One of my favorite authors explores what it means to be an authentic human being in many of his stories and he sums it up in a 1978 essay:
“The authentic human being is one of us who instinctively knows what he should not do, and, in addition, he will balk at doing it. He will refuse to do it, even if this brings down dread consequences to him and to those whom he loves. This, to me, is the ultimately heroic trait of ordinary people; they say no to the tyrant and they calmly take the consequences of this resistance. Their deeds may be small, and almost always unnoticed, unmarked by history. Their names are not remembered, nor did these authentic humans expect their names to be remembered. I see their authenticity in an odd way: not in their willingness to perform great heroic deeds but in their quiet refusals. In essence, they cannot be compelled to be what they are not.” – Philip K. Dick
One way to understand authenticity is to understand what is is NOT. It is NOT like most interactions in human society — there is no deception involved in authenticity, yet deception is everywhere in the world. Lies and deceit in politics, advertising and personal relationships. The abundance of deception is why authenticity is valued so highly. Authenticity is such a rare thing. It is simple to have it, but simple is not always EASY.
I am making a personal pledge to become an authentic human being. I am not there, yet, but I am working on it. To be authentic means to be a member of what Albert Jay Nock called “The Remnant.” As Nock defines it, “The Remnant are those who by force of intellect are able to apprehend these principles, and by force of character are able, at least measurably, to cleave to them. The masses are those who are unable to do either.”