I have two primary assignments in this world. They are to encourage authenticity and to minister to those in pain. Minister means “to attend and serve.”
Let’s start with ministering to those in pain. Pain comes in the physical form, and it comes as fear, worry, and generalized distress.
My first task is to learn about pain, especially in the form of fear, and apply that learning to myself. The buddhists tell us to make friends with our own fear, to smile at it, and to linger with it without making any effort to resolve it or overcome it. We cannot be helpful to others until we have helped ourselves.
The next task is to pay attention to people who hurt and to invite them to share the nature and depth of the hurt. Only informed service is helpful to these people. People who are in physical pain mostly benefit from kindness, service, and attention.
I often write posts on this blog about pain, especially emotional and psychological pain. I point readers to sources of helpful advice. I share accounts of my fear and how I work with it, and how my perspective is changing over time.
Men, in particular, are reluctant to reveal their pain. They fool themselves into thinking other people can’t tell by their behavior what is going on inside them. I only provide service to people who welcome it, so I don’t have many working relationships with men who are hurting. My audience is mostly female.
I photograph people as a celebration of who they are. The photo that illustrates this post features Stormy Leigh at a group shoot organized by Arizona Photo Events. The location is a place called The Domes. Stormy is a burlesque performer, and she loves wonderful costumes, inventive poses, and playfulness. I look to each person to discover their interests and talents, and to proceed to make a photographic record of those things. The idea is to record what is real for them.
Milton Glaser gave us a wonderful explanation of what drawing means to him. I offer it here with one important change. I substitute photographing for drawing.
“When you photograph something your mind shifts into another gear. Ideally, you approach the subject with a sense of reverence or humility as you acknowledge its extraordinary nature and attempt to describe it. Of course it’s possible to photograph without paying attention by imposing your will or style upon the subject; but that is, I believe, another kind of activity.”
I study authenticity in order to know how to encourage it in myself and others. Children are born authentic, and society, and sometimes parents, suppress it. Authenticity looks messy to many people. They sometimes resort to pretense in an effort to fit in.
Many of the best books on authenticity use leadership as the foundation for their message. Leaders encourage authenticity in the people they lead. One of my favorite sources of guidance is John Gardner’s book, On Leadership. Like many of my favorite books it is now 25 years old.
I list myself on LinkedIn as an authenticity advocate. I have not received any comments or questions regarding that title. It might simply strike people as odd or strange. Authenticity is out of fashion, generally speaking. It needs more advocates.