- What does one person give to another? He gives of himself, the most precious he has. . . . he gives him of that which is alive in him; he gives him of his joy, of his interest, of his understanding, of his knowledge, of his humor, of his sadness — of all expressions and manifestations of that which is alive in him. In thus giving of his life, he enriches the other person, he enhances the other’s sense of aliveness by enhancing his own sense of aliveness. He does not give in order to receive; giving is in itself exquisite joy. But in giving he cannot help bringing something to life in the other person, and this which is brought to life reflects back to him . . . [Erich Fromm]
- To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man. [William Shakespeare, “Hamlet,” Act I, Scene 3: Lord Polonius to his son Laertes.]
- Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love. [Rumi]
There is, of course, a difference between authenticity and stubbornness but in the long haul, no one can express herself fully or make his full contribution to the world except by being authentic. Each of us thinks we see a variety of truths. We may be right or wrong but unless we live according to our vision, we will never know. If we try to act in a way that does not seem right to us, we are not likely to be effective. We may make mistakes but through those mistakes, we can learn.
The same process drives science forward. As theories are tested and their flaws identified, the store of knowledge grows.
Creative people do not necessarily live peaceful or contended lives. Here are some stories of people who walked energetically, if often tumultuously, along their own path.
- Patti Smith, Just Kids (Ecco, 2010), about how the rock star Patti Smith and her love Robert Mapplethorpe set their independent paths, together.
Other narratives on authenticity:
- Jill Soloway, She Wants It: Desire, Power, and Toppling the Patriarchy (Crown Archetype, 2018): “ . . . it’s Soloway’s deeply considered and honestly depicted quest for an authentic self that gives this memoir its depth.”
- Roxane Gay, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body (Harper/HarperCollins Publishers, 2017): “At its simplest, it’s a memoir about being fat — Gay’s preferred term — in a hostile, fat-phobic world. At its most symphonic, it’s an intellectually rigorous and deeply moving exploration of the ways in which trauma, stories, desire, language and metaphor shape our experiences and construct our reality.”
- Brian Broome, Punch Me Up to the Gods: A Memoir (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021): “. . . a coming-of-age story that explores Black manhood and queerness in the Rust Belt”.
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Joaquin Rodrigo, Concierto de Aranjuez:
Tchaikovsky’s songs are authentically Russian:
- 6 Romances, Op. 6 (1869)
- 6 Romances, Op. 16 (1872)
- 6 Romances, Op. 25 (1874)
- 6 Romances, Op. 27 (1975)
- 6 Romances, Op. 28 (1975)
- 6 Romances, Op. 38 (1878)
- 7 Romances, Op. 47 (1880)
- 6 Romances, Op. 57 (1884)
- 12 Romances, Op. 60 (1886)
- 6 Romances after K. Romanov, Op. 63 (1887)
- 6 French Songs, Op. 65 (1886)
- 6 Romances after D. Rathaus, Op. 73 (1893)
- Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano (1951)
- Sonata for Viola and Piano (1936-37)
- Sonata No. 2 for Cello and Piano (1980)
Artists and some of their albums:
- Gato Barbieri, “Priceless Jazz Collection” and “El Pampero” albums: Barbieri play-growls in his own voice.
- Ran Blake, “Painted Rhythms” albums, Volume 1 and Volume 2
- Betty Carter: “I Can’t Help It”; “The Betty Carter Album”; “Finally”; “Feed the Fire”; “Look What I Got!”; “The Audience with Betty Carter”
- Clarence Gatemouth Brown, “Pressure Cooker” (1986) “capture(s) a snapshot of an artist’s sonic picture without the bells and whistles. Genuine, authentic music from a master musician!” [Downbeat magazine, September 2021, p. 39.]
- Dee Dee Bridgewater, “Afro Blue”, “Memphis . . . Yes, I’m Ready”, “Dee Dee’s Feathers” and “Dee Dee Bridgewater”
- Teunis van der Zwart and Alexander Melnikov, “Horn & Piano: A Cor Basse Recital”: the artists play period instruments, a natural horn and a fortepiano, displaying them with fidelity to the composers’ intentions.
- Zela Margossian Quintet, “The Road”: “. . . she produces a highly original and authentic approach, drawing on two cultures that are close to her.” [Jazzwise magazine, April 2022, p. 48.]
- On “Straight Ahead”, jazz singer Abbey Lincoln sang more to express herself, and less as chanteuse.
- Foulds, String Quartet No. 9, "Quartetto Intimo," Op. 89: most likely, the title refers not to intimacy but to the composer being himself musically, going deep within himself.
- Myaskovsky, Eccentricities, Op. 25
- Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex: A Novel (Picador, 2002): born a female, Calliope undergoes a sex-change operation and becomes Cal at age fourteen, after discovering a genetic abnormality that resulted in his sexual ambiguity.
- Gregor von Rezzori, An Ermine in Czernopol (New York Review Books, 2012): “Laughter in Czernopol had been elevated to an art form, a folk art of unparalleled authenticity . . .”
- Jeanette Winterson, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (Bloomsbury, 1991): reflecting the author’s strict Pentecostal upbringing, the novel tells of a young woman who finds and pursues her own path.
- Jeanette Winterson, The Passion (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1988), a lesbian author’s musings about a lesbian woman’s search for self in Napoleon’s time.
- Sheila Heti, Pure Color: A Novel (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2022): “. . . holds within it a taste of something that defies classification. As Heti writes: ‘There is something exciting about a first draft — anarchic, scrappy, full of life, flawed. A first draft has something that a second one has not.’ That something doesn’t always survive into the final product, but it is the artist’s purest self, unadulterated.”
- Jane Pek, The Verifiers: A Novel (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2022): “Are we surrendering to algorithms that know us better than we know ourselves? Are we trading our freedom of choice, thought, even desire, for convenience and fantasy? Are we becoming unable to tell, or even care, what’s real?”
- Jennifer Egan, The Candy House: A Novel (Scribner, 2022), “takes its title from a repeated metaphor for temptation: the lures of amusement and nostalgia that Hansel-and-Gretel us into a spun-sugar edifice upon which we are invited to gorge and in which we — our desires, our memories — are also on the menu.”
Film and Stage
- A Room With a View, about a young woman who overcomes Victorian constraints and learns to live passionately, and the young man who brings her out of her shell
- Taking a completely approach to the same theme, A Letter to Three Wives teases out an answer to the question “whose husband leaves her”: the gold-digger who is love but guarded, the woman who has compromised her intelligence to write for commercial radio or the perpetually insecure girl off the farm?
- I Know Where I’m Going explores the same theme as in “A Room With a View” from a different angle
- Big Night, about restaurateurs who try to do it the right way
- Holiday: a man chooses love over money
- & Mrs. Bridge, about a woman who allows herself to be buried under her husband’s thumb
- The Awful Truth, a screwball about a married couple, neither of whom is very good at fooling themselves, or each other
From the dark side: