I found myself rereading Jesse Thorn’s A Manifesto for the New Sincerity again this morning. I revisit it from time to time, and highly recommend that you do the same. It’s more than ten years old now, and still feels fresh and important to me. The manifesto never fails to cheer me up and help me to refocus. Perfect Monday reading, in other words.
You really ought to take a look; it’ll take you four minutes, and I’ll be here when you get back.
Whether you read it or not, though, here’s what stuck out for me: there are some things too magnificent to be taken literally, and yet too important to be taken ironically. Can you think of some? The list is long. It includes love, beauty, and Evel Knievel. Please spend some time putting your list together. Add to it whenever you can. The process is liberating, because those things, the things that can only truly be dealt with on the basis of sincerity, are the Truth. They will make you free.
People ask how we read the Bible. We believe there are literal, historical facts there, but we don’t take the Bible literally. We recognize that Scripture is full of symbols, but we don’t view it as a free-for-all, where anything can represent whatever we feel like. So how do we read the Bible? Sincerely. Head and heart, facts and Truth, water and stone.
If you want to change and grow, if you want to make a difference in the world, if you want to fall in love, you have got to be sincere. Smugness damages the process.
Say what you want about mainstream religion, but for the most part those people are sincere if nothing else. I don’t find many smug attitudes there. I have seen them in some of the more “alternative” churches and centers, though. I’ve seen new agers sneer at the mention of the disempowering tradition from which they’ve narrowly escaped, only to espouse something even more Byzantine and external. But that’s the thing. If you’re not sincere, you can’t really see what you’re doing.
To see miracles, we must have faith and not doubt. It’s a two-part process. So many people are good at the first part, but so jaded that the second is impossible. Some folks’ flight from closemindedness has led them to a blind adherence to multiple, contradictory traditions. At that point, the doubt is baked in; once simply cannot believe all these conflicting things at once with any kind of sincerity, so all that’s left is something psychologically comforting but not transformative.
The claim that all religions are saying the same thing is doubling-down on ego. It oversimplifies those beautiful traditions into something devoid of any real meaning; their unique offerings have been watered down to make them palatable. The process is, at best, disrespectful, at worst something close to racist, and nothing like helpful no matter what. And that’s not what those people want, of course. The goal was inclusion and openness.
When you aren’t conscious, you inevitably become what you fear most. The trick is to get the fear out of there in the first place. And, of course, the antidote to fear is sincerity.
So what’s on your list? In other words, what is awesome? I’m using that word deliberately. Find things that fill you with so much awe that you can’t take them literally or ironically. Collect them. Get excited about them. Don’t be afraid. Along the way, something important will happen. You will realize that you are awesome, too.
All you need is a jumpsuit.