Wednesday, September 08, 2010


What does it mean to feel authentic these days?

In a society where you have to have a license to drive, a degree to do pretty much anything, but no qualification whatsoever to be a parent, why is it that so many women still feel they're faking it?

Even when I'm good at what I do at work, I'm half waiting for someone to question my right to be there. "You don't really know how to do this," they'll accuse. And they'll be right. I don't. And somehow if I were a guy or a different kind of a girl, that would be okay. Or more okay than it is with me.

I have a running debate with many of my grad. school friends about who's more qualified for employment - them or me. It seems the grass is always more qualified on the other side of the fence!

I have a fantasy about being hired just because I'm smart, competent, and hard-working. I can't be hired for any other reason, because I swear to you I don't know anything about anything!

I started my college career wanting to know everything about everything. Somehow along the way, I learned only about context, not content. A postmodern dilemma, perhaps. Postmodern education to blame, probably. A postmodern lack of capacity for retaining information. My generation likes the shape of knowledge, not its heft. We understand the landscape of a theory - its genesis, the range of its applicability, its broad outlines. This mapped, we turn from it to the next big idea that we can sketch out and abandon.

And so my generation knows software - what technology can do, not what it should do. We acquire religious understanding voraciously but believe very little. We are full of empty boundaries.

Hermes was the messenger god in the Greek pantheon. He was also the god of crossroads, of borders, of humor (because what is humor but the intersection of 2 incongruous ideas?). He was a trickster, hard if not impossible to pin down. Hermes could get you out of a scrape with his ingenuity, the wings on his feet, yet few would pray to such an immutable, insubstantial, whimsical god. In this way, my generation is the Hermes generation. We map, we trade, we barter. We exist on the edges, eschew the possibility of center.

Maybe this bodes well for a war-free world in the future. Who would lose their life for an idea only loosely held, loosely sketched, easily abandoned? Who would find offense in someone else casting off such an idea when another seems to work better in their own circumstance?

Generational studies tell us that the new generation, the so-called millenials, are not paralyzed by prejudice in the way past generations have been. They have always lived in a world where diversity is celebrated, if not always achieved, where tolerance is demanded if not always granted. In some ways, this might make them more dangerous, more prone to repeating the atrocities of a history they don't seem connected to or inspired to learn.

And for me, it means angst about a career path shrouded in fog. Who will pay for my gifts? Is it enough to offer the skill of context, outlines, meaning without belief, without knowledge, without expertise?

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