An interesting thing at the MasT meeting last night, especially for someone who is sensitive to the words people gravitate towards, was the repeated use of the words “real” and “authentic” in regards to how being in an absolute dynamic made one feel.
“Authentic” is especially interesting for me, as it is a key word in Heidegger. And while it’s one that a fair number of so-called Heideggerians avoid as much as possible to me it’s not a concept that can be lifted from Being and Time without leaving the book bereft of much of its import. With authenticity Heidegger is describing a state where one returns from one’s lostness in the world and consumption by the they-self. This consuming by the they-self is not something occasional, accidental, or to be avoided. It is simply a needful mode of being when one’s concerns and cares have to come first, and one cannot take the time to return to a more innate way of being. To make this more understandable, a carpenter may have all kinds of personal quirks and interesting features as a person, may think widely on all types of subjects and experience varied phenomena. But while involved in concernful carpentry he needs to be a carpenter, not just first, but from first to last. For the duration of his being-in-that-mode he cannot be a unique person, he has to be ‘a carpenter’ as fully as possible in order to do the work as well as possible.
Inauthenticity then is not something to be avoided. We all need to be “something” generic for certain periods in order to accomplish what’s needful in our world. It becomes an issue, though, when this temporary self-identification with the generic becomes constant. Out of fear of the realities of one’s authentic self, and very much at root out of fear of one’s mortality, one rushes headlong into pastime after pastime, being “something” generic for the duration of each pastime, and never returning to one’s self.
So it becomes interesting to me that, while in the midst of other “Masters” and “slaves”, at the very moment of apparently being “something” else generic, if not usual, people were talking about the moment of crossing the line into an absolute dynamic as making them feel, for the first time, “real” and “authentic”. While we may don the appelations of “Master” or “slave’, every absolute dynamic, by virtue of its absoluteness, also becomes unique in a certain way. There are plenty of “shoulds” floating about even in such a small community as far as behavioural norms for each role, but these “shoulds” play an insignificant part in the actual life of an M/s partnership. Eventually the reality of an absolute dynamic dictates only that the slave “should” do what the Master wants, whatever that may be, and that the Master “should” do only what the slave needs, whatever that may be.
This isn’t, however, unique to absolute dynamics. It’s simpler in form and therefore perhaps easier to flesh out than in a different type of relationship, but the germ of authenticity can grow within any relationship to the degree that the participants return to themselves, and do the things that are needful for the others, in the particular way that only they, as their own authentic selves, can do them. What I can do for mitda and emmie is not unique to me in any generic sense, but it is only when “I” do those things that they get the feeling of rightness and appropriateness that satisfies and makes one feel that one is where one ought to be. If I remain lost in the they-self that is needful for the work I do, no matter what actions I take that sense of the appropriate will never happen.