This week I vividly discovered that I am pretentious. It came as a surprise, but it should not have. Pretentiousness is typically, (almost always), judged by another; very seldom, (almost never), by oneself. This makes a tremendous amount of sense. I am not going to purposely choose actions or words that I deem pretentious or even that I know will come across as such. I am confident that everything I do and say is authentic; the real ME. Yet I look around and see many individuals acting all uppity and arrogant. Can't they see how fake they are? I am so glad that I am always so artless and true-to-myself....yeah, right.
This week I discovered that, in a sense, pretentiousness is necessary for experimentation in order to evolve and to aid in defining this elusive being I call Me. Whether a foray into Steampunk or Tarot or the ancient game of Go, even when they don't stick, they have been valuable tools for learning and growth. This week I have learned that one individual's Steampunk is another's ceramic Toby jug. This week, I am determined that I am going to work, (in this and future weeks), to be more careful about judging another's affectation.
Pondering pretentiousness in this regard, brought me to consider possible underlying structures from which it---(pretentiousness)---may come forth to be perceived by another. These considerations in turn brought me to thoughts of opposing desires and fears that when consciously or subconsciously hidden, may appear to manifest as pretentiousness. I came up with six spectrums defined by a-desire-for and a-fear-of on opposing ends. They are 1) virtue and vice, 2) inclusion and exclusion, 3) knowledge and ignorance, 4) abundance and deprivation, 5) honor and shame, and 6) self-esteem and guilt. So am I asking, is pretentiousness actually the surface veneer hiding one's desires and fears? Am I never my genuine self, but merely, (as Freud suggested), a product of my desires and fears?
I don't want to believe this; so I won't. I am confident that I have experienced bursts of authenticity between my bouts of experimentation-perceived-as-arrogance. I believe that perceived pretentiousness is simply an indicator that one is searching for authenticity. And that's unavoidable; and okay.
So, beginning with virtue and vice I want to more closely examine each of these six pairs because I believe that by doing so I may perhaps better understand my efforts toward definition, and I may perhaps develop more patience with other's efforts toward authenticity. At the very least, I believe I will come to a reinforced recognition of the multi-leveled falsity of pretentiousness. And who knows, I may come away with much more...
A desire to be virtuous feels natural and is probably one of Humanity's oldest attempts at justifying rule of law to establish trust. This spectrum from virtue to vice is in many ways synonymous with a desire for order and a fear of chaos; (see this previous post). But, as said, I also believe that Goodness is our more natural state, (as opposed to iniquity), because I believe it is through trust and relationships that one finds meaning and purpose in this Life. Granted, (as stated in previous written thought), the trust and the relationships may need to be developed with future generations as well as with contemporaries, but this is doable and likely to reduce the quantity of perceived arrogance. When dealing with contemporaries, pretentiousness may be interpreted from this jumble of judgement when there is disagreement as to where the line is drawn between good and evil. For me, the closer to virtue one draws their line, the more that individual fears evil (either as practiced by others or for its siren call); and also the closer to virtue, the greater the perceived pretentiousness. Moving the other direction, the closer to vice (as it is currently commonly defined), the less likely it becomes to build trust and relationships, thus potentially leaving a Life devoid of meaning and purpose; (and forcing a degee of defensive determination that may also come across as pretentiousness). This spectrum, (as do all the spectrums), encompasses many elements and branches that originate from its roots: (in this case) virtue and vice. Within this spectrum, we could examine politics, religion, sexual mores, cultural differences, and even sports and rock n' roll from a perspective of good to evil, right to wrong, or merely my educated, thoughtful preference to your misguided, thoughtless preference. All of these disagreements have the potential for perceived pretentiousness.
By touching on differences and disagreement, we have segued into inclusion and exclusion, and additionally I have illustrated how each of these spectrums will intertwine, (depending on circumstance), with other spectrums. I have PREVIOUSLY argued against inclusion stating that "If we focus on inclusion, we focus on differences, which, (though typically unspoken), reinforce divisiveness by clearly identifying an us and a them." And, "Teaching and preaching inclusion may simply encourage political correctness and perpetuate divisiveness." Based on these arguments, (and experience), it is obvious to me how pretentiousness can be perceived from an individual's desire for inclusion or from an individual (pompously) working to be politically correct. And if one is working from a fear of exclusion, it is also obvious to me why the individual may put on airs to become safe and secure in a group of one's choosing. This particular spectrum feels very short for those who perceive their self as excluded, but I believe it lengthens considerably for those who feel safe and secure and included; which is why I suggest that each one of us should begin from a perspective of personal exclusion, thus increasing common ground and dramatically decreasing perceived pretentiousness.
A desire for knowledge and/or a fear of ignorance may be sincere and self-directed, or it may be an other-directed delusion / facade. Either way it is apparent how pretentiousness may be perceived from this foundation. Be it a blowhard tripped up by his or her own actions or words that make plain the desire and fear, or an actual expert that is described as pretentious by those whose reactive fear of ignorance may also be perceived as pretentious, opportunity for artifice and duplicity is plentiful and may even sneak up on the performer and/or the audience. Pretentiousness may be lessened along this spectrum through empathic listening and careful communication. It is also important to note that each one of us is lacking (at least) some knowledge in (at least) some areas, and more frequent use of the simple, honest phrase "I don't know" will also lessen perceived pretentiousness. For many on this spectrum it is a relatively short spectrum, but I believe a sincere effort toward learning and growth will stretch an individual in that direction.
Remaining consistent with the context of this written thought, the spectrum of abundance and deprivation is largely applicable to comfort and security, beginning with basic needs and (often) blossoming into a desire for excess. Aditionally, this desire for abundance and/or this fear of deprivation may simply be that, or it may become entangled on a pretzeled spectrum from privilege to impoverishment (implying a circumstance in which the individual has had little influence), and may further convolute by being interpreted as deserving or undeserving (indicating an often delusional belief reinforced by circumstance). I have consistently maintained that credit and blame are drastically over-emphasized, meaning that more of what we define as success or failure is essentially random fortune and/or misfortune; (I also believe that we tend to overlook or discount the impact of another's misfortune when it results in personal success or accomplishment). From this underpinning, it is a small hop-skip-jump from a desire for comfort, to a desire for excess, to a belief that I am deserving and worthy, to perceived pretentiousness. And on the other end, one who is mired in, (or even near to), impoverishment may come across (to those interpreting from privilege) as needy and/or more deserving, thus whiny and pretentious. Pretentiousness may be lessened on this spectrum with a better understanding of the serendipitous nature of abundance and deprivation.
The final two spectrums will be examined together:
A desire for honor and a fear of shame is similar to a desire for self-esteem and a fear of guilt. There is one important difference: honor and shame are bestowed upon an individual by one or more other individuals, whereas self-esteem and guilt are bestowed upon oneself by oneself. The inner feelings may (and frequently do) run parallel with those accorded by others, but I also believe that with practice, one can separate guilt from shame and again move toward self-esteem; a lack of honor is NOT synonymous with dishonor. Additionally, I believe that one can expand / inflate self-esteem, creating pride; (as in, one of the Seven Deadly Sins). It is easy to see how pretentiousness can be perceived from the pinnacles of pride as well as from the angry depths of guilt and shame. I believe openness and truthfulness, (and a recognition and practice of some qualities shared between the two spectrums) will mitigate this perceived pretentiousness. These shared qualities include skepticism, uncertainty, doubt, thoughtful questioning, and even a degree of diffidence.
Finally, I believe by admitting to and recognizing my pretentiousness, and working to understand its essence as found in personal desires and fears, I am also working to reduce nonproductive airs and to advance learning and growth, that will aid in the long-term survival of Humanity. I believe that to sincerely desire an individual effort toward Global virtue, Universal inclusion, Unbounded knowledge, Proportionate abundance, Commensurate honor, and Accordant self-esteem, will in turn diminish individual fear of vice, exclusion, ignorance, deprivation, shame, and guilt, and may encourage likewise individual effort. Nourish to flourish.