In the end he asks, “How can someone … avoid the fate of the con man?”
I’d like to take a stab at that. I’d like to say the answer is simple, though it’s not likely to please “the skeptic.”
Sincerity. “Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made!” says the ad man. What is missing in this approach is that sincerity is not something turned outward, but a relationship we have with our selves. Sincerity focused outward is false. Sincerity cannot function except as an internal relation. Even then it is fraught, but the possibility for it to be true exists.
I’ve been awed by realizations concerning sincerity that have grown out of my practice of Qi Gong. The weight of sincerity appears to be what carries Qi. It is certainly what animates one’s movements and what focuses one’s attention. The discovery of such clean and clear sincerity practiced on its “home” ground within the body and mind is astounding. A silent clap of resonant truth.
This applies to the beggar/artist. In the story he has arrived at his actions sincerely. He has no prejudice towards any result, and he is present in the unfolding of what occurs among and between them all. The question then becomes how to maintain that sincerity? This is a question of maintaining and returning to the sincerity of action that was there in the first instance.
In this way sincerity is tied to creativity. His creative leap and his openness to possibility led to the celebration of conviviality. Continuing this relationship between sincerity and creativity he can continue to be honest and not fall into the con.
How can we recognize sincerity?
It’s not a question of sensing that an attitude of another is telegraphed to us via a judgment about them. It is a question of finding our own sincerity and then discovering that we have a sincere response to another welling up within our selves. This response isn’t tied to any verifiable level of attributes of sincerity in the other. It relies on our own sincerity, and the way we then respond creatively to a situation. In this way we paradoxically do not interrogate the sincerity of another. Their sincerity is a matter for themselves alone and we can not know it with any certainty. We can be fooled, but only if we are primarily concerned with whether they are sincere. When we focus on our own sincerity the rest takes care of itself. We may take in the “products” of an insincere person and respond to them in a creative way that meets with our sincerity. Or we may find that feelings of conflict with another inspire us to look more deeply at our own response.
Sincerity may be the way in which we are free of striving. It is the deepest expression of humility in the sense of groundedness. It is a strength we feel coursing through us that is available to us but cannot be dominated. As soon as we attempt to “use” it, it disappears.