The greater enemy of authenticity is BS


The greater enemy of authenticity is BS

Mark 1:21-28. Jesus drives away an unclean spirit

If the Word is analogous to the Truth, what would be appropriately analogous for “unclean spirit”? A lying spirit?

For me, the greater enemy of the Truth or the person pursuing authenticity is not necessarily lies. The greater enemy is… bullshit (BS).

(See a quick introduction on bullshit as a technical term, popularized by Harry G. Frankfurt:

It’s rather fascinating to encounter BS as a technical term in the academe, and somehow there is both humor and discomfort when I discuss this with colleagues and students (yes, in one of our humanistic management classes, one of the modules is to discuss BS!)

In a sense, Frankfurt argues that a liar respects the truth (and deliberately chooses to conceal it), while a BS-er does not care. A BS-er would tell anything — a narrative, a claim, an appearance — without regards to truth, as long as the claim benefits the BS-er.

I’m beginning to agree that BS is more harmful than lying. Come to think of it, there is such thing as “white lies” — something that is said with good intentions, to protect another from the harshness of truth (because truth can be inconvenient, indeed). But is there such thing as a “white bullshit”? (Haha, the imagery of a bird’s poop come to mind.) Seriously though, I can appreciate how a white lie can be well-intentioned, but BS seems very selfish, more self-serving.

Authenticity and critical reflection of the Word invites us to think and arrive at reasonable judgements. BS does not; it’s overly concerned on what looks good, what feels good, without critical appreciation and internalization of a substance or mechanism. This is why I don’t think anchoring faith only on a supernatural experience or supernatural apparition is sturdy; at worst, it can be a form of BS that just makes us feel good, but ultimately prevents us from a deeper understanding of God.

In corporations, fixating only on the financial bottomline (and even manipulating the books to appear “good”) is a form of BS. In politics, claims and narratives without regard to truth is BS (ahem, “Perception is real, the truth is not.” Google this quote!)

I pray that the Word has some answers on how we can pursue Truth. As Lonergan argued, we have a “pure desire to know” and this pure desire is oriented towards the good. Thus, we should avoid the tragedy of avoiding the pursuit of eureka moments; our quest for insights is what makes us more integral humans.

BS may smell good at first, but the stench it brings to our spirit is undeniable.

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