THE BLOG
01/14/2013 11:43 am ET | Updated Mar 16, 2013

Pretending/Pretense

"Psssst. Suzie, come here!"
"Where are you?"
"Over here. Behind the big maple."
"What's up?"
"Let's play... Hide 'n' Seek. I'll count, you hide. Ready?"
"One, two, three, four..."

Hide and Seek -- a game of pretend.

Kids pretend naturally, ceaselessly. As kids, we all made up, pretended, and imagined new worlds every day. This is one of the most delicious freedoms of being a kid.

As adults, we've trained ourselves to think that we need to put away the pretending, the imagining, the inventing, the wondering, the making-it-up, and substitute instead this stuff we call "knowing," i.e., the accumulated learnings from our past about how the way the world "really is" or "should be." We adults put away our pretending, imagining and creating, even though it is bone-deep natural for human beings of all ages to pretend, imagine and create. We do, in fact, go on pretending, imagining, making things up throughout all of life.

But as adults, we add something: We pretend that we are not pretending. We adults don't pretend, or imagine, or create; we know!

Pretending that we are not pretending is what we can call a pretense.*

Example: We have notion after notion that we have inherited from, and adopted from, our past as our "sacred truths," which shape and give the boundaries, limits and constraints of life, as if given by the nature of life itself.

One notion is our Myth of Scarcity. To wit: that love is inherently scarce. Energy is scarce, especially human energy. Generosity, grace, courage and integrity are scarce. Money is tough to come by, i.e., scarce. Making a difference is a rare event -- scarce. Genuine leadership is scarce. These are notions, "truths," said and unsaid, that govern everyday life. But we don't call them notions or biases or preferences or habits or pretenses. We call them "truths." Like they must already be there and that we must operate by them -- as if our "sacred truths" fell out of the sky and were just lying around, here and there, and we just happened to stumble upon them.

When we pretend that our notions, our "sacred truths" which we ourselves constructed, made up, invented, and developed -- are true, fixed, inescapable, and then we pretend that we're not, in fact, pretending/imagining/inventing that, then we devolve into a favorite adult pastime: pretense.

Example: The pretense of "more."

1. More cars
2. More houses
3. More money
4. More fame
5. More sex
6. More excitement
7. More fear
8. More and better bodies
9. More admiration
10. More validation
11. More SAT Scores
12. More strokes off my golf score
13. Etc.

Maybe the ceaseless, inescapable, inexhaustible drive for "more" is, simply, made up, invented, adopted. And to pretend otherwise may be, simply, a pretense.

Similarly, we pretend that we are incapable of something -- as in we "can't." (Note: the only species in the universe and natural world that say and operates from "can't" is human beings. No other species has a word/language/concept for this stuff, "can't.") "Can't" now is in fashion with what we are now doing in the U.S.: with jobs, fiscal integrity, honoring necessary safety nets, immigration, energy (particularly in the face of a planet that is unquestionably heating up, perhaps exponentially).**

When we pretend, imagine or invent that we aren't able to, that we "can't" handle these challenges and handle them now, and then we pretend that we're not pretending, then we are fully in a pretense.

Pretending/imagining/creating, consciously pretending, imagining, and inventing can be fun. Pretense: perhaps not. Pretending/imagining/creating can be energizing and enlivening. Pretense: maybe not. Pretending/imagining/creating can be expansive and creative. Pretense: may simply diminish us. Pretending can open up new worlds. Pretense may, in fact, close down new worlds.

Literally.

What if we, as adults, gave up the pretense that the constraints and challenges that we face, massive as they seem, were God-given or "structural" or beyond our control or simply fell out of the sky on top of us? What if we were to confront the economy, the environment, our energy systems, education, immigration and jobs as 100 percent our invention, our creation and our doing?

We created all of these problems, all of these challenges, 100 percent. Standing there, in that perspective, we can see that we can and will create the solutions or series of solutions. This could include giving up the pretense that we have to wait until the time is "right."
To pretend otherwise may be, simply, a pretense.

References:
*A number of these ideas and some of the materials are derived from the work of Werner Erhard, Michael Jensen, Steve Zaffron and Kari Granger. See Erhard, Jensen, Zaffron and Granger, see here.

**Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). See "The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change" http://unfccc./int

Resources:

1. Zaffron, S. and Logan, D., (2009). The Three Laws of Performance: Rewriting the Future of Your Organization and Your Life. Jossey-Bass.

2. Erhard, Werner, Jensen, Michael C. and Granger, Kari L., Creating Leaders: An Ontological/Phenomenological Model (January 12, 2012). THE HANDBOOK FOR TEACHING LEADERSHIP, Chapter 16, Scott Snook, Nitin Nohria, Rakesh Khurana, eds., Sage Publications, 2011.