Gonna lay some deep shit on you here, so if you’re mostly following my blog for the stories about beat-downs and bitchy waitresses, you might want to skip this one.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my college philosophy class on existentialism. We read some Heidegger and while at the time I couldn’t understand anything he was talking about, lately his concept of “authenticity” has been floating back up into my mind.

I’m not going to go into the philosophy of it (mainly because I forgot or never knew what Heidegger was talking about–I got a C in the class). But basically how I think it applies to talking to strangers is to just “be” in the world. That means never stepping outside of the moment and planning the next move, commenting on the moment I’m in, or reliving some other moment.

Okay, that sounded really douchey. Here’s what I’m talking about. Your phone rings. You answer it. It’s a telemarketer. He doesn’t say “Hi, I’m a telemarketer,” but you instantly know anyway. How? Because the first words out of his mouth sound rehearsed, fake, or just not in the moment. Even if he says, “Hi, may I speak to Fletcher please?” I still can tell it’s someone trying to sell me something and not a friend I don’t recognize.

When I’m trying to start a conversation with a stranger, I desperately try to avoid saying something rehearsed, too clever, or rehashed. No “material.” That means almost everything I say is going to be less clever or interesting than if I just used a previously successful segue, but that’s the only way to keep it real.

So nine out of ten times conversations start with simple innocuous questions that I really want to know the answer to, like, “What’s that?” or “Is that any good?” Once in a blue moon I manage to say something funny right off the bat, but that’s pretty rare. Oddly, not trying to be funny or interesting usually leads to much more funny and interesting conversations. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s mostly about listening.

Anyway, those are my deep thoughts on this Friday morning. If only I were as good at this as I’m making myself out to be.

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5 thoughts on “Authenticity”

  1. Well, you may not be as good as you liked too, but you keep on. That’s a huge quality. Here, mister start-everything-and-finish-none can tell you.

  2. Please … Heidegger was a boob. Who can figure out such philosophical devices as this: “… The kind of Being which belongs to the Dasein of Others, as we encounter it within-the-world, differs from readiness-to-hand and presence-at-hand.” Pretentious German nihilist twaddle.

    I’m a Buber (heh) man myself; as the great thinker wrote (comprehensibly, even) about the great Nazi apologist’s “work”: “[we’re] not able to do this [i.e., understanding being and life] by isolating a part of life, the part where the existence is related to itself and to its own being, but by becoming aware of the whole life without reduction.” Amen, brother.

    It’s this “I pick one tiny part, analyze, and discover The Universal Truth” crap that destroyed literary criticism (effing deconstructionists) and sucked modern philosophy into an existential maelstrom from which it still struggles to escape (Quine’s interesting writings–and others’, of course–excepted).

    Stop analyzing what you’re doing, Fletcher, and keep doing it (the doing of doing is doing?). When it’s not fun anymore you can stop. But don’t let those German fucks and their brainfarts get you down.

  3. I like this. The idea of having a conversation whilst truly being ‘in the moment’ – no agenda. Probably the best form of communication there is! It’s somehow much more about the other person, less about you. Funny that we can struggle to be authentic ourselves.. but we note and appreciate it in other people!

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