In our world today, it seems that authenticity wanes, but the desire for it now is held at a premium… but what is authentic? How do we know it? How do we value it?
When we look back, many grew up in a world defined by the television schedule consisting of three channels, radio stations with limited choices, a newspaper and often a physical location. These limited choices for entertainment, information, and experience informed our worlds and helped us discern what was real, what was authentic.
All these things set expectations, defined our reality and determined what was authentic in our lives. If you wanted a playlist it meant hours trying to catch a song on the radio to record it yourself. DVR did not exist, meaning you had to be present to watch the show when it aired. Records and tapes had to be changed out and you had to physically lift the arm or fast forward the tape to change the song, apps like Spotify were not something the writers of Jetsons could even dreamed up, and travel was for the wealthy minority.
It our world, expectations about what is real or authentic are always changing, ever evolving. Much of it fueled by our society and world continuing to development and progress through technological advancements which make life easier, ‘more’ convenient, and speed up the rate of life in general.
Today our phones have vastly more computing power than the original computers that were introduced into the world. We build playlists in a moment, or often we no longer have to build our own because our technology builds lists for us based upon our behavioral choices. Same goes for our shopping, the day is coming where we won’t have to make decisions – we already are given suggestions based on buying habits, soon our homes will be fully wired and able to shop for us based on daily discussions held with our significant other.
Information, education, learning is now accessible to nearly the entire world and we are learning faster and have more access to information than we’ve ever had before. It is also available for free… and anyone can contribute… which brings both new opportunities but new challenges to the world.
We have so many modern conveniences that we forget, and ignore what efforts are being put in behind the scenes. What makes something truly authentic.
We’ve lost the appreciation for the time, money, skill, process, blood, sweat, tears and team effort it takes to deliver each moment, each experience. We forget because it is all available at our fingertips with the simple swipe of a credit card or, transmission from your apple or samsung wallet…
Authenticity is rooted in an appreciation for how something came to be, or continues to exist.
Meaning and value are derived in the journey.
When we lose the appreciation, the interest in understanding, the value and authenticity are lost too.
To this point, a scarce number of kids and parents (and even a dwindling number of grandparents) have ever milked a cow, weeded a row of beans, or hit their thumb with a hammer building fence. It is this relative understanding of these things that give it authenticity and thereby value.
The concepts are so foreign to many. They may have a large nostalgia for the red barn and the picket fences of their childhood, or from their story books, but likely have never taken the time to truly understand what it takes day to day to care for animals, produce a product, transport it, store it, sell it. It just appears on the shelf in the store or is delivered to the doorstep of their home.
Unfortunately for our vast population, there is no longer a true sense for the authenticity of the blood, sweat, and tears that often go into producing food and other products derived from the earth. There is simply a grocery store or a department store with hundreds of choices for food and household goods that are easily placed into a cart without a second thought.
There are very few in our society today that have the gall to produce products that may take several years to grow and nurture, then bring their merchandises to market only to find out that the markets are oversupplied or the consumer tides have turned, and discover that their wares are no longer worth the cost of time, energy, effort placed into growing them. The markets paying less than what it costs to produce.
There are very few who have the audacity to work with nature, day in and day out, to do their best to weather the rain and snow storms, the droughts and the floods, the potential disease or insect infestation, to shepherd a crop or a flock from it’s birth to it’s harvest. To earn a living helping others cover their own basic needs of food, clothes and shelter.
It is easy to see that the farmer is someone who is authentic, yet at the same time, society does not understand why farm practices have changed and expect them to remain the same as they were when their grandparents or great-grandparents might have farmed. Despite technology helping the entire world, many expect that food and farming won’t and shouldn’t adopt new technologies.
It is easy to chose the life of the non-farmer, the one on the buying end rather than the growing end of the spectrum. The one with a steady income, and choices of how to spend their extra time in life. And yet, the non-farmer wants to define what is authentic. Dictate to those crazy ones, the ones who choose the hard life, who work 80 hour weeks and through the storms – dictate how to grow the crops, how to care for the animals, and how to live their lives.
Authenticity. It’s easy to have a picture in our minds of what is believed to be authentic – especially around something as personal as food. It’s easy to have a vision of how things are believed to work (draft horses, an old tractor…), but what happens when the authentic picture is updated to current day? Is it still authentic? Is it more authentic? …or less?
As technology continues to advance and life becomes ‘easier’ for all people worldwide… we will continue to struggle with the disparity between the real-life and the expectation in all aspects of life.
The best we can do is to understand that authenticity is what is true, real, and accurate.
We collectively need to shift through what is fantasy, and what is reality. I started this post with the statement that it seems that authenticity wanes in our world today, but the desire for it now is held at a premium.
I believe, for many, authenticity has slipped. For as long as I have walked this world, the world has been concerned with how things ‘look’ rather than how they truly are – and this has been compounded as the internet has become more accessible and the public “sharing” of our lives has gone online. Selfies, Instagram, Facebook, a lot of the “sharing” is about how you are viewed and how the world views you. (I’m not throwing the first stone here, I’ve been guilty myself.)
We’ve learned how to market ourselves, make the individual stand out from a crowd. Celebrity and popularity have ruled for years. Authenticity is something different.
Which brings me to the second part of my opening: What is authentic? How do we know it? How do we value it?
I believe authenticity is community. Authenticity comes from reaching out, building bridges, and lending a helping hand. It comes from relationships and understanding. From stepping away from the screens, out our front door, and into our communities. It grows from connecting with neighbors, sharing in their joys and well as their sorrows. From lending a listening ear, sharing a meal, and sharing life experiences.
Authenticity is what is real. What is tangible, and what you can count on.
You are the only one that can shape how authentic your world is.