Guide to Moral Living in Examples: Authenticity

Hugo couldn't believe it. After spending years on a small island somewhere off the coast of Australia, he saw the lights of a boat off the coast one night. He built his evening fire into a howling inferno of red flame, hoping to catch their eye.

It worked! The boat turned out to be a pleasure boat, a bloated yacht, and they could only offer him champagne, which he loved, and caviar, which he hated after eating it so often. Intoxicated, he partied with them and they told him about themselves.

"We're record producers from the Winter Hour, a small, indie label in New York," they explained, "on a holiday from our grueling schedule at home."

"Oh, really? What bands do you represent?"

"A few small bands that most people haven't heard of. Our Tears Fall Upward Because We're Astronauts; Tight Tweed Tunics; Sergeant Marjorie."

"I haven't heard of any of those. But then again, I've been stuck on a desert island."

"You should give them a listen. They're pretty obscure but well-reviewed."

"Okay."

They played him a few songs from each of the bands.

"This last one moved sixteen million units last week."

"They're pretty good," Hugo said. "You're good producers. They sound really slick and catchy."

The record producers all glanced at one another and after Hugo had gone to bed, they stayed up late into the night.

Upon landfall they took him to a hospital and flew him to New York City as soon as the doctors released him. There he gave a series of forgettable interviews with DJs, music journalists and bloggers.

Then, a few months later, his fame broke like a wave knocking over a bottle of beer insufficiently wedged in the sand.

The headlines blared adjectival phrases. "The Last Authentic Music Fan." "Nobody knows music like this man." "Forgotten on a desert island, his tastes remain untainted by the major labels."

Hugo was confused. He'd heard a song from Sergeant Marjorie during one of the biggest sporting events in the country. When he returned to his teaching duties as a professor of chemistry at a local university, all of the students wore tight tweed sweaters with the name Tight Tweed Sweaters emblazoned on the back. Our Tears Fall Upward Because We're Astronauts was coming to play a sold-out show at the university later that month.

After the first lab assignment, Hugo realized that the students weren't there to learn about the world of suspensions and solutions. Gaggles of students crammed his office during his office hours and yet nobody knew the difference between iron sulfate and iron sulfide. He felt like a failure as a teacher.

He called up the producers at Winter Hour.

"I need this to stop."

"My cats can't get this to stop. What's the problem?"

"My students don't care about chemistry! They're all there to listen to my music opinions!"

"That's the cross that the Only Authentic Music Fan has to bear. Listen, are you interested in going on the Briar Pipe Hour?"

"What's that?"

"One of the biggest radio shows for underground bands that the mainstream doesn't care about. It's got over ten million listeners each week."

Hugo hung up. As he walked home that night, he saw the convoy of tour buses from Our Tears Fall Upward Because We're Astronauts drive past.

All anybody cared about was his musical taste. So he ran with it the next day in class.

"Who knows what this is?" Hugo asked, hauling out a record player.

Everyone was in silent awe. Of course the Most Authentic Music Listener Ever would listen on vinyl!

"This is called a vinyl record, and it's made out of polyvinyl chloride. But more than that, it contains some of my favorite songs in the world."

He put it on. Hank the Honest Laborer, a multi-million dollar country singer, began wailing about how all he wants is a horse and a few cows.

The students all recoiled. Hugo smiled. This would be the perfect way to dissolve his reputation. Nobody would take him seriously as a music critic after this.

The next class period all of the students wore bolo ties and cowboy boots.

"What the hell?" Hugo asked.

"We really dig Hank the Honest Laborer. Pardner."

Hugo wore a t-shirt to class the next day that said "Irony Sucks."

All of his students came in wearing them beneath their leather vests and flannel shirts.

Hugo despaired. He wished that he was back on that desert island. The angry red crabs didn't give a claw about authenticity.

Hugo dragged himself to class the next day to find only a half-dozen students waiting for him.

"Where is everyone?"

"I think, and I don't mean to be rude, that they're over you."

The Moral: if you cry in space, the tears don't really go upward.

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