Chapter 10

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There was a book, in our grandparents' day, called Catcher in the Rye. It was about some kid all tormented by what he saw as "phony" people all around him.

I never really appreciated the book, although people still speak of it as a great cultural touchpoint. For sure, the Fifties was a time of self-consciousness and status and false fronts and "What will the neighbors think?".

Artificiality isn't such a big deal any more. One of the revolutions of the Sixties was "You gotta be real, man". Usually that meant removing the bounds of discretion from your worst qualities, and imposing them on everyone around you.

I want to say a few words about artificiality, though. Because the most important issue about artificiality isn't artificiality.

As is often the case, the choice is between good and evil. If a person is being artificial in order to gain advantage over another person, that is bad. Don't do that.* However, some of us put up a good front despite the heartbreak and loneliness and despair that we live with. This is not bad. This is good. This is kindness to the people that we have to share our worlds with.

Kindness is the correct approach, sufficiently often so that it should be your default setting.


I wonder whether the people who are so vehement against artifice,
are completely unaware of the concept of kindness.


* People who have taken the Dale Carnegie course learn a contrived smile that is straight from a horror movie. It's really, really creepy.