How much "truth" can you handle?
Updated: Nov 29, 2020
And what creates our "truth"? And how does what we believe as being "true" influence our lives?
Consider this quote from Mahatma Gandhi:
As much as I dislike the term "fake news", one of the many gifts (and a challenging one at that...) that the 45th Presidency is shining a light on is how our world view is shaped by those telling the story...
There is A LOT of work to unravel in this department...and a lot to consider. And for my purposes I want to look at some of the roots, not the way this narrative has been pointed at mainstream media. (IMO, the media is a reflection of our culture, even though there is a self-perpetuating spiral of influence that is operating there as well...)
In history, our origin story of how this land (and many others) was settled (colonized) is inaccurate. As is what helped create our wealth, power and dominance (slavery & exploited labor played a large part in this, much more so than industrious bootstrapping we want to believe...).
In religion, Jesus' narrative has been made into a fairytale.
With holidays, we were raised to believe in myths like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny & Tooth Fairy...with every adult around us convincing us the lie was actually true.
Is it any wonder we are now at a point where no one can differentiate between conspiracy theories and facts? *waives to the QAnon folks*
And how about how even "facts" can be skewed by who is collecting and relating that information?
As humans, our histories, culture, trauma and perspectives all shape how we process information.
What seems like harmless flirting to one person can trigger a trauma response in another.
How an event gets retold by the same people involved may vary.
We all look through a different lens...
"Truth" is much more complicated than even these examples... Because "truth" changes over time. What true in a past perspective may look different at a distance, and in retrospect.
But as humans, we crave truth, because we seek the comfort "truth" brings. It gives us a sense of security, consistency and certainty, and allows us the ability to go on with our day without having to think about something anymore. When we decide something is true (for us), at that point it is hard to convince us otherwise. From there, we are defending what we chose to solidify to create stability in our chaotic world.
And sometimes we just can't handle the truth... Consider the iconic scene from A Few Good Men:
Some truths we just are not equipped to process...although some are also hidden from us using this excuse. Where do we draw the line in what truths we need to know?
And how might this influence how readily (or not) we are able to dig in to other uncomfortable truths?
I don't know if any of you here have ever made a really bad choice in life, and decide to believe in something that ended up not being true, but I have. It was during a chaotic time in my life, and instead of operating like I might have at other times, I chose to believe something I shouldn't have... It had huge consequences, but also showed me a lot about how hard it is to rationally question some of our beliefs once we have decided something is true (so ultimately a great lesson I appreciate now). I made a lot of excuses I shouldn't have, and let one false truth build to create other bad choices.
Breaking the cycle was hard, because at every corner I wanted to defend myself against the idea that I had fucked up making a bad choice in the first place (a decision based on other issues I was ignoring). I was focused on what I hoped, and WANTED to be true instead of really seeing the evidence & details in front of me. To admit I made the wrong initial choice required me to see how my judgment was not as good as I thought, which is really a hard place for any of us to be... Trusting our own judgment is also what creates a sense of safety and stability, and if we don't have that, the world is a scary fucking place to navigate... Believing in our judgment, even when it lacks care or discernment, is a protective reflex for our psyche. Without it, we are in a constant state of fear and anxiety.
Things like Thanksgiving, and talking about US & European history of slavery, racism and colonization often makes me think about all of how this...because it all interrelates...how we have chosen to believe certain narratives about our culture & history because of how it fits our idea of who we *hope* to be, and have been told we are, instead of understanding what our honest history.
And also how scary it is to examine that...how upsetting those long held beliefs is not a simple task... While I can't be held personally accountable for something that happened decades or centuries ago, ignoring the influence that history has on TODAY absolutely IS my responsibility.
It is necessary, and I think doable, to examine these things and keep the proper perspective of the present moment when we first take the time to start examining these things within ourselves, and our own lives. What truths might have changed over time, or from a different perspective? How do we learn to work through those shifts in perception, and reckon with shifting beliefs? How do/have unexamined patterns influenced our lives in the long term? When we can start to practice these things in smaller ways, as individuals, I think it helps us understand better how to address these things in larger scale, like in our families, communities, and larger culture.
We must be able to look at roots honestly to know how to tend to the larger body wisely, and in ways that can address any weakness, damage, and disease.
We can't do this as individuals, let alone as a collective, when we can't reflect and say: the history I thought was true might actually have been what I wanted to see and believe, not representative of what actually happened.
And while my personal example above demonstrates how believing something blindly had some harmful consequences for me, allow me to share another example of how my unexamined beliefs also caused harm to others...
(TW: sexual assault)
When I was younger, and confused/uneducated about how to express my sexuality, and with good boundaries, on more than one occasion I violated others' personal boundaries. And in at least one instance, if I had been a man, I might have been charged with sexual assault. It took YEARS to shatter my belief that all men would welcome an aggressive, no-strings-attached blow job from a stranger, or that a particular story I used to tell as a funny anecdote was actually an account of me helping perpetrate aggressive and likely unwanted sexual advances. The night was a blur due to alcohol, but that is no excuse for my behavior. We never saw him again, so have no idea of what his account of the incident might be, or how he truly felt about it afterward, but he never returned to that job afterward. (he was in training that night).
Thankfully I know better now, but this is NOT an easy thing to admit to yourself when you have a self image believing you are generally a good person. Good people can still do bad things, and admitting that doesn't take away from being a good person, but ignoring it can turn us into a bad person down the line. Why? Because believing one bad truth leads us to believing other ones, often feeding our identity and ego (not always in obvious ways...) instead of trying to see a larger, more complete picture. And sometimes people do mental gymnastics convincing themselves they are good by ignoring what they do that causes harm, or having unexamined patterns and beliefs that shield them from bigger truths...
My point in this? It is not a call for anyone to fall in line with believing any one "truth" or ideology, but rather, asking ourselves: how honest can I be with myself? What am I willing to see, and what am I shut down from, or ignoring? What do I dig my heels in to defend, and why? What creates the barriers to seeing greater detail in life, and wider perspectives?
Our brains want us to repeat patterns, and have good reasons for doing so...but our evolution depends on us recognizing these things, and choosing to embody a deeper sense of presence with our choices and actions (which are based on our beliefs...), if we hope to truly be more than just mammals in the animal kingdom operating on biology's programmed autopilot. We have so much more potential...but will we reach it? Or will we be lead astray taking the easier path that doesn't require us to examine, question, or take any sort of responsibility for the world we create...for ourselves, as well as the world at large?
Now is the time to create change. No matter how small. What we do with what we find in these inquiries will differ, but all will have an impact, and at the very least break the patterns of repetition.
May you all find your own deeper truths, and understand how truths change from different perspectives. Just like looking at a piece of art up close, then from far away...