Sunday, February 28, 2010

Genuine Article or Hypocrite?

It's been a busy two weeks. Most of the writing I've done has been the required kind: Educational Histories of Students, Progress Report Summaries, and Individual Education Plans. But on a more interesting note... I came across a quote I liked:

“It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinions;
it is easy in solitude to live after your own;
but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd
keeps with perfect sweetness
the independence of solitude.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Pondering the quote for a week or two, I've been challenged to carry more personal serenity and general calmness into my daily busy-ness. (And it has helped.)

I agree with Emerson that part of personal greatness is personal consistency. I admire that trait in others. I think it's a trait worth cultivating in myself as well.

My dad used to say, "Do as I say, not as I do."

This was uttered enough times to make an impact. It was often the final salvo in a match of wits, which he won.

It was not until years later I arrived at a proper rebuttal, "But Dad, that's hypocritical!"

(In my 60's/70's mentality, "Keeping it real" mattered.)

Social conventions and interpersonal skills do require us to use filters and act appropriately, but that still leaves plenty of room for being genuine.

Being fake, two-faced, or phony is not a good thing. (Nor is being rude, hurtful, or overly blunt.) Somewhere between the extremes lies a balance point of civility, reality, and honesty.

There are always pressures to conform in a crowd. Having an opinion is not always welcome, even if the opinion is just different, not contrary. Cultivating a sense of self strong enough to maintain individuality against the tide of conformity is difficult, but commendable.

The personal pendulum may swing occasionally into hypocrisy, but hopefully a little internal alarm goes off.

Recently I began watching "The Big Bang" TV series. At one point, Leonard clearly succumbs to blatant contradiction between personal opinion and voiced opinion. His friends are appalled. Sensing their disapproval, he turns to them and says, "What? You've never seen a hypocrite before?"

We all have. What I try to avoid is seeing one in the mirror.


  1. Don, "The Big Bang Theory" is one of my favorite TV shows. I like to imagine people geekier than I am.
    A great and wise quote from Emerson. My favorite though, from that great tanscendentalist, is what he told his wife when he brought in an armload of kindling he had just chopped for her stove (in paraphrase): "I suppose we must do this as if it were real."

  2. Love Emerson. He did emphasize the allegiance to the self and standing up for who you are. Sometimes you have to step back from the crowd of your life to see what that self really is.

    Love "The Big Bang Theory." It has some great one liners.

  3. Love that quote from Emerson, thanks for posting.
    Going to do some meditating on it myself.

    I, too, desire authenticity. And can only hope to do my best to cultivate the trait so it's reflected in the mirror.

    Hope you're well, Don

  4. Good quote, good post. As you point out though it's sometimes a balance act between your own integrity and that of other people's. (Being honest vs overly blunt.)

  5. "Being fake, two-faced, or phony is not a good thing. (Nor is being rude, hurtful, or overly blunt.) Somewhere between the extremes lies a balance point of civility, reality, and honesty."
    ~Don, to me this is a major conundrum in this life. Walking this line is not easy. Especially in the workplace and in social to be authentic, real and yet kind. I try hard to do just that, but it is certainly not always easy. Great Emerson quote- thank you!

  6. Hi Don. Just wanted you to know that I selected your poem as the winning contribution for last Friday's Write With Pictures prompt. Well done!

  7. Love that last line!

    If one more person says they started watching The Big Bang, I may have to tune in myself...but then, would that go against what Emerson implores us? ;)

  8. @Dennis: Big Bang is big fun. I first encounter Transcendentalism in high school. I just Wiki'd it. Since I once took a college course on Kant, I guess I know more than I thought. I like your Emerson paraphrase; it shows a sense of humor and acknowledges the limits of a transcendental world-view.

    @September: I agree with your comment..."Sometimes you have to step back..." It's good to do periodic self-checks, to recalibrate if need be, and to realign oneself to what really matters.

    @Chase: All is well. I've been following your new blog as well. I'm especially glad your tutoring business is building! Travel on!

    @Dawn: That balance does seem to be key. That's why I often think of life and relationships especially as a bit of a dance. What's fun, is when your partner makes it easy. Relationships are easier when they flow... lots of trust... lots of laughter... lots of fun. Little drama.

    @Deedee: Conundrum it is. Impossible it is not. The riddle is solved, when the riddle is known.

    The solution is possible, because we know it's a problem. I know you went into your new job with a new perspective: fore-warned is to be fore-armed. Sometimes less openness is the smarter approach. Less involvement sometimes leads to less drama, especially in the workplace.

    @September: Woohoo on the win! It inspired me to go post some more entries. I like using pictures as prompts to poetry. (Plus, my poems are short. More quick-write than anything else.)

    @Saphron: Glad you liked the last line. It's kind of the punchline, the take-away point. And if you decide to check out Big Bang, let it be the fine mix of group think and self-selection. They can be complementary rather than contradictory. Beyond either/or lives both/and.

    ;-) Don

  9. Hey, thanks for the link to the mvelopes website. Looks pretty neat! I just wish it didn't cost money...but I think I'll still do the free trial and see if they suck me in.

  10. @Saphron: It's especially good if you use your debit card a lot. The transactions feed automatically from your bank: then... drag and drop in the envelope. The software does the math for you.