Sunday, July 17, 2011

The 'Authentic' and the 'Poser': Beauty versus Sovereignty

'Poser- (informal) a person who likes to be seen in trendsetting clothes, fashionable bars,... etc'
(Collins English Dictionary)
 'Poser - this is someone who looks like a skater, or who claims to be one, but who doesn't know anything about skating. This term can be pretty hurtful, so don't use it lightly. And it's tough to know if someone truly IS a poser - read Posers Vs Slow Learners for more.' 
( 'Skateboarding slang')

Comparing the two entries cited above we find that the term 'poser', as used by skateboarders, is not specific to skateboard culture. It is a more generic slang term used to describe an individual who 'likes to be seen' as  fashionable, cool, and the like. The operative term being 'seen'. His motivation for doing something is more for the sake of impressing others than his appreciation of the thing per se. The opposite of the 'poser' would be one whose primary motivation is an appreciation of a thing rather than how he appears to others through his connection to it. In short: one who's authentic, genuine, and real.  
Kabbalah discusses two qualities which underpin the essential natures of the poser and the real deal. These are Malchut, sovereignty, and Tiferet, beauty. In a nutshell, Malchut, in its moderate form, is a sense of power/prestige, etc that one draws from others - the 'subjects' - through their recognition, praise, and applause. Tiferet is one's aesthetic sense; one's ability to identify beauty, value, and truth in things.

Let's briefly explore some of the pertinent differences between the two:    

Independence versus Dependence:

A king's power derives from people's submission before him, as there can be no king without a nation. Sovereign power is therefore inherently dependent on things external to the king, and hence, unstable. (When a ruler governs a people who are not subordinate to him, he's not a king but a dictator or tyrant). The withdrawal of his nation's allegiance thus undermines his authority. Analogously, the self-worth of individuals whose need for sovereignty, Malchut, is strong, hinges on social status, praise, and recognition from others. By placing their ‘power’ in the hands of others they are thus forever insecure.

In contrast, a sense of beauty, Tiferet, involves a developed ability to appreciate the appeal, value, purpose, and goodness of objects, including one’s own qualities. Individuals with a well developed sense of taste, Tiferet, are empowered from within, from their own appraisal of their abilities and possessions. Their sense of worth is independent of external factors and is thus stable.

Relative versus Absolute:

One dominated by a striving for Malchut, whose self worth stems from outside himself, tends to compare himself to others in order to gauge his own status and value. Thus, in the company of people he deems inferior to himself, he may feel proud, respectable, and important, but among those he deems superior, he may feel inadequate. Of course the opposite can also be true: among distinguished people, he assumes himself to be important, for why else was he welcomed into their clique? Whereas among a 'lowlier' crowd he views himself to be lowly as well. 

Such a person lives in a realm of relativity. His self-worth forever fluctuates based on who he compares himself too, or who his friends are. In contrast, one governed by his own sense of beauty, Tiferet, perceives his own beauty and value in absolute terms, that is, without comparing himself to others or identifying with particular groups.

Intrinsic motivation versus extrinsic motivation:

One in whom Malchut, sovereignty, is prevalent tends to do things with extrinsic motivation, that is, he's motivated by incentive external to the particular activity at hand. For instance, he may give charity in order to improve his self-image rather than to help the needy; he may study in order to develop a reputation as a great scholar rather than to become wise; or he may be polite to customers in order to secure their business rather than out of genuine respect and care. 

On the other hand, one with heightened Tiferet, beauty, engages in activities inspired by an appreciation of their worth and beauty. His actions are thus intrinsically motivated and sincere.

In summary: 
Don't be a tyrant; don't even desire to be king;
Heed your inner sense of beauty, and your heart will rouse to sing.      

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