After a stranger on the internet accused him of being a poseur, Saint Dog went on a quest to live a more authentic life.

At first, he began to reject the things he did for other people’s comfort, because he felt that selfishness seemed more natural and therefore more authentic, but his guilt over the pain he caused other people seemed awfully real — surely his “true self” wasn’t a jerk, either. So, he looked for a different way to live authentically.

He tried acting based on his first impulses instead, because his first impulses seemed more primary. But he began to make mistakes — his immediate assumptions about situations were often wrong, and his first idea was rarely his best idea. His manager said to him, “you keep screwing up — that’s not like you!” and he decided that, no, it wasn’t like him. He was a human, and isn’t the natural human condition to second-guess oneself? Isn’t self consciousness, anxiety, and paranoia what separates us from the wild beasts?

So he tried to define his nature, so that (once he had such a definition) he could act in accordance with it. He went through his biography in reverse order, starting with today, listing all the things he did and trying to categorize the type of person he was based on it. But, these categorizations were all over the place! The personality he described was totally inconsistent! Perhaps he had already stopped being even marginally authentic long ago, and so he couldn’t come to conclusions about his nature based on his current behavior.

Instead, he went in the opposite direction. He couldn’t remember his birth and infancy well, so he asked his mother to describe how he had acted as an infant. To confirm, he asked his father. However, their descriptions also conflicted! Did this baby have a split personality?

If, even as an infant, his nature was contradictory, how could he classify it? Perhaps being authentic meant embracing your own contradiction — but then, how could a stranger on the internet know that he was being inauthentic? (He had, of course, completely accepted this stranger’s statement as fact.)

Perhaps, just as it is a part of human nature to second-guess oneself, it is also part of human nature to grow and change in response to experience. A baby has never experienced anything before, so every new experience thrusts him into a major permanent personality shift. And, because he hasn’t finished growing, he has contradictions in his behavior. What is inauthentic then?

Well, instead of categorizing the past (which is a little bit like judging a butterfly by how much he acts like a caterpillar) maybe Dog would imagine a person he would like to be and then judge himself on his ability to become that person. Dog decided to become David Bowie. Becoming David Bowie was surely more authentic than becoming Dog. After all, David Bowie was very famous, and was also dead (so he couldn’t change anymore).

In the following years, Dog judged himself very harshly for his failures in becoming David Bowie, and fell into despair. never knowing that strangers on the internet had begun to believe that David Bowie had faked his death and lived on under the assumed name Saint Dog.

Resident hypertext crank. Author of Big and Small Computing: Trajectories for the Future of Software.

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