‘trash’ is now considered ‘trendy’ and has a value which is rising… this trend hasn’t quite made it to the local recycling centre where people are still throwing away things which may one day be considered fashionably valuable artifacts worthy of being (expensive) home decor eye candy and status symbols of the latest human identity that is spreading in popularity…

and the fact that you can now buy ‘fake’ reclaimed wood products (especially laminate flooring made to look like it is made from random pieces of reclaimed wood) for that reclaimed wood look (without the realness of it, or the effort involved in refurbishing it, and at extra cost because all trendy things are expensive it seems… to cash in on a fad before it fades)…

it appears all humans are seeking to surround themselves in the real in hopes that being surrounded by it will make them feel more real… and maybe then they’ll be able to relax and actually be real…

but what is being real… how do we recognise it, know it… and isn’t being ‘fake’ also a part of reality?

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This post is actually inspired by two things (probably more than two but… things have a way of coalescing)

1 – I watched Anomalisa by Charlie Kaufman (the genius behind the films referenced in this post), which is a fascinating film, and not just because all the ‘actors’ are puppets. And not just because it inadvertently offers a glimpse into the psyche of a narcissist – the main character and his search for someone who didn’t look and sound like everyone else, someone who would make him feel alive and real, his desperate desire to own the one person who was different, his fears of losing them, and what happened… which I can’t reveal due to not wanting to ‘spoiler’ it for those who haven’t seen it.

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2 – yesterday a leylandii hedge was cut down in my garden… most of the leylandii in that hedge were dead already as they’d been chopped before until there was no reason left for them to stay alive, but they were left there anyway for some reason which probably made sense at the time. Leylandii used to be a very trendy and popular plant, sold on its merits as a fast growing privacy barrier between properties, neighbours. and to shield your home from the road, but now it is considered the scourge of gardens, and has become the cause of a few fights between neighbours (I know this because some of these fights have made it into the news) – those who want it cut down and those who don’t. Those who want to cut it down see themselves as being on the side of the right because what is right now is that leylandii are bad, useless, and should be trashed (’twasn’t always thus… as with many things).

After the professional who was hired to do the work had finished, I asked him about another conifer in my garden which has suddenly begun to turn brown rather rapidly – because of the way it looked he suspected that it had a fungal infection which is viewed as a cause to panic for those who want gardens to look natural but who don’t really like some of what comes with nature being natural. The very mention of this particular fungus causes fear and scorched earth replies to the problem…

While researching information and options online, I came across an article by a respected gardener who went against the popular view of this fungus and how to treat it when you have it in your garden…

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excerpt via The Guardian’s garden section

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what struck me the most poignantly about the information on this fungus was… that one of the signs (and symptoms) that a plant is infected by it is that it will bear fruit, flower and grow more vigorously just before it dies – and thus what would be viewed by the eye as a sign of intense health and healthiness is actually a sign of the opposite.

The affected tree is right next to a holly bush which suddenly went brown (and thus must also be affected by the fungus)… my neighbour mentioned while we were discussing the suddenly brown holly bush that this past winter he noticed how lush and beautiful it was, how many berries it had (I didn’t notice because it’s hidden away round a corner where my garden curves around my neighbour’s)…

this last ditch display of intense natural beauty and ability before death…

like the sudden appreciation of the wonder of life of those who have been notified that they are about to die, or the sudden euphoric carpe diem of someone who has decided to kill themselves, or the deep intense love of being alive of those who have just been brought back to life after a brush with death…

And somewhere in my mind the story of Anomalisa and this fungus in my garden, and the trendiness of mindfulness and authenticity and all the human activities connected with being mindful and authentic… our renewed appreciation for what is natural, organic (and what is engineered to seem natural, organic, but isn’t… yet still is in some ways) came together…

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this quote reminded me of a storyline from a rather bizarre Ukrainian TV series I’ve been watching – The Sniffer – which one viewer reviewed as being too preposterous which made the whole show ‘bad’ for them… I guess for that reviewing viewer life is still something they expect to make sense (or at least they expect it to make sense in fictional versions of it).

There’s an intriguing thing which happens when you watch a show in a language you don’t understand… when you rely on subtitles and those subtitles are literal in their translation, it can make your own language and how it is used seem foreign, become surreal, suddenly all those words, turn of phrase, platitudes, etc, which you didn’t think twice about because they are familiar, normal, used all the time thus making us not mindful about their meaning, what is being said, become something which require thought applied to them…

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And somewhere in this thing which we humans call consciousness, mind, thought, and such…

I was reminded of an opinion which stuck with me many years ago…

I hadn’t forgotten it…

it’s always there in the back of my mind…

an object collected, put on a shelf, seen and unseen…

I just hadn’t realised that it had other applications to the one it had originally seemed to be tied to…

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as Charlie Kaufman has pointed out – talking isn’t necessarily communicating – but who decided that talking was about communicating…

What have you questioned or been made to question recently?

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