I recently watched a couple of self portrait(ish) interviews with celebrities I admire or enjoy watching. Among the characteristics of each, I notice a theme that runs pretty consistently throughout. The personality or demeanor of these celebrities that catch my interest (or at least the way they appear to be while being interviewed), in no particular order, contain a mish-mosh of some degree of humility, self-deprecation, the ability to laugh at self, and most importantly, authenticity. Ok I guess there was some order after all.
Ricky Gervais, for example, did an interview recently during which he was asked what life event most dramatically made an impact on his career choices. His first reaction was to giggle (I love his giggle. It's contagious, childlike, and insidious all at the same time....maddeningly delightful) before he ultimately replied "Who cares??" Then muttered something about not understanding why anyone would have any interest whatsoever in a fat bloke from Redding and his childhood experiences which motivated or informed his future endeavors in the entertainment field. Classic. Truthful. Or was it....never know with the unpredictable Mr. Gervais do we. At any rate, what followed was a very relatable, realistic story about a teacher he had in middle school who consistently gave Gervais bad grades on essays that Gervais thought were fantastically well done. Confounded that his wildly dramatic stories which were parallel (i.e. plagiarized) from shows he watched "on the telly" continued to receive failing grades, he finally took the advice his teacher had repeatedly given him all along, which was to write about what he knew, in all its normalcy and boring glory. Convinced that he would prove the teacher wrong by doing just that, he wrote the true story of his mother visiting an elderly neighbor each day and how that visit went. He purposefully wrote in every minor detail such as how his Mum would clean up around the lady's home just a bit, ask her if she'd eaten, document each word of the mundane conversation which ensued, and so on. Convinced he'd outdone himself and cooked the teacher in his own juices, he sat back and waited for his paper to be returned the next day in class so he could revel in his righteousness.
Teacher begins to give out papers, gets to Gervais' desk, grins, nods, slaps the graded essay on to Gervais' desk, and with a dramatic point to the A scrawled across the top of the paper, said "THAT is how it's done." Or something to that effect. It's been a little while since I've seen the interview. And I always get so caught up in being enamoured with him in general that I guess I sometimes could get a few words wrong, so there's that. But you take the point..
Then there's the George Clooney interview on Actors Studio. He speaks in a manner that reveals he doesn't take acting stuff seriously, and is able to laugh at himself and his choices. I feel like it's part of what makes him so incredibly attractive. What's the other part you ask? Surrsly? LOOK at the man.
I miss Yoda. I'm not a dedicated or knowledgeable Star Wars fan but having seen (or subliminally soaked up) all of the movies in piece or part dozens of times owing to having three male humans living my home, a few more hanging out here often and consistently, and a multitude of other Star Wars Mega Fans in my life, I do feel as though I know a few of the critical characters fairly well. We're more than acquaintances, not quite friends. Although I do feel like I could be a great friend to Han Solo. But I digress.
Yoda is a short, odd looking green fella of unknown descent. We don't know where he came from, he's an unknown species, and initially he presents himself as a senile, funny old backwater being. He doesn't apologize for his looks or his speech patterns. Then as the story moves along we learn he has trained the most powerful and important Jedi for over 800 years. Thunk it, who woulda?
Yoda's the kinda guy I like being around. He's comfortable being himself, he's wiser than he lets on and most of all, he's authentic. What you see and hear from him are exactly what he is. He makes seemingly simple statements but it's only later, after it sinks in a bit, you recognize you could spend days unpacking the truth of them. Little old green Yoda. A sampling of his wisdom:
"Fear is the path to the dark side...fear leads to anger...anger leads to hate...hate leads to suffering."
"When 900 years old you reach, look as good you will not."
"You'll know the good from the bad when you are at peace, calm, passive. A Jedi uses the force for knowledge and defense, never for attack."
In other words, use your powers for good. Strive for personal peace, don't let fear lead you down a bad path, and lastly, recognize that today's you isn't supposed to look like childhood or teenaged you.
Not bad life advice, on the whole. Simple, but sometimes not so easy.
One more example of an authentic, humble presence, then I'll quit. I promise. There is a facebook page I stumbled upon because of a friend of mine (who's from Maine). The name of the facebook page is Bangor Maine Police Department. I'll add the link in a little bit. At any rate, this police department has gone out of its way to create a warm, humorous but helpful and cooperative relationship with its community by writing a post every couple of days. It has a very pleasing balance of humor, helpful information, responses to complaints, and several other subjects for content. The parting line for their posts is always, "Keep your hands to yourself, leave other people's things alone, and be kind to one another."
Simple, it is. Easy, sometimes it is not.
We recently returned from a trip to India. While India might not have been on my top five ok my top ten international locations to vacation, the opportunity presented itself and was a once in a lifetime chance, so to India we went. While there and on the way home, I did much contemplation about our (Americans in general, I guess) lifestyles, our ideals about what is normal and what we expect or explain that we "need" in the way of material possessions. I'm still forming my thoughts on the concept and I'll write a (probably way too long) blogpost on it when I wrangle it into some manner of articulable arrangement in my brain. It's all wrapped up in the same subject as today's post - humility and authenticity. Coming soon. Until then, may the force be with you. :-)