What happened to Saturday?
Posted by Leo Tarvi
I sort of lost a day there. Hate when that happens. Well, that’s weekends for you. So two posts today, which shouldn’t be too hard for me because they’re both going to be mostly me whining that I don’t understand the metaphor. First up, the one I would have done yesterday, if I’d noticed yesterday:
Jody Williams, winner of the 1997 Nobel Peace prize, advises that the winners this year ‘Stay true to themselves’. This is advice we often here is kids or in movies, but what does it really mean?
First of all, how do you discover who your true self is? It seems many people don’t quite know who they are. Second, most people have some qualities that they wish they didn’t have, such as jealousy, envy, insecurities or prejudices. Staying true to those things wouldn’t seem to be in our interest.
What does it mean to you to stay true to yourself? Which part of yourself to you think about?
Surprising number of typos in that one. Guess it wasn’t just me having an off day. Since I’m feeling pissy today let’s deconstruct the metaphor with wild abandon and little forethought.
“True” has a lot of meanings in English. In this case it seems to be used to mean “straight” as in “not crooked, bent, or warped” (but possibly gay). “Straight” has also been long used as a metaphor for “honest”, so we’ve already got a nice prepackaged meaning right there. Occam’s Razor and general laziness both suggest that it’s just old fashioned language that might today be rendered as “be honest with yourself”.
I like that interpretation, it’s simple, makes sense, and is genuinely good advice. So what’s all this about discovering your true self or people not knowing who they are?
Let us enter the realm of pure speculation. Suppose we interpret “stay true to yourself” to mean “be who you really are”. (We’ll skip the obvious question of “who else could you be?” and run with this for a moment.) Consider that many people aren’t quite happy with who they are, and wish to change themselves. It’s often treated as though who you wish to be is who you really, really are, underneath who you merely are. Clearly there’s some truth to this, because if who you wanted to be wasn’t already a part of you, why would you want it? At the same time, claiming that who you want to be is more who you are than who you actually are is clearly just wishful thinking. But if we have a clear, honest understanding of these two and the differences between them we can work to bring them closer together.
It’s easy to lie to yourself, especially about yourself. So the first step would be to be honest with yourself, which brings us back around and provides a nice little cliche to end this with.
As always, thanks for reading.