Never real

by Steve

You’ve always lived a life of pretense, not a real life – a simulated existence. Everything about you, everything you are, has always been pretense, never genuine, never real.

Woodcutters, Thomas Bernhard

There is pretense even in the tense – the narrator is talking to himself, but talks in the second person, so we read “you” rather than “I”, which distances us from him, distances him from himself.

And I, in turn, add a layer of pretense, of distance, with my use of “we” and “us”, despite these only being my thoughts, despite me speaking on behalf of nobody but myself.

And so, as I read, I wonder and worry if I’m ever real, ever genuine, or if my every word and action is some kind of contortion. I know I present different versions of myself depending on my company. I know I write depending on my audience. And that all of that almost certainly has some kind of self-editing at play, some kind of layer of protection, a veneer of truth over something more complex.

Everything is mediated. There is compromise in communication, if only through inarticulation. And so, what even is genuine, what is real?

Or is this all just a handy get-out for the guilt, doubt, shame of a “simulated existence”?

Or does acknowledging all this mean it loses its power? Perhaps the first step to a real life is knowing we/you/I don’t live one, or can’t live one. And maybe that realisation is genuine. Maybe that is (a) real life. Maybe the doubt, and the acknowledgement of doubt, is some kind of honesty.

And I suppose these are the stories I need right now, that grapple with this, that aren’t certain of their position, their authority.

I have a perverse sense that the greater the pretense, the more genuine it is. I am suspicious of authenticity. The simulated existence feels more real than the “realistic” or the real. These are the contradictions of life, I guess.