I’ve been thinking about the idea of truth telling. We encourage our kids to tell the truth. But maybe we need to think about our vocabulary. One of the images I use in The Grace of Forgiveness is given below.
I must have stumbled across this image some time in late 2015 and I am still chewing on it.
I think it is beginning to dawn on me that actually not one of us is capable of speaking the truth. Yes, we should be honest. Yes, we should exact as much honesty as we can muster from the depths of our being.
But my commitment to honesty will only ever give me the best approximation of the orange square or the black circle. I need someone else speaking from their perspective to begin to glimpse the bigger truth.
Can it be that I will never see the complexity of the cylinder?
What happens if I surrender to that possibility and commit myself to both seeing and articulating the orange square to the best my ability, and to listening to you as you describe the black circle.
What happens then?
I think it is the beginning of something truly exciting.
I have come to see, quite recently, that I have a few blind spots. Areas in which I cannot trust my own discernment because my unconscious desire to avoid certain things is still far too powerful. The scale of my judgement is weighted and I am unaware of it.
At least now I’m not entirely unaware of the weighting, but I still have no sense of how the scale is skewed, so I cannot trust my own discernment in these circumstances. If I make a choice without consultation I am most likely to make a poor decision.
It is truly humbling.
But what strikes me here, is not so much that I have blind spots – I’ve been coming to terms with that for a while now. It seems to me that I’m always going to have these blind spots. These areas where I know I cannot trust my own discernment. And what I most need in this space is the small circle of people I trust to speak the truth.
This is why community is so important. I need people in my life who I can go to and say help me to see.
Let me be clear – the insight here is not ‘I need to work on my blind spots and my discernment.’ No! The insight is that I need to cultivate and foster the relationships which will help me navigate the spaces where I am blind or partially sighted.
When I signed up to the Living School run through the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque I did so because I knew the work of Richard Rohr, and I had just discovered Cynthia Bourgeault. I knew nothing at all of James Finley.
When I first encountered Uncle Finley’s teaching it took me a while to recognise that I needed to treat it a bit like music – just let wash over me and trust that what I needed to remember would stick.
Nearly two years on, I can safely say, that James Finley’s teaching was the reason I needed to be part of the Living School. His words have washed over me again and again and again. And in the repetition I have found deep healing.
Several days ago I found another of his videos – in this one he is talking about the writing of Thomas Merton (You can find it below). Near the end of the formal talk before the question and answer session he quotes Merton:
‘I’m coming to the conclusion that my highest ambition is to become what I already am. That I will never fulfill my obligation to surpass myself unless I first accept myself. And if I accept myself fully in the right way, I will already have surpassed myself. For it is the unaccepted self that stands in my way and it will continue to do so as long as it is not accepted. When it has been accepted it is my own stepping stone to what is above me, because this is the way man has been made by God. Original sin was the effort to surpass oneself by being like God, that is unlike oneself. But our Godliness begins at home. We must first become like ourselves and stop living beside ourselves.’
I think I’ll be chewing on this for a while yet!