Monday, September 12, 2016

Demanding Truth

Write the truest sentence that you know.

Whether it is in conversation with yourself, your family, a friend, or a co-worker, let your next sentence be true. In other words, demand the truth of yourself. This presupposes, of course, that you know the truth of yourself.

What am I truly feeling or thinking? What do I actually believe, and why? Not what am I supposed to be feeling, thinking or believing but what is the truth of me, what is the truth to me? Yes, yes, when we speak our truth we want to be appropriate and wise.  However, how often do we use these sentiments to actually bleed the substance of our truth from our sentences and, consequently, from our souls?

How can we insist upon “the truest sentence” from others, if we ourselves prefer comforting lies that shelter us from disturbing facts, unsetting realities, and soul-rattling truths? “This is what I believe (not), how I feel (nope), what is true for me (hope they bought that),” is a sentence that gives others permission to lie to you and robs you of the authority of integrity while questioning their sentences.

Thinking With Your Own Mind
It seems to me that many people choose to allow others to think through their brains and speak through their mouths. They are talking heads with talking points and muted souls, not individuals with their own thoughts and feelings. When asked a question the default position is to repeat the beliefs of the tribes to which they belong: political tribes, religious tribes, social tribes, ideological tribes, etc.

Before you speak, ask yourself: do my words have any correlation to the truth of things as I view them? Have I dug deeply enough into my mind and heart to know what is actually there? When it comes to my beliefs, am I merely parroting others, repeating the thoughts of those I respect or fear, or am I expressing the results of my own studies and deliberations?

I would rather discover I was wrong about the “truth” of my beliefs and ideas than mindlessly echoing what turned out to be true. I would rather be an honest heretic than mindlessly orthodox. (And religions are not the only institutions with orthodoxies!) I would rather say, “I don’t know,” before trafficking in stolen goods—pretending my words and thoughts were actually mine, while knowing I had pilfered them from someone else.

We need to stop being robots, giving the controls over our brains, hearts, and mouths to others. Stand up to the “intellectual terrorism of institutions” (Voegelin) and tribes that demand we fall in line and repeat the company line, “or else.” 

Demand the truth of yourself.

Come to your own conclusions. 

Have your own voice.

Now. Speak the truest sentence that you know.

Reprint: Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2012

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Life and Kicking Nazgûl Butt

For around 20 years, each winter I reread Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. I am not sure why I initially started doing this, other than every time I read these volumes I saw more and more of the truths contained in his mythology: truths that helped shape my life. That’s the thing about “classics,” as they can be read over and over again, and you always come away with more.

As a young man, I loved the stories of the great battles against Sauron and his minions, the 9 Nazgûl against the 9 companions. “This is what life is all about. Gather your band of brothers and go kick some Nazgûl butt!” After I grew older, however, it was the Hobbits that held my deepest interest. They led simple lives, ate simple meals, loved simple stories, and always had a song or a riddle on their lips—even when facing the enemy. And when they did get caught up in an adventure their hearts and minds were always drawn back to the Shire, a good beer, a long smoke and laughing with friends.

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about these Hobbits, as I see so many people whom appear to be defining their lives solely by The Cause, The Battle. Certainly there are battles that must be waged, but I wonder if fighting as a way of life, fighting as the reason for my existence, is healthy.

Think about this: When Abraham heard that Lot and his family had been taken captive, he gathered his family and servants and went off to wage war. He and his family were not roaming the countryside looking for a fight. They were living life, went to war, and then went back to living life. “Family” is who they were: war is what they did, when necessary.

The thing about waging war is one feels so important while fighting. The cause defines me and imbues me with feelings of significance and meaningfulness. But when the cause has been won or lost, what do I feel then? Empty? Alone? Defeated? Martyred? – Really? Your life is now meaningless because the battle, for good or ill, is over? Maybe this is why so many people hallucinate a minute-by-minute personal battle with Satan. Not being able to simply live life, enjoy life, and be grateful for the gift of life, I must create a larger panorama within which I can feel alive and significant. “Sorry Edith, no time for the kids: Satan has chosen ME!”

No one loves the smell of napalm in the morning more than I do (Lt Kilgore- Robert Duval, Apocolpypse Now) but come on: You’re a mechanic for Honda.  Don’t you think Satan has a few more priority targets than you?

When my life was centered upon causes and wars, I found that the measure with which I evaluated everyone and everything was in terms of the cause, as I defined it. “What? You’re not engaging in the battle of the century? What are you doing, drinking a good beer, having a long smoke and laughing with friends? Don’t you know that Armageddon is upon us? You treacherous invertebrate, get out there and man the picket lines, post 25 gotchya bon mots on Facebook every day, and pick some fights with the brain-dead Orcs in your office. If you’re not kicking Nazgûl butt then your life is worthless.”

Let’s allow St Paul to weigh in here: “Mind your own business, lead a quiet life, and work with your hands so as to not stand in need of charity.” Sounds like a Hobbit-like life, to me. If more of us focused on such matters, I wonder how much time we would have for all of our activism, which, all too often, is merely frenetic activity to mask the terrible boredom we experience because we have failed to grasp the joy and peace that is to be found in family, friends, work, the beauty of creation … and a good beer, of course.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2016