Jan 19, 2010

Being Real

Sometimes, I'm talking to someone or watching someone speak, and noticing that their way of talking and their body language is like something out of a play, like they're playing their role. I see exaggerated facial expressions so that it looks like someone being told by the drama teacher to display concern, for example.  

I've noticed this in speech, where people have a "persona," a pattern of speech they use. Maybe (in rare cases, I hope) it's picked up from TV. But even among yeshivish/Chasidish people I hear it in the exaggerated speech, or maybe exaggerated is not the right word ... the only way I can describe it is by saying it's like they're a character in the play. Does anybody know what I mean?

Even little children sometimes don't seem real, they seem to be copying someone.

And another thing. I wonder about authentic responses, i.e. we read so many stories, for ex. the Baal Shem Tov stories. The simple Jews or the Chasidim in those stories, were living real life. They weren't a story! What happened to them, later became told as a story, but it wasn't a story when they were going through it!

But what about us? When faced with a challenge in life, or some situation, do we sort of stand outside ourselves in order to assess the response we should make. Are we mentally reviewing all the stories we've read, to see which role we'll take? Now this can be a good thing! If we learn from good role models, that's wonderful! That is why we tell these stories. Yet, ... are we real?

And for those who think - what difference does it make, as long as we do and say the right thing, I say that's true up to a point.  Yes, we need to do and say the right thing.  But where is the emes?


  1. I think that we are pumped up with what the politically correct thing to say is in any situation and sometimes we try to obscure what we are really feeling and thinking by acting as though we are fine with what is happening.
    Say, for example, a family who has struggled to keep a child on the derech, has gotten the child to come to shul, albeit in immodest or casual (if a boy) clothing. We keep a straight face and act as though nothing is out of the ordinary so that we don't give away our judgmental feelings. The family themselves must also put on an act to outsiders and maybe even to the child.
    But really, what else can they do? Should they wear their feelings on their sleeve and cry to anyone who will listen? Do their friends really want to be pressed into service to give advice or get involved? And if someone in that shul makes the child so uncomfortable that the child says that he or she will not set foot in that shul again, the parents may have to go to that person that made the child uncomfortable and say that they want the person to put on the act of acceptance, even if that is not the emes.
    We may be friendly to the intermarried couple but hope that we are not pressed to tell them what we really think. But then if a situation comes along where we must be true to ourselves, we need to confront them with the truth.
    I do think we spend a lot of energy pretending to cope or accept or be happy but what kind of a world would we live in if we had to constantly disclose those feelings?

  2. I was talking more about ordinary conversation, not situations which are obviously awkward.

  3. Sorry, I did not know what you meant. I do see that some people are very secure in themselves and can be who they really are. It is great to be around those people because then no one has to pretend to be something that they are not.

  4. oh my goodness, and I thought I was the only weird one that noticed this about people. LOL

    Yeah I think for some people it's lack of confidence. Or maybe not being completely comfortable with the person they are interacting with. That is in regards to facial expressions and casual conversation.

    Now I'm trying to understand the second half of your piece, how it connects to the first.

    Are you referring to when we are faced with other people's challenges in life or our own?
    if our own, then I don't see why anyone would be anything other then "real" if it's only themselves they have to answer to.
    However regarding other people's challenges people often don't know the correct response so they may resort to copying responses they heard or read.

  5. Even with our own challenges, it can be hard to come up with an authentic, i.e. from the heart/soul response since we've heard so much, read so much. Again, it's not necessarily a bad thing.

  6. I'm afraid I don't quite understand what you mean?
    your response to your own challenges comes from your own emotions, It's your challenge, the feelings are real, so how can the response be anything other then real? Yes it's possible that they are molded due to upbringing, way of life, lesson's learnt but they are still real.

    Unless, do you mean maybe telling yourself to feel something you don't feel because that seems the correct response? If you feel anger but know it's wrong to feel anger you try to convince yourself that you are at peace with the situation? Is that what you are talking about?

  7. The reaction - what you say and do can very well be what you think is expected, what you read about, even how you would like your response to be relayed afterwards in your biography! :)

  8. I have to chew on this concept a while to get what you mean. It's hard for me to imagine people being fake with a real life challenge.
    The closest I can come to it is possibly not revealing your reaction/response because of fear of what others would think