In the world of creation, many works are judged by the status of their creators, being authenticated by experts as being real and valuable.
Works that do not come with status are dismissed as being pretentious, not of quality but only pretenders to being good and worthy creations.
Humans, though, are essentially creators. We create our own lives, never from scratch but always by pastiche, grabbing bits that already exist in culture and assembling them into a collage of expression that is uniquely ours.
When what we steal, our source material, has authenticated status, we are able to assert our own realness. By staying within the bounds of the expected and approved, we create images that we can claim are not created by us at all, but are, instead, genuine on some deep level.
When we assert our own style, though, offering a kind of creation that moves beyond the conventional, we often get dismissed as being pretentious, asserting some kind of self-inflated falsehood in the world.
Rather than being assessed on the quality of what we offer, being judged on merit, we are dismissed as being pretentious, having ideas and creations above our station. The status quo is the yardstick and anything which challenges that can be mocked and erased.
Dismissing creation beyond the conventional, though, is dismissing the real power of humans: the power of creation.
Man has a dream, and that’s the start
He follows his dream with mind and heart
And when it becomes a reality
It’s a great new day for you and me.
— Sherman Brothers, “Big Beautiful Tomorrow” for “Disney’s Carousel of Progress”
Creation is the power of change and change is the power of survival. Humans are not the most robust creature on the planet — water bears may be — but we are the most adaptable, even extending our reach to the moon.
We cannot create without imagination and imagination always demands pretending. “What if we tried it this way?” we wonder, and then we do try it that way, moving beyond expectations to innovate and become new.
Unless we are willing to be uppity, ignoring conventions to explore and experiment with our own possibilities, we are stuck repeating the old tropes, asking questions that can never transcend the current way of thinking.
Unless we support those uppity, pretentious people in their attempts to create beyond the tried and true, using their intellect and passion to move beyond, we cannot say we are committed to making a better world for us and our children.
Being pretentious then, asserting our own vision over the approved visions, dismissing judging by entrenched status and instead being open to excellence and elegance, is the only way to create the new and beautiful.
I understand why so many of us want to cling to status, want to justify our behaviour by showing how it is rooted in the already approved. For many, like academics, their own status comes not from innovation but from invoking tradition, denying creativity and claiming authority.
Does denying the power of our own creation, our own performance, our own art, though, somehow make us real, grounded and authentic? Does working to satisfy the experts so we can be authenticated by them really mean that we will stop being challenged?
Isn’t our deepest truth contained not in how we follow the rules of authentication but rather in how we assert and test our own creation in the world, shaping them to become as true, as robust and as powerful as they can be? Isn’t it only when we follow our dreams, letting go of the bits that are not grounded in deeper reality to make them more perfect and effective that we find the gifts we can offer to a world always being reborn?
Smarts are what got humans to the top of the food chain on this planet, not just the ability to follow the teachings of experts. And those smarts always started with someone putting the creations of their own imagination out there, letting them be cleansed and purified by the process of separating the jewels from the slag, the fantasies from the possibilities.
Don’t dream it, be it. Sure, someone will quote experts at you, telling you why you are a fool, but is only by hanging onto your own imagination, your own pretentiousness, that you can achieve the leap to become new and better in the world.
Fake it until you make it. Be pretentious and work like hell to be excellent too, always learning and always developing. Every virtuoso has to start somewhere, and none of them learn to fly by denying their own creativity, by only following the rules while striving to fit in, follow the rules and be tame.
Supporting pretense is supporting creativity. How can any human ever really blossom until they can reveal their own special and unique creation, using their own sweat to co-create a beautiful and powerful life?
Recommended Reading: “Pretentiousness: Why It Matters” by Dan Fox