The Search for Authenticity

Among my closest friends, I have observed a trend.  Most of us have taken serious forays into the practices, theories and sacred literature of a variety of spiritual traditions, as well as the theologies of Christian denominations, including phases of attendance among many devout peoples.  We have neither strayed nor lost our identities nor misplaced our moral compasses.  We have not abandoned the dearness held in our hearts for the religious traditions in which we were reared, but which no longer seem a fully adequate fit.  Nonetheless, in listening to the questions raised in and around these forays, I hear my friends looking for the “oldest, closest to the original, best translation or most authentic” sources.

And, I have to ask, “Of what?  Sources of what?”


In my own case, my phase of comparative spiritual study involved wanting to discover and build a vocabulary—which I simply did not possess from the context of my childhood tradition—for the states I was experiencing during meditation, receptivity or periods of contemplation.  Then, at some point amid my search, I realized that the authenticity I sought—which was the “oldest, closest to the original, best translation and most authentic”—could neither be found nor adequately represented by an external literature or tradition.  The road to authenticity, in my experience, is opened only through one’s own ability to connect with that something deep inside, which is radiant and whole in each of us.

Now, I am able to talk with you using three different words, from three different spiritual traditions, about that authentic something—the place of peace.  But, in the end, words are completely inadequate.

Search for the oldest known texts, closest translations, most original practices or the best of teachers.  The very act of searching, in safe circumstances, aids us in building lines of communication to our place of authenticity.  But, what I tell you is that the daily practice of remaining in that precious seat, involves picking up the ringing phone in one’s own heart to listen and know peace.

Greed: An Ancient Tale

Packed in our car, we three—husband, wife and infant child—are headed east for another academic summer of intensive foreign language study. Both rear-view mirrors are in constant use, as no one can see beyond the boxes of books, belongings and the dual coolers holding the sum of our trip provisions. Precious among the cooler items is a single, large loaf of homemade chocolate-chip, banana bread, a raving party-tray favorite. It makes an exceptionally rich breakfast food. I plan to share part of that one loaf, the first morning out, with a dear friend who always put us up for a night whether we are heading east or west.

Dragging in at a very late hour, my dear friend meets us all graciously, even though we three are damp with sweat from the late June heat. Showers are had. An extra bed with fresh sheets is turned down for us. Husband and child are put to bed. I stay up later still to visit with my friend.

How are you? How did you find this place? Who and how is your new roommate? Are you happy? I did not realized how much I missed my friend until we sit alone together conversing in half whispers. At 2:00 am I patter off to bed, damp again from the heat, overly late conversation and wee hour.

At 10:00 am the next morning, as we finish our breakfast together, I begin repacking the coolers. My friend hints about keeping the rest of the chocolate-chip, banana bread.

“I’ll leave you an extra slice,” I say. My mind fancies itself generous. My heart cramps with stinginess.

“It’s so rich. Do you think it will last in this heat?” my friend gently hints once more.

“Oh, I think it will be okay in the cooler,” I reply turning a deaf ear to his subtle request.

One day and two states later, I open the remaining half loaf to the stench of chocolate-chip-banana-beyond-wine-bread featuring small pockets of foul liquid like unctuous pock marks in a brown field of contaminated soil. Inedible. What a miserly fool I was.

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