I wrote a very short vignette a few days ago in which a character changed his first name from Dan to Bravado. It was a silly, completely transparent piece suggesting the idiocy and dangers of superficiality.
When I wrote it, I intended bravado to be synonymous with pretentious false courage. The definition of bravado, though, does not necessarily suggest falseness. It suggest bragging or bluster, bombastic assertions, and the like. Perhaps the word I should have used was braggadocio. No, the context called for bravado, even though its dictionary definition was not in precise alignment with the meaning I intended to convey.
The more I think about the word bravado, the more I question whether it’s my understanding of the word that’s out of sync with current usage or if it’s the dictionary that’s got it slightly wrong. To me, bravado connotes artificiality and shallowness, hidden under a thin veneer of boastful and highly ephemeral “matter.” Bravado is made of a substance that can rupture at the slightest disturbance.
This very conversation I’m having with myself is the stuff of superficiality. It is superficiality at its abundant best, living there as it does on the fringes of my imagination.
It sometimes pains me to come back to reality, where I find the fact of the matter is my interpretation of the nuanced meaning of bravado is irrelevant. It doesn’t really matter beyond the width of a hair. The world around me will go on, regardless of how I define bravado.
The world will go on regardless of whether Iran builds nuclear bombs. And it will go on regardless of whether Britney Spears buys a Porsche or a Prius. And it will go on regardless of whether Facebook or Twitter win the war of social media.
Everything, you see, is superficial. Everything. It’s superficial and it’s fleeting. Everything around us is shallow and temporary. If I were to measure the time I spend caring about the homeless on a time scale that reaches back to the “Big Bang,” the measurement of my moments of care would be such an infinitesimal blip on the scale that it would be invisible. So, on the macro scale, it’s meaningless; superficial and shallow and utterly void of meaning and merit.
But on the micro scale, that infinitesimal dot on the scale of time is everything. It does have meaning. It does have merit. Its macro scale superficiality takes on an intensity of control at the micro level that is hard to escape. At that level, for someone, Britney’s car choice does matter. It matters, at that level, whether Iran builds a bomb. It even matters whether Facebook or Twitter reach a truce.
All of this is to say I am of two minds when it comes to superficiality. Superficiality depends on the context. On the macro level, caring about the fashion choices of an actress may be absolutely superficial. But, to Dan in the vignette referenced above, intense superficiality at the micro level led to consequences serious in the extreme.
Back to my own world. My interpretation of the nuanced meaning of bravado is absolutely relevant. It is relevant to me. And that’s superficial, I suppose. It is what it is.