Truth, Passion, and What I Learned from a Young Girl Today

“My passion is to reach beyond inspiration – to be spectacularly creative.”

Chef Robert Irvine had that quote, in bold type, at the bottom of his resume. The same resume that we recently discovered was, indeed, “spectacularly creative”. In other words: false.

Truth, it seems, is a relative term these days.

Whether it’s sports (“I have never done steroids,”) or politics (plagiarized speeches, grandstanding on morality crusades while banging hookers) or publishing (the new genre of fake autobiography), we have so many examples of dishonesty, that it’s hard not to be discouraged.

Now, even the culinary world’s country cousin (AKA the Food Network) has intersected with the world of deception. First it was “The Next Food Network Star” contestant, “JAG” who claimed false military credentials. Now, it’s Irvine’s fantastical claims, e.g. how many Presidents he’d cooked for at the White House. Both Bush Jr. and Sr. , and Clinton – how many years does that add up to? Does NO ONE fact check anymore?

How quickly FN forgot about the Jag. It stretches credulity that they would not have learned from that fiasco. Perhaps their marketing team has decided that bad PR is just as good as good PR , especially if the latter is in short supply…

Read any of the articles about the fakers and then scan the comments. It’s even more enlightening, in a sad way. Too many comments about why veracity doesn’t matter if someone is entertaining, or claims “everyone” lies on resumes, etc.

Fake Autobiography
As a writer, I’m particularly disturbed by the new genre of authors writing fake autobiographies. Isn’t this what we used to call fiction?

Margaret Seltzer whose recently exposed fake autobiography painted her as the drug-running Blood, mixed-race foster child came to light just after a fake Holocaust memoir was exposed. And who can forget the Oprah-celebrated James Frey whose book “A Million Little Pieces” was also a fake autobiography?

The obvious question: If you write well enough to attract the interest of publishers why not just pitch a work of fiction? Seltzer recently tried to dodge criticism by claiming she was “trying to give voice to people that people don’t listen to.” (That’s the kind of writing that impresses publishers? Really?)

If Jones/Seltzer’s claim were true, I’d expect a foundation set up with funds from advances or sales to be deposited immediately there, a PR campaign already in place, as well as plans to use the money to do good on behalf of these unrepresented peeps from her fake ‘hood.

Still waiting.

All of these things, cumulatively, make me profoundly sad. The evidence of our love-hate relationship with morality, if that is what is being brought to light, is stunning. We’re titillated and quick to judge. Others are quick to excuse, no matter how dressed up the justifying gets, it’s still just rationalizing bad behavior. “Scientists” or “doctors” claim males are incapable of fidelity. Is it true that in France cuckolded spouses care more about the lying, whereas here we care more about the sex? Are we really a nation of fibbers who demand fidelity? How does that math even work?

Change of Focus
To whom can we turn for lessons in leading an honest life? Media celebrities, politicians, sports heroes, new darlings of the publishing world – are these likely or worthy of such responsibility? Religion? I’ve yet to find an organized religion that hasn’t outright ignored its own proscriptions against evil when it suited them. Enlightenment at the end of a sword doesn’t work for me. Peace talks after the slaughter is finished? Not good with that.

One does wish for some integrity in the public world. No one need be perfect, but how about someone who says it’s good to aspire to be better? How about a lack of scorn when one has the courage to say so? For those on the “audacity of hope” bandwagon, remember that others we were eager to bestow with our trust have been revealed to be far too human. It was part of Bill Clinton’s early appeal, Kennedy before him, and the list goes on.

Why not turn this focus inward, instead? On the eve of Easter, having returned from the moving and beautiful Bat Mitzvah of my friend’s daughter, I’m inspired to a fresh start. Rather than teach a child to revere a sports star as a hero, why not teach her to revere herself as heroic? A high batting average does not make a child worthy. Being who he or she is, and trying to be good; that makes one worthy. A young girl, today an adult in the community of Temple Beth El, taught me something today. We could do well to remember the passion, creativity and honesty so evident in this girl today.

It is good and right to aspire to being our best selves. It is not enough to say the words, one must do the works. We should fight sarcasm and complacency which are enemies of positive action and happiness. They are defensive tools that come easily when we feel too battered by life to allow ourselves the vulnerability of hope and faith. Find what is true and good, don’t focus on what is true and bad, except where you can diminish it.

Most of us know what is right if we allow ourselves an honest opportunity to reflect on what is in our own heart. Do it, follow it, surround yourself with those who will support that effort. We each get a fresh chance, a fresh start, each day. And speaking of fresh starts, why not include a little mercy and forgiveness? I could use a reminder not to be so quick to judge. Being right about someone else’s failures or flaws doesn’t make me a better person. Being forgiving makes me a better person.

One of the lessons in today’s Bat Mitzvah reading was about burnt offerings – the non-dinner kind. I was reminded how many cultures use smoke to carry hopes or prayers heavenward. I have a New Year’s Eve ritual that would work equally well today.

  • Write on one piece of paper a grudge you’ve been harboring, which you are ready to release.
  • On another, write one thing you hope for this year.
  • Then burn the papers, one at a time while you meditate on each thought in turn.

Why not do this or some other ritual to mark a fresh start? Whatever your religious beliefs, it cannot hurt to take a moment to remind ourselves that it’s good to hope, that there is beauty in the world if we will take the time to notice. That we can and should be our best selves and that there is also forgiveness if we fail.

Happy Spring!

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  1. Tales of the Cocktail may be over but the fun continues. Check the blogs and podcasts for all the news that fit to drink!
  2. The Maori art of facial tatooing is called moko. It is a powerful expression of tribal identity which has only recently enjoyed a resurgence as the colonial Christian prohibitions against it have lessened. Go to the Peabody Essex Museum for this rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of this amazing cultural tradition. The documentary I saw at Sundance years ago on moko, was one of the most powerful films I have ever seen.
  3. The Audubon Insectarium is a new and top-notch attraction in New Orleans. We passed by it and wondered why we'd missed it before. Turns out it's just now opening. No time this last trip, but it's on the list for the next time. Check here for info.

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