Finding Meaning

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One-Step Authenticity

By Skip Hellewell
By Skip Hellewell

The word of the week is “authentic,” the flip side of hypocritical. Two weeks ago, I wrote that Mark Twain’s writing reflected his search for truth and authenticity. Twain, though wary of religion, had a spiritual perspective and enjoyed long friendships with clergy. Last week, I noted how his “spiritual but not religious” outlook is enjoying a modern resurgence. Humanity, I posited, possesses a spiritual homing instinct. Whatever our faith, nearly all seek spirituality and the meaning it brings to our lives. The litmus test of our spiritual quest is our internal consistency—if walk our talk. Like Twain, most seek authenticity.

Google the term “be authentic” and you’ll get half a billion hits. It’s a hot topic. There are also a lot of folks offering their list of steps to authenticity. They come in 12-step plans and range down to three-step plans. Looking for a shortcut, I propose a two-step plan.

The paradox of becoming authentic is you can’t force it. If you’re trying, it’s unnatural, hence you’re faking, dissimulating. It’s a bit like a dog chasing its tail—trying harder doesn’t help. So, the first step is to take a different tact by working on a related quality, like spirituality. We gave these sources of spirituality in the last column: reading good books, praying, meditating, the singing of hymns, serving others, listening to great music, church-going, taking a nature walk, a sunset stroll on the beach, or just counting your blessings. A few minutes a day will make a difference, and authenticity will grow with spirituality.

The second step is to emulate the naturally authentic—children. You’ll recall that in Matthew, the Lord advised us to become as little children, declaring them the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Our daughter and her husband were hiking in the Sierras with their older kids last week, so we had the youngest two, a 6- and an 8-year old. Children have a simple and natural innocence, even when conning you for a treat. You can’t be around them, especially newborns, without becoming a little like them. After a few days, though, you’ll find them most charming when asleep. The Psalmist was right, “Children are a blessing and a gift from the Lord.”

Skip's new photo.
Skip’s new photo.

I’d call this my two-step program, except when I visited Seaside Calvary Church, a woman asked if I wasn’t the person who wrote, “Finding Meaning.” It gave me a nice feeling until she added, “You don’t look like the picture.” In truth, 10 or so years have passed since my daughter took my photo while studying photography. The solution was to reach out to local photographer Don Romero for this more authentic photo. Guess I’ve got authenticity down to a one-step plan.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach. Email: [email protected].


Places to worship (all on Sunday, unless noted):
Baha’i’s of Laguna Beach—contact [email protected] for events and meetings.

Calvary Chapel Seaside, 21540 Wesley Drive (Lang Park Community Center), 10:30 a.m.

Chabad Jewish Center, 30804 S. Coast Hwy, Fri. 6 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.

Church by the Sea, 468 Legion St., 9 & 10:45 a.m.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), 682 Park Ave., 10 a.m.

First Church of Christ, Scientist, 635 High Dr., 10 a.m.

ISKCON (Hare Krishna), 285 Legion St., 5 p.m., with 6:45 feast.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, 20912 Laguna Canyon Rd., 1:00 p.m.

Laguna Beach Net-Works, 286 St. Ann’s Dr., 10 a.m.

Laguna Presbyterian, 415 Forest Ave., 8:30 & 10 a.m.

Neighborhood Congregational Church (UCC), 340 St. Ann’s Drive, 10 a.m.

United Methodist Church, 21632 Wesley, 10 a.m.

Salt Chrch, 8681 N. Coast Hwy, 10:00 a.m.

St. Catherine of Siena (Catholic), 1042 Temple Terrace, 7:30, 9, 11, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish), 5:30 p.m. There are 8 a.m. masses on other days and Saturday 5:30 p.m. vigils.

St. Francis by the Sea (American Catholic), 430 Park, 9:30 a.m.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 428 Park Ave., 9:30 a.m. (summer schedule)

Unitarian Universalist, 429 Cypress St., 10:30 a.m.

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