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As You Are

My daughter punched in a quick text the other night to see if we were coming to her kid’s soccer game. “R U coming?”

B S U R

My wife replied, “O K. R U there already?”

My daughter wrote back: “I - M.”

As I observed their hieroglyphics, I remembered how we had fun with those letter messages when we were younger. You’d point to a yellow jacket and say, “I C D B.”  I even recall a third-grade Valentine I gave to a girl named Ellen, and I couldn’t resist writing, “U R A B U T L N.”

Who would have thought decades later we would be punching similar letters into our cell phones to send messages with the least number of characters possible for quicker “texting”?

One of those letter-read messages always stuck with me. It was immortalized in a song by James Taylor.

B S U R S U C S I M I M.

Be as you are,

as you see,

as I am,

I am.

Pretty good message really; basically echoing Shakespeare, who said, “To thine own self be true.”  But I can’t say I see too many people following it any more.

The primary politicians in this upcoming presidential election have drifted so far from being “as they are” that I don’t even know “WHAT they are” anymore. The blind accusations, the mud slinging; such high school behavior from what will be the future leader of the free world?  Not very flattering.

How about commercials that tell you to be thinner, sexier, and taller? You need whiter teeth, a fuller head of hair, and the ability to speak several languages. It seems only then will you be able to really enjoy life like the rest of the privileged, creating a mythical you--certainly not accepting you “as you are.”

This always available “makeover” acts like a giant bottle of White-Out, so that being a person of character or “man of your word” is nowhere near as important as it once was; it can always be altered.

To some, bad reputations are disposable things that may identify you for a time, but are eventually forgivable. A lot of people exemplify that today.

We forgave Presidents Clinton and Nixon for their little forays into telling what they represented as the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was taken to the woodshed for cheating on his wife in such a hideous and public manner that many thought his film career would never recover. But he’s currently in the middle of a successful co-starring role in the “Expendables 2” and has a lead/starring role coming up in another film to be released in 2013 called “The Last Stand.” He seems to be back on his feet.

Character, I guess, is overrated.

So how can we tell if others want to be “as they are” or if they just want to appear as if they have this self-assured integrity? Because the fact is they have no idea who they really are; they simply want to jump to something else again no matter who may get hurt.

Why do people who are successful in one particular art or trade or career feel compelled to try something else all the time? Why not B S U R?

We all have heard of the action movie stars who want to do a serious role and show their other acting abilities. We know of TV actors who long for Broadway, so they quit hit TV series in the middle of a good run to “pursue other interests.”

Typically what happens is they can’t break the pattern of what people are used to seeing them in, so after they go for their “artistic job” and try to prove to the world the aren’t just a “one trick pony,” they find that the “one trick” they used to do pays them pretty well and gives the fans what they want, and suddenly they come back pronto.

My wife and I recently saw Michael McDonald (formerly of the Doobie Brothers), Donald Fagan (formerly of Steely Dan) and Boz Scaggs (who is still Boz Scaggs) perform together in a recently formed band called the “Dukes of September.”

They were terrific and the sound was incredible. They brought a heck of a band with them, and talent just oozed off the stage, but regrettably, of the 25 songs they performed that night, only seven or eight were recognizable, previous hits.

When they did do a song from the past, the audience ignited and rose to their feet. When they did new tunes that were their personal preferences, the audience seemed to sit patiently and wait for the next hit.

I found that to be rather self-indulgent of the performers. I know it has to be hard to perform the same numbers over and over, year after year, but four of the songs they did actually featured the backup performers whom we certainly did not pay to see.

In all, I think they could have given the audience more of what they came for. That’s the way the show was advertised. Every commercial they did for the concert featured all the old songs, but that certainly was not what they came to play, so there was sort of a “bait and switch” feel to it.

And as far as empathy for the artist performing the same things over and over in city after city--I would counter with exemplifying the stars of Broadway plays and musicals that are held over for years, like “Phantom of the Opera.” Those people recite the same lines and sing the same ballads four nights a week, sometimes for 300 nights a year. I don’t hear them complaining about re-performing the thing that the audience came to hear; the part they competed to win and still hold dear.

The concert was a stark example of my point herein: The people came to see their heroes of the 1980s be as they always were. They had advertised themselves by shining a light on the notion that they still ARE what they always WERE.

But when we got there, they showed us who they have become--and that was with the dollars they earned from us when we bought their albums and attended their concerts--when we were still who we are today.

Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at rdc@clevelandmetroparks.com.

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