Living an Authentic Life

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
— The Second Coming; W.B. Yates

There's an interesting phenomenon floating around the internet these days.  While it manifests itself in many discrete forms, it's usually accompanied with a hashtag (obviously) of #liveauthentic.  Most of you know the story by now, but a classic case study goes something like this:

Foster is a millennial in his early twenties.  Likely raised in a relatively affluent suburb of a highly gentrified mid-sized city (Portland, Denver, Seattle, etc.), Foster put in the requisite four years at a highly regarded liberal arts college surrounded by others exactly like himself.  Upon his exit from said college, Foster was forced into the cold, hard "real world".  Of course, Foster's "real world" wasn't actually the real world as his expensive education and some family connections landed him a job with an exciting company, almost certainly in the Bay Area, replete with fancy perks like free lunches/haircuts/hoverboards.  While some would be deeply grateful for such an opportunity, Foster spent the next several years filled with a river of detachment and wanderlust.  Rooted in an unwavering and likely unacknowledged sense of entitlement, Foster believed that not only was there was more to life than working, but that he deserved more.  So, in an act o, Foster sells his belongings, finds the perfect Sprinter Van, and settles on a route that will help him live the life he wants to live.  As Foster drives the Pan-American Highway, he fills his social media with photos of sunsets from the back of the van, morning coffee selfies while wrapped in "authentic" Mexican serapes, photos of vibrant markets, and perhaps a photo or two of a smiling septuagenarian local.  The photos are always accompanied by verbose captions about how this campsite, this sunrise, or this plate of tacos filled a spiritual/existential void or just general ramblings about the importance of living a meaningful and handcrafted life supported by wild places. #liveauthentic

But who is this life being crafted for?  There is nothing wrong with seeking a life of adventure or carving one's own path in life.  Shit, I try to do so myself.  But #liveauthentic is not a movement based in principal so much as it is a marketing strategy.  At its most basal level, it is a strategy for the perpetuation of self promotion for those living the life authentic-- more likes, more followers, more possibilities to score a free hammock to include in the next Instagram photo.  On a larger scale, however, #liveauthentic has been appropriated by clever brands, usually outdoor industry based, as a method of targeting other wanderlust filled twenty-somethings.  Through carefully curated social media accounts, ads that don't feel like ads with sweeping video footage of the aforementioned campsite/sunrise/taco plate, and strategic inclusion of individuals like our buddy Foster, #liveauthentic has become nothing but a caricature of real adventure.  Like Yate's bird of prey spiraling away from the falconer, things fall apart and, in the case of #liveauthentic, hypocrisy ensues.  A life lived for likes and followers is not authentic.  There is nothing genuine or real about a carefully curated shot of your breakfast in a Peruvian cafe, your 35mm camera and a topographic map ever so perfectly placed in frame. 

So what's the point of this aimless rambling I just put out into the world? Probably nothing important, other than to say that how we engage with places and people (not things) is one of the most important ways we define our experience in life.  So whatever it is you chose to do and wherever you choose to go, take a moment to appreciate it for yourself .  Reflecting upon what that place/trail/mountain means to you and how that place or experience affected you personally is the only way to live authentic.  Take the time to do so, then post that selfie. Because after all, if a bear shits in the woods and no one was there it Snapchat it, did it really happen?