Sincerity is a vastly underrated character trait, especially in our media-soaked culture where the relentless promotion and flacking of one's personal brand is said to be essential. Image is everything!
But I am not a bottle of shampoo. I am not a product. I am not – and never will be – a brand. Thank God!
This is my inaugural post at my new blog. I plan on always saying what I truly think. I will say it twice, and mean it. Of course I will take care to speak accurately and compassionately. But I will never shy away from saying something just because I am worried about how it makes me look.
When I was younger, one had to work at being considered controversial. Perhaps this impression is just an oldster's fond memories for them good old days, but I don't think so. There was general agreement that we are all individuals, we all have a different take on life, and everyone is entitled to their "personal space" – basically, to be left alone to do our thing.
So much has changed even in the last 5 years, but that's one of the biggest changes. Almost no one feels free to speak their minds these days. Everything is potentially controversial.
I'm not sure why or how this changed. I think it has something to do with risk aversion which in turn has something to do with placing less emphasis on personal accountability and more on group accountability. The two go together: if you are personally accountable for your actions, then when you mess up, that's on you. And if everyone can just say what they want to, then we're all going to hear some disagreeable opinions. Being just one of the crowd is a lot safer.
The upside to being free, however, is that you always know who you're dealing with. When you run into an actual racist, for example, you'll know it, because they will tell you plainly. You will get their real opinion. No sugar coating. Insincerity may give one a sense of protective belonging, but it's an entirely false one.
From an artistic point of view, of course, insincerity is nearly an unpardonable sin. Insincerity is most of all boring, and that is the one thing art must never, ever be!
Have you ever gone to a school event and seen kids give it all they've got – but totally flubbing on technique? Didn't you applaud and cheer for them just the same? We so admire those with heart! Skills can be learned and developed. But you can't teach someone to have heart. Either they have it, or they don't. Either they are willing to lay it all on the line, or they hold back.
All art involves risk. It isn't "safe". There are no "safe spaces" in art.
In the end, to be sincere means you are willing to take risks. All art involves risk. You cannot "give it all you've got" without exposing yourself. It isn't "safe". There are no safe spaces in art! It is uncomfortable. It can be impolitic. Embarrassing, even.
But bring it on! Say it twice, and mean it.
The phrase "Say it twice and mean it" comes from the movie "The Spitfire Grill". Panned by one movie critic as an "unabashedly manipulative, melodramatic tearjerker with plot twists that Horatio Alger would have been embarrassed to use", it nevertheless won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival. Because heart triumphs over all.