“A cynic might suggest as the motto of modern life this simple legend — ‘Just as good as the real'” (Charles Dudley Warner).
SOMETIMES WE HAVE LITTLE CHOICE BUT TO ACCEPT A SUBSTITUTE, BUT WE OUGHT NOT TO LET OURSELVES GET TOO COMFORTABLE WITH THAT SITUATION. It’s rarely true that the artificial is “just as good as the real,” and we ought to prefer authenticity. True, genuine things are rarely as perfect as a man-made imitation might be, but for all their ragged edges, authentic things are still best.
Take my Australian shepherd, Wrigley, for example. He’s far from perfect. His behavior sometimes leaves much to be desired, his physical characteristics fall below the standard for his breed, and he’s considerably more trouble to take care of than a stuffed animal would be, but despite all of this, he’s genuine. He’s the real deal, and all of his confoundedness and inconvenience notwithstanding, I’d rather have him and his every flaw than any number of artificial, dog-like toys.
When it comes to people, I like those who’re the real deal too. I like those who, despite their blemishes, offer themselves to me genuinely and sincerely, rather than with artifice and pretense. Unfortunately, people like that often don’t “get ahead” in life. As Aesop observed, “Men often applaud an imitation and hiss the real thing.” But even so, I still prefer those who are authentic.
As soon as we meet people, we begin to construct a mental image of them. From the little that we actually know, we make huge inferences, and we build up a vision that’s more about what we wish people to be than about what they really are. As our relationships unfold, we discover that real people don’t always fit the image we’ve constructed, and so we’re disillusioned. But really, which should we prefer: the artificial image or the real person? Even with their imperfections, aren’t real people more satisfying than artificial constructs?
As inconvenient as it is — indeed, as difficult as it is — we need to keep ourselves open to authenticity. Just because something doesn’t glitter, that doesn’t mean it’s not gold. And real gold, even when it has a few impurities mixed in, is a better treasure than imitation gold.
“The authentic is almost never found by being pursued; but there is no missing it when you are in its presence” (Eva Hoffman).