Authenticity: lessons from grunge rock

Honesty about life and acceptance of life are difficult concepts. It is easier to be carried away by consumerism, self-help, and glossy paint. Thank goodness we have some true heroes when it comes to feeling the painful experiences of being human. Facebook, Twitter, and the news are buzzing with Michael Stipe’s speech at Nirvana’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


I love what Stipe had to say about Nirvana: “Nirvana tapped into a voice that was yearning to be heard. Nirvana were kicking against the mainstream. They spoke truth and a lot of people listened.”

Michael Stipe from R.E.M. and Kurt Cobain from Nirvana both sought to write from reality and the human condition. They did not shy away from feeling and expressing reality in a world that loves a pop song. As Stipe has said, “We [R.E.M.] were a product of the community of youth looking for connection beyond the mainstream” (


I am currently reading Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 with one of my High School English classes. Bradbury creates a world where living against the mainstream becomes a punishable offence. In this society, Firemen burn books and houses where books are kept in order to show the population that differing ideas and conflicting opinions are to blame for the destruction of serenity, peace, and happiness.

Are you happy? Bradbury bases his whole book around this one question. Are you happy?

After a truncated version of her speech during the induction ceremony, Cobain’s widow said, “That’s it. I just wish Kurt was here to hear this. Feel this. Tonight, he really would have appreciated it” ( In my opinion, Courtney Love realizes that Cobain’s life was genuine and authentic: Cobain lived in immediacy and in the pain of acceptance and reflection, yet I am certain that he was still proud and happy, at times, that he was living an honest life.

My favourite Nirvana song is “All Apologies.” There is one line that has always struck me: “I wish I was like you / Easily amused.”

Cobain was not afraid to live and feel and accept his life. Perhaps there is a time for mind-numbing entertainment in order to take a break from reality, yet the fact that Stipe and Cobain decided to dwell in and then write from such honest and painful places has made them musical heroes who have spoken to millions of people through their music.

Are you happy? Is it ok to say no? Is it ok to say sometimes? I sure hope so! Otherwise we might end up living in a “Fahrenheit 451 society.”

I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not. (Kurt Cobain)
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)


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