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Chances Are, You Went to the Wrong College

On Sunday, the man known to us mortals as Jack White (of The White Stripes, Raconteurs, Dead Weather and general awesomeness) gave a surprise lecture to students of the Philosophical Society at Dublin’s Trinity College while there to receive honorary patronage. Both Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde were previous members of DTC’s Philosophocial Society, so they were clearly ready for White’s near-transparent level of whiteness.

Clearly the topic that reached White’s heart was authenticity. He discussed how probably people like Bob Dylan aren’t as authentic as thought, while people like Britney Spears, who do what they want in the “way they know how” are likely more authentic. While this has caused a minor stir on some music sites, I think what he’s saying is probably more about attitude and personality rather than their creative output, as we can all agree that plenty of pop stars have done what Spears does, just as plenty of other musicians have done what Dylan does (though maybe not nearly as well or for as long). But in the end doesn’t authenticity go back to that old saying that everyone in the world has come to hate, “there’s nothing new under the sun.”

It’s time to start mining what’s above it, then. Or maybe decide that one can be authentic and inauthentic simultaneously.

  • Ryan W. Bradley has pumped gas, changed oil, painted houses, swept the floor of a mechanic's shop, worked on a construction crew in the Arctic Circle, fronted a punk band, and managed an independent children's bookstore. He now works in marketing. His latest book is Nothing but the Dead and Dying, a collection of stories set in Alaska. He lives in southern Oregon with his wife and two sons.

4 thoughts on “Chances Are, You Went to the Wrong College

  1. It wasn’t until I reached the third paragraph that I realized you were talking about the guy from the White Stripes and not some philosopher I’ve never heard of.

    Is Jack White authentic? How did he even define “authentic”? Can’t you be both authentic and banal, or is blazing originality a prerequisite for authenticity? Don’t Jack White just borrow old blues riffs? Doesn’t everybody? Isn’t listening to original, authentic blues music painfully boring?

    1. Thanks, I’ve gone back and clarified… sometimes I forget people may not have the same associations as I do.

      I don’t think Jack White was purporting himself to be authentic, I think he was genuinely questioning the idea of authenticity, posing it to a group of people as “here’s something people see as authentic but probably isn’t, and here’s something people see as the antithesis of authenticity but might not be.” I think by using one of his idols (Dylan) as an example shows that he doesn’t take himself to be necessarily authentic.

    2. i wouldn’t synonymize authentic and original. In fact authentic is not original to me, it’s traditional, it’s the common real. Original is inauthentic, new in the most absolute sense, unreal.

      1. Darby, I agree. I think authentic and original are very distinct things. But I don’t think Jack White was trying to equate them, though I think in some cases originality does get equated with authenticity, whether or not it should be.

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