Saturday, September 08, 2007

Lines to Remember 8 (Pretense)

"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be."
-Kurt Vonnegut in "Mother Night"

In our youth we had our heroes; demigods who walked in our midst ever so self assured, strutting with bold gait and looking down at everyone from an upward leveled eye.

He could be the teacher’s delight who seemed to have had a preview of all the questions that were asked in class, the hunk who was the captain ball of the varsity team who would always have a bevy of pretty coeds milling around him, the cool kid who drove around in a roadster with an ever loyal gang astride or he could be the much admired and popular editor of the school newspaper whose creativity and writing style you coveted.

As young men still unsure of our bearing we had these exemplars to choose from and we did in varying degrees tried to emulate them as closely as we could with only our physical and sometimes financial limits holding us back.

In some instances these imitations had positive effects on us. We selected the admirable qualities of our heroes and these, somehow, are sopped up by our personality and, consistently living them out they become really a part of us.

However, in mimicry, disaster is always a present peril. For instance copying the pose, the sartorial preferences, the manner of speech, the lifestyle, and the swagger of the idolized one often result in ridiculous and comical circumstances. Only the right combination of personal qualities makes for the ideal. It is not a simple case of adopting one or two of them from the hero and matching them with what you basically have. More often than not, the result is incongruous and creates a parody of your person.

Perceptions are created by pretense aided by appropriate props and trappings associated to the ideal being copied. As we know in advertising and in image building, perceptions are like truths or near truths insofar as the beholder is concerned.

People’s expectations from the ersatz personality you have created for yourself will judge you as a failure or as a success. You have to be sure that you could live up to the promise that the pretense has created.

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