Monday, April 28, 2014

Potëmkin Village

Grigori Potëmkin was an 18th century Russian statesman who was once a lover of czarina Catherine the Great. Potëmkin had a great thirst for power and glory. It is said that he told great tales to make himself appear as large in Catherine's eyes as possible. One such account was that he claimed to have established thriving villages in the Ukraine that had, in fact, never been built. When Catherine insisted on sailing a flotilla down the river Volga to see his handiwork, Potëmkin arranged for work crews to erect fake facades replete with a contented populace and resources to fool Catherine. As soon as the barge of the empress had sailed past the false front, the crews swiftly dismantled the fakery and moved it downriver to the next location. The expression "Potëmkin villages" has since been associated with a grand sham, something that presents an impressive facade or show but is designed to hide an undesirable fact or condition.

If such terminology can be applied to my own life, I often feel like Potëmkin's masterwork. From the vantage point of the passing barge, most people will see a man who appears confident, connected, and content. However, if any of the viewing party were actually to get a peek behind the veil, to look behind the curtain, they would see only a poorly constructed pasteboard village hiding a struggling and sinful soul. I have had folks who read my blog or who have come to know the version of me that I have erected for the outside world comment on how "real" or how "transparent" I seem. That impression is also by design, just another fancy curtain hung to hide my clutter and my shame.