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.
In my last post I offered the first half of a beatitude – Blessed are the truth tellers…
I had no end to that beatitude until I received an email from a friend who had also been on the pilgrimage.
Blessed are the truth tellers, for they will have the truth told to them.
It is a beatitude I will return to over and over again.
What is striking though is that it needed the participation of both of us to create it.
In a sense this beatitude is the symbol of my own journey of the last couple of years. I lead quite a solitary life, but in recent times I have become aware of the terrible lie we have been sold in individualism. We need community; real community.
It is humbling, and perhaps a little humiliating on occasion, to realise just how much I need others.
This beatitude is symbol to me of the humbling end of the spectrum. And it is to this that I cling in hope when I am confronted by those encounters which are more humiliating.
I spent a good part of the last week in India. I was invited to give a talk at a chemistry conference. There is much to say about the experience, but for today just one thought.
We were given a ‘cultural event’ – some music and dancing from the region. Some of it was striking and quite moving. But what stays with me is the dance of these seven young girls.
As I watched them, there was no clear ‘leader’ of the group. Over the passage of the dance first one, then another, then another, took the lead. It wasn’t planned, it was just whoever happened to remember the steps at that particular point was the leader. The one who had been confident only seconds before lost her way and had to watch her companions.
They all made it through the dance because of their collective memory. Not one of them would have made it one their own.
It struck me, almost immediately, as a beautiful metaphor for our need for community. We all get momentarily distracted or preoccupied from time to time. If we are acting alone we lose our way. But if we are a part of a larger community they can carry us along in those moments. And just as some carry us during those times. We too take our turn at leading periodically.
I participate in several different dances – therefore there is not community but several. Nonetheless, I am left deeply grateful for those who dance alongside me.