And yet.....On Sincerity, take 2

Is this song sincere? Sincerely, or insincerely, what?

And yet there is some quality we might call sincerity or authenticity that we look for in others — we look for it in our music and art, in our literature and philosophy, in our friends and lovers and colleagues and neighbors.

It's just that authenticity and sincerity are elusive and rarely take the traditional form (whatever that is) of being sentimentally straightforward or staightforwardly sentimental. And there is a certain will to authenticity — one might know it best in rock & roll — that is egregious and breeds half-assed art.

Let's consider one of my favorite bands, Ween. Their music is never, ever, sincere. And yet they are sincere — they are sincerely arty, they are sincerely playful, they are sincerely "putting on" the world. I trust them.

There's a great line in Irvine Welsh's "Trainspotting" in which Renton finds himself in an discussion of pop music: "
The Simple Minds have been pure shite since they jumped on the committed, passion-rock bandwagon of U2. Ah’ve never trusted them since...." He’s never trusted them precisely because they’ve made claims to depth, to conviction, to a certain brand of sincerity. I trust Ween precisely because they are not sincere; or because they are sincerely artistic.

Now, I may be conflating terms and ideas — of depth, conviction, trust, sincerity. But I am trying to get at the relationship between expression, sentiment, truth, and multiplicity and all those terms come into play to nudge each other about. So bear with me, please. This is live thought.

The Beatles may be a better example as more people know them. Are The Beatles sincere? Is "Let it Be" a sincere song but "Honey Pie" is not? Is sincere an irrelevancy when discussing The Beatles? Or can we say, yes, they are sincere — sincerely doing their darndest, sincerely moving my mind and heart?

What is that quality we look for in our friends and lovers, our art and ideas? What is the term for it, this strange thing that lets us trust what's coming out of someone's mouth, even if we don't trust what's coming out of their mouths? What is this authenticity that does not seek, does not speak, does not want authenticity?

Tom Wolfe might say, "You're on the bus."

Can we call it "Being on the Busness"? But what is said being on the busness? From whence does it come? Some sense of internal knowledge, some self-awareness? Some elusive yet absolute sense of being present?


Linz said...

When I was a kid, my aunt would always smile and talk to me in a nice voice and take me to the toy store and the petting zoo. My uncle would swear and smoke and tell me to shut up while he watched the football game — and I loved him more.

And I trusted him more. I think there's something about sincerity that doesn't make assumptions about what others want — that isn't even interested in others.

Some people (or art, or music) are desperate for our love and approval. Their insincere pandering makes their ulterior motives easy to peg. Sincerity is more often confounding.

Daniel Coffeen said...

I love your last line: "Sincerity is more often confounding." Yes, thank you.