The value of being open about who you are
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A friend recently taught me a lot about the turkey vulture. He's pretty knowledgeable on the subject, so I don't remember the many specific details he brought up in a short amount of time. One fun fact that stuck with me was that the body and digestive system of the turkey vulture is perfect for getting sustenance from dead, rotted meat. That includes a very creative, if not gross, way of getting "clean." The turkey eagle, it seems, is a model of authenticity.
It is completely committed to embodying it's life's purpose in every way. It's a bird though, so how hard is it to be authentic. No one expects the turkey vulture to be anything but what it is. The turkey vulture doesn't have to study or think about how to do what it does. It's survival and it's purpose are so fundamentally linked it just is.
As humans, we are not set up that way. Blessed with the gift of logic and reason, we are wired to ask why. We are programmed to seek pleasure and comfort, sometimes even to our own detriment. We will do things that are not good for us and that go completely against our nature. Even crazier, we will deny ourselves a chance to live a purpose filled life simply because of what other people will think or because of what we think is expected of us.
Living like that is living a lie in every sense of the word. That isn't uncommon or even that debilitating. Like being in the Matrix, you sometimes just get more comfortable with the lie than with the effort it would take to live in the truth. It is easier to just keep putting on the masks so that we fit the images people expect to see.
Our growing integration with technology makes it even easier to avoid the truth of who we are. When you can create an identity with a few clicks and clacks on a machine, why bother to do much self-examination? Anonymity gives one the opportunity to indulge every whim and in point of view. It does not, however, encourage authenticity.
One might think that being in the dark, hidden from view, human nature would take a turn towards the real. It would be only logical for us to be unafraid to be more open and vulnerable if we are unable to be seen or identified, right? The odd and uncomfortable truth is that it is only when we step into the light of day and out in the open that we acquire the power to live our truth.
One might think that it is easier to just float behind the masks and be whoever the situation dictates. It's not. It is exhausting and complicated and mentally taxing and leaves a physical toll on your body. Those aches and pains that you chalk up to aging are really the result of suppressing your authentic self.
Self-examination is not high on most people's lists because it seems like it is too hard or too painful. Compared to living a fake life, though, it is the only option. Whether you achieve it through professional help, spiritual enlightenment or some life-changing rite of passage, we all need moments in which we can see our authentic self clearly. Maybe it's a glimpse, maybe it's a full frontal image blast. Maybe we looked for it and found it or maybe someone showed it to us. We know it when we see it, and once we see it, we cannot live without it.
If we are able to get a good enough look at it, we can see clearly how to achieve it. Everything that does not lead us to that authentic purpose that is at the core of our true self becomes irrelevant. You shift your whole mental focus so that your efforts are focused on attaining that fundamental connection between our survival and our purpose.
Being content to live a hollow, facade of a life is tantamount to not living at all. It is merely existing; taking up space and resources. That's fine. One can carve out a satisfactory existence that is purely superficial.
Even the pursuit of authenticity can lead you to a broader understanding of yourself. It will give you a clearer picture of what talents you have to express and give to the world.
My friend says another name for the turkey vulture is peace eagle. It looks fierce and majestic in the sky, like the predator eagle, but it is a scavenger and happy to be such. Like the turkey vulture, we humans may be judged to be a certain way from the outside. If we understand our authentic self, we can still live a life in line with who we are within our shell.
- Mariel Blake writes a weekly column for The Daily News