Monday, September 5, 2022

Skye Cleary's "How to Be Authentic"

Skye C. Cleary is a philosopher and writer. She teaches at Columbia University, Barnard College, and the City University of New York, and is the author of Existentialism and Romantic Love and co-editor of How to Live a Good Life. Cleary’s writing has appeared in The Paris Review, Aeon, The Times Literary Supplement, TED-Ed, and Los Angeles Review of Books, among other outlets. She won the 2017 New Philosopher Writers’ Award and was a 2021 MacDowell Fellow.

Cleary applied the Page 99 Test to her new book, How to Be Authentic: Simone de Beauvoir and the Quest for Fulfillment, and reported the following:
Page 99 of How to Be Authentic is the conclusion to my chapter on romantic love. If a browser opened to that page, they would find a one paragraph summary of authenticity in the context romantic relationships, including: “Love is neither destined nor found, but created”. Page 99 concludes with a bridge to the topic of marriage and gives an inkling as to what’s coming in the next chapter. The test doesn’t sum up the whole book, but it does reveal two critically important situations that present challenges and opportunities to becoming authentic.

Beauvoir’s views on love are what drew me to her philosophy in the first place so it feels apt that this is where the test brings us! The French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir was particularly concerned with the way that women’s situation as “The Second Sex”—that is, subordinate to men—perverts us from creating relationships in authentic ways. For Beauvoir, “authentic love must be founded on reciprocal recognition of two freedoms,” which means that lovers respect one another as individuals, support one another’s flourishing, are generous towards one another and the world around them, and stretch together toward shared goals. It also means that lovers choose to be together and choose to create a relationship together. If people are coerced into a relationship, such as through family or social or financial pressures, then it can’t be an authentic connection. Choice is key. Maybe you say you can’t choose love? Well, probably you can’t choose whether to be attracted to someone, but you can choose whether to pursue a relationship and with whom. If you feel you don’t have a choice, then take a look around to see if you’re being oppressed or if you’re beholden to your passions. While love is sometimes so intoxicating that it feels you’re destined to be with one another, that’s the hormones talking. Love cannot complete us. Any feeling of wholeness is fleeting and illusory. Love isn’t written in the stars. Relationships are never a given. We have to work towards creating harmony—not only in romance but in our connections with other people and the world around us.
Visit Skye Cleary's website.

--Marshal Zeringue