21. Just (don’t) pretend

Diligently I scanned the landscape for clues. The beauty of a colorful valley and various cloud formations disrupted my concentration. Holy smokes. For a moment, I was the silent admirer who processed everything he witnessed. What a pleasant necessity. Carefully I made some shots with my BrainCam, then I changed the focus on something important. Splendid views are a sideshow as a hang-glider pilot. What really matters is indirectly perceivable. Study the (weather) conditions and know what you’re getting into. I did this in tranquility, just until a dozen fellow hang glider pilots accompanied me on the launching pad. After some consideration, we decided that the time had come. We will fly. But before doing so, I had a brief chat with someone of the old gang. Because of his friendly attitude and relaxed character, it was an easy person to chat with. He served as my informal support with his vast experience. We clicked and were often on the same wavelength. That’s why I decided to treat him with an open yet personal question. I was curious about his reaction. Spontaneously I asked him about his secret with a lighthearted tone. The usual smile disappeared, his face turned straight. “Pretending,” he said dryly. There you go. The best man had spoken: straightforward and to-the-point. Perfect. We cast a glance while smiling, then we silently walked off towards our wings.

The simple depth of his answer speaks volumes. Such a question can be interpreted in many ways. Many close themselves off or take a defensive stance. He didn’t flinch though. With a firm tug, the fishing float vanished into the deep. It was quite a bite, this fish didn’t let itself get reeled in without a fight. Once it was over, I let the catch sink in under my wing. Ha, what a joker. He didn’t take it all too seriously with such (self) mockery. Yet he knew what he was doing. His ‘secret’ seemed to be the result of a particular outlook, personality, way of thinking and life experiences. Promptly I became the co-owner of a crystal clear and comprehensive summary. Suddenly it all made perfect sense. Yes. Yes! It transcended the personal. This widespread attitude is the way to go through life. Pretending to know it all and have everything under control. Pretending we’re invincible and always doing great. Pretending to know what we’re doing in life, caring about something or having the truth on our side. Whole tribes keep up a facade in words and actions. Check out the social media profiles, listen to the predictable cliche answers on standard questions, look at the poker faces. Many are so adept in not showing any vulnerability or insecurity, resulting in distinct poverty of expression. Influencers and trendwatchers agree with each other: the high demand for #PreTrending won’t change anytime soon. No worries, #PreTrending fits within legislation and social frameworks. Well seen and quickly dealt with. Global sales of bargains that cost a fortune on the long run are ongoing. Be on time before it’s sold out!

It was my turn to hit the skies. My life literally hung on a huge kite, so I ran like a cheetah. My head was far above the ground, the fear of losing face was irrelevant. Act well or endure a downfall. This was no time to go over the edge, to abandon a sailing ship that’s floating above a great depth. This dance with Mother Nature is very delicate. Carefully I danced with her. Slavishly I followed her steps; she sets the pace. I got blown away at a certain point. The vision of ice-cold beer caused me to dive down. Once on the valley floor, I quickly packed up the whole lot. Now came the time for some shenanigans. Hang gliders fit perfectly on roof racks, but you might as well lie down on them yourself. My mate and I were full of good ideas. Tune into bad Eurodance and go bananas! Captain Jack and the Vengaboys topped off the silly act. We had such fun as fully grown men. “Come on, behave already!” Well, no. By engaging in this kind of nonsense, we neglected our main civic duty: to wear the straitjacket of ‘adulthood’. It really doesn’t fit us. We’re not decent citizens that are playing cards with business cards. Dead-serious faces in strangling suits deter us. Rehearsed riddles or mental games caused us to be on guard. Sandcastles and hot-airs give us the creeps. The more cans of homeless-beer we opened, the more apparent it all became.

We were sunburned, tipsy and frank during sunset. We came to a casual conclusion while laughing. Pretending is more than just someone’s ‘secret’; it’s a widely applicable slogan. Situations abundant. An important message is shown while withdrawing money from the ATM. ‘We all pretend that some numbers and symbols represent real value.’ It’s on one tombstone after the other in cemeteries: ‘I pretended all my life, except on the deathbed’. Before cheating, take off the wedding ring and say to the other person: ‘I pretend to be a saint towards the outside world’. A management summary of a multinational corporation is also suitable. “Our stakeholders pretend to take the societal impact of our tax-free billion-dollar profits seriously.” Commercials for political parties don’t fall out of line either: ‘We talk endlessly, but eventually we pretend that your vote is the deciding factor’. You can go on like this for a while. In all situations, use a large font, a loud tone or both. Do that anytime and anywhere for the sake of clarity. Just pretend to be all nice and normal. Modify language and images with creativity, possibilities aplenty. Just realize that pretending comes at the expense of honesty, openness and crucial answers. Know that #PreTrending has its side-effects. Dear God, be with those who have fallen.

Pretending works fine if you want to ‘make it’ into the collective arms race; it’s of little use besides that

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