truth

Stories about the End of Stories

Stories about the End of Stories

"The dominant story of modernity has been progress. Although still hardwired into our institutions, that story has lost most of its plausibility. new genres are taking its place: apocalypse and nihilism. Apocalypse is the imminent and triumphant conclusion of our most cherished stories. Nihilism is their collapse. Both are stories about the end of stories."

~ David R. Loy

Reservoir of Beauty inside You

Reservoir of Beauty inside You

"What I find very strange is this. That I think what's magnificent about Bach is that when you listen to this music, and it moves you so much, I mean, it's just a bunch of sound waves crashing into your ear, and you have to contain — you see this emotion bubbling up, you start seeing, like, tearing up, and saying, well, what's going on? These are just sounds crashing into my — what's going on in here?"

~ Bernard Chazelle 

Stuck in the Same Predicament

Stuck in the Same Predicament

"Will Storr says once you realize how difficult it is to identify your own incorrect beliefs you can better empathize with people on the fringe, because they are stuck in the same predicament." ~ David McRaney

The Residue of Fear

The Residue of Fear

"I spent so much of my life telling people the things they wanted to hear instead of the things they needed to, told myself I wasn't meant to be anyone's conscience because I still had to figure out being my own, so sometimes I just wouldn't say anything, appeasing ignorance with my silence." ~ Clint Smith

Accommodating the Full Range of Mysteries

Vinegar Battery, Caleb Charland, 2011

“Events happen to reveal the truth of what our life is about, a truth we try so hard to evade, cancel, or reverse. Yet, is also a given that we will never understand why certain things happen. In fact, the comfort we derive from explanations makes us wonder about the authenticity of our explanations.

Perhaps the need to know is part of the ego’s demand that it be in control. That way of living does not accommodate the full range of mysteries we meet up with in life.

A psychology or religion that explains everything cuts us off from a sense of wonder about the world and from growth in humility about ourselves.

Saint John of the Cross, a Spanish mystic, happily declared his spiritual predicament in this way: ‘I entered I knew not where, and there I stood not knowing: nothing left to know.’ ...meaningful growth comes at the price of pain. Why? That is a mystery, and the fact that there is no satisfying answer is related to the first noble truth of the pervasive unsatisfactoriness of human life. It can only be greeted with a yes, not deconstructed with a reply.”  

~ David Richo, from The Five Things We Cannot Change: And the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them

The Story Begins to Live and Breathe

Excerpt from Resurrecting Jesus: Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic by Adyashanti

Topiary Park, April 20, 2014Transmutation is what transfiguration and relinquishment make possible. In it, your orientation to life is entirely selfless. It's not that you want to be selfless or you're practicing being selfless: rather you're selfless in the sense of no self. 

For this transition to happen, one has to go through the death of the ego. Certain aspects of the transmutation may occur earlier in our own journey, but the crucifixion or relinquishment must be complete for it to happen in full. At that point, really, the only thing left to do is to be a selfless, benevolent presence in the world—there's really nothing else to do, nothing else that makes sense. Whatever that may look like—and it looks different for different people—that's where the whole process ends up. 

In the Jesus story, this stage is termed the resurrection. Out of death is resurrected a new life, which really means a new orientation. That movement, that long turning from self-orientation to selfless orientation now comes to fruition. This is where the journey culminates for Jesus, and this is where it ultimately culminates for anyone who's taken the journey of awakening.  

The story of Jesus mirrors back the journey of spiritual awakening for anyone who has the eyes to see it or the experience to notice it. I believe this is among the most powerful lenses through which to view the story, because from this perspective the story begins to live and breathe as a metaphor. 

Jesus doesn't live anything out in a small fashion; everything in his story is writ large. This makes it easier for us to see that he's depicting a journey of awakening. We shouldn't expect to live out our own journey in the same fashion and, fortunately, we don't have to, though our journey will certainly have its own challenges and intensity. 

The mystery of the story of Jesus is the same as the mystery of you and me and everyone: we are all God appearing as man and as woman, divine being manifesting as human being. They're actually two sides of the same coin. They're one and the same thing; it's only our minds that separate divinity and humanity. We separate them in our mind and in our experience, but the whole spiritual journey is finally to see that they aren't separate, that they never were separate...

And when you reorient your life toward this realization, then you understand: you so loved the world, you had so much compassion, you had so much love that you poured yourself forth into life, and that pouring forth was your birth. You are here to redeem whatever you encounter in this life, to wake up within everything the deep reality of its divine existence. 

The kingdom of heaven is spread upon earth and men do not see it. When you see this, you shift from being a victim of your life and assigning blame for the tragedy you encounter. The truth, I would suggest, is that you poured yourself willingly into form of infinite love in order to redeem the entirety of this life. When seen from that perspective, all of a sudden life looks different. You stop holding back from life, your inner life or the life around you, because the kingdom of heaven is within and all around you. That's the message of the Jesus story.  


See also: 

How Much Fiction

"Our memories are constructive. They're reconstructive. Memory works a little bit more like a Wikipedia page: You can go in there and change it, but so can other people…

Maybe my work has made me different from most people. Most people cherish their memories, know that they represent their identity, who they are, where they came from. And I appreciate that. I feel that way, too. But I know from my work how much fiction is already in there. If I've learned anything from these decades of working on these problems, it's this: just because somebody tells you something and they say it with confidence, just because they say it with lots of detail, just because they express emotion when they say it, it doesn't mean that it really happened. 

We can't reliably distinguish true memories from false memories. We need independent corroboration. Such a discovery has made me more tolerant of the everyday memory mistakes that my friends and family members make...

Meanwhile, we should all keep in mind, we'd do well to, that memory, like liberty, is a fragile thing."

~ Elizabeth Loftus, from "The Fiction of Memory," TED Talks, June 2013


See also: 

  • West of Memphis [library]
  • Nathan, D. (2011, October 14). A girl not named Sybil. The New York Times. [online
  • Nathan, D. (2011). Sybil exposed: The extraordinary story behind the famous multiple personality case. New York: Free Press. [library]

Fiction Rules Our Lives

Mark Slouka discussing "Brewster" on KCRW's Bookworm, September 12, 2013: 

I think that fiction does contain certain kinds of truth that are apartmaybe beyond what we've actually lived. I actually think that anything that has slipped into the pastany moment that has actually passed -- has entered the domain of fiction.

If you tell me what you did this morning, you know, after breakfast, it will creat a kind of a fiction. You'll leave certain things out, you'll stress other things you didn't think were more interesting. So I think fiction sort of rules our lives on every level.

For me, it's a matter of looking at how storytellingfictionsort of bleeds into our reality all the time. I mean, that's kind of where I live as a writer.  

Slouka, M. (2013). Brewster: A novel. [Amazon, library

The Difference Between Wisdom and Understanding

Excerpt from The Forms of Things Unknown: An Essay on the Impact of the Technological Revolution on the Creative Arts by Herbert Read:

Le Penseur (The Thinker), Auguste RodinA distinction which runs through the whole development of human thought has become blurred during the past two hundred years. Implicit in all ancient philosophy, acknowledged by medieval scholastics and the natural philosophers of the Renaissance, and even by Locke and Newton, is a difference of kind, if not of value, between wisdom and understanding.

By wisdom was meant an intuitive apprehension of truth, and the attitude involved was receptive or contemplative. Intellectus was the name given to this faculty in the Middle Ages.

Understanding, on the other hand, was always a practical or constructive activity, and ratio was its name — the power by means of which we perceive, know, remember and judge sensible phenomena. Philosophy was conceived as an endeavour to perfect this constructive power of the mind as an aid to wisdom.

To clarify perception, excluding all distortions due to emotion and prejudice; to analyse statements so that our knowledge is consistent; to establish facts, so that our memory is consolidated; to bring the inquiring will into harmony with the intuitive intellect, so that our judgment is true and constant — such have been the aims of all who called themselves philosophers.


See also: "The Forms of Things Unknown: A 1963 Essay on the Role of the Creative Arts in Society," Brain Pickings, August 29, 2012

Can You Taste What I'm Saying?

"Still Life" by Phillip Esparza

The Simple Truth
by Phillip Levine, from The Simple Truth: Poems

I bought a dollar and a half's worth of small red potatoes,
took them home, boiled them in their jackets
and ate them for dinner with a little butter and salt.
Then I walked through the dried fields
on the edge of town. In middle June the light
hung on in the dark furrows at my feet,
and in the mountain oaks overhead the birds
were gathering for the night, the jays and mockers
squawking back and forth, the finches still darting
into the dusty light. The woman who sold me
the potatoes was from Poland; she was someone
out of my childhood in a pink spangled sweater and sunglasses
praising the perfection of all her fruits and vegetables
at the road-side stand and urging me to taste
even the pale, raw sweet corn trucked all the way,
she swore, from New Jersey. "Eat, eat" she said,
"Even if you don't I'll say you did."
Some things
you know all your life. They are so simple and true
they must be said without elegance, meter and rhyme,
they must be laid on the table beside the salt shaker,
the glass of water, the absence of light gathering
in the shadows of picture frames, they must be
naked and alone, they must stand for themselves.
My friend Henri and I arrived at this together in 1965
before I went away, before he began to kill himself,
and the two of us to betray our love. Can you taste
what I'm saying? It is onions or potatoes, a pinch
of simple salt, the wealth of melting butter, it is obvious,
it stays in the back of your throat like a truth
you never uttered because the time was always wrong,
it stays there for the rest of your life, unspoken,
made of that dirt we call earth, the metal we call salt,
in a form we have no words for, and you live on it. 

Question Your Answers

December 29, 2012

Excerpts from The Way of Liberation: A Practical Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Adyashanti

As a guiding principle, to progressively realize what is not absolutely True is of infinitely more value than speculating about what is. Many people think that it is the function of a spiritual teaching to provide answer's to life's biggest questions, but actually the opposite is true. The primary task of any good spiritual teaching is not to provide answer's to your questions, but to question your answers.

...

In our modern society we expect to have everything given to us in easy-to-consume bite-size portions, preferably very quickly so that we can get on with our hurried lives. But Truth will not conform itself to our frantic avoidance of Reality or our desire to have the whole of something for the very least investment of time and energy. 

...

Summary of the Teaching

Be still. 

Question every thought. 

Contemplate the source of Reality. 

And keep your eyes open. You never know when something that seems entirely insignificant will split your whole world wide open into eternal delight. 

Download free ebook version of The Way of Liberation...

The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually

Hand-Lettered Illustrations of Emily Dickinson’s Poetry b David Clemesha Nursery Rhymes & Fairy Tales

Tell All the Truth But Tell It Slant
by Emily Dickinson 

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant –
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind –

[Thanks Brain Pickings and Al Filreis!]

Your Body Already Seems to Know

Hurricane Mountain, August 2011

No Path
by David Whyte, from River Flow: New and Selected Poems 

There is no path that goes all the way. 
Han Shan

Not that it stops us looking
for the full continuation.

The one line in the poem
we can start and follow

straight ahead to the end. The fixed belief
we can hold, facing a stranger

that saves us the trouble
of a real conversation.

But one day, you are not
just imagining an empty chair

where your loved one sat.
You are not just telling a story

where the bridge is down
and there's nowhere to cross.

You are not just trying to pray
to a God you always
imagined would keep you safe.

No, you've come to a place
where nothing you've done

will impress and nothing you
can promise will avert

the silent confrontation,
the place where

your body already seems to know
the way, having kept

to the last its own secret
reconnaissance.

But still, there is no path
that goes all the way,

one conversation leads
to another,

one breath to the next
until

there's no breath at all,

just
the inevitable
final release
of the burden.

And then, wouldn't your life
have to start
all over again
for you to know
even a little 
of who you had been?

Not Only Struggle but Joy in the Struggle

 

Pear Tree, December 6, 2011

Excerpt from "The Gates of Hope" by Victoria Safford, The Nation, Sep. 20, 2004:

Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of hope — not the prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower; nor the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense; nor the strident gates of Self-Righteousness, which creak on shrill and angry hinges (people cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through); nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of "Everything Is Gonna Be All Right." But a different, sometimes lonely place, of truth-telling about your own soul first of all and its condition, the place of resistance and defiance, from which you see the world both as it is and as it could be, as it will be; the place from which you glimpse not only struggle but joy in the struggle. And we stand there, beckoning and calling, telling people what we're seeing, asking them what they see.

With our lives we make our answers all the time, to this ravenous, beautiful, mutilated, gorgeous world. However prophetic our words, it is not enough simply to speak.

[Thanks, Kit!]

Confidence is a Feeling

Excerpts from "Don’t Blink! The Hazards of Confidence," by Daniel Kahneman, The New York Times Magazine, October 23, 2011:

We are prone to think that the world is more regular and predictable than it really is, because our memory automatically and continuously maintains a story about what is going on, and because the rules of memory tend to make that story as coherent as possible and to suppress alternatives. Fast thinking is not prone to doubt.

Illustration by Tim EnthovenThe confidence we experience as we make a judgment is not a reasoned evaluation of the probability that it is right. Confidence is a feeling, one determined mostly by the coherence of the story and by the ease with which it comes to mind, even when the evidence for the story is sparse and unreliable. The bias toward coherence favors overconfidence. An individual who expresses high confidence probably has a good story, which may or may not be true...

...When a compelling impression of a particular event clashes with general knowledge, the impression commonly prevails. And this goes for you, too. The confidence you will experience in your future judgments will not be diminished by what you just read, even if you believe every word...

...Overconfidence arises because people are often blind to their own blindness.

True intuitive expertise is learned from prolonged experience with good feedback on mistakes. You are probably an expert in guessing your spouse’s mood from one word on the telephone; chess players find a strong move in a single glance at a complex position; and true legends of instant diagnoses are common among physicians. To know whether you can trust a particular intuitive judgment, there are two questions you should ask: Is the environment in which the judgment is made sufficiently regular to enable predictions from the available evidence?...Do the professionals have an adequate opportunity to learn the cues and the regularities?...Many of the professionals we encounter easily pass both tests, and their off-the-cuff judgments deserve to be taken seriously. In general, however, you should not take assertive and confident people at their own evaluation unless you have independent reason to believe that they know what they are talking about. Unfortunately, this advice is difficult to follow: overconfident professionals sincerely believe they have expertise, act as experts and look like experts. You will have to struggle to remind yourself that they may be in the grip of an illusion.

See also: Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kanheman

Beyond the Mind

Excerpts from Emptiness Dancing by Adyashanti:

The mind can’t fathom that there can be a true intelligence, a transcendent intelligence, that isn’t the product and outcome of thought and conceptual understanding. It can’t fathom that there could be wisdom that’s not going to come at you in the form of thoughts, in the form of acquired and accumulated knowledge.

The true spiritual urge or yearning is always and invitation beyond the mind. That’s why it’s always been said that if you go to God, you go naked or you don’t go at all. It’s the same for everybody. You go in free of your accumulated knowledge, or you are forever unable to enter. So an intelligent mind realizes its own limitation, and it’s a beautiful thing when it does.

When you stop holding on to all the knowledge, then you start to enter a different state of being. You start to move into a different dimension. You move into a dimension where experience inside gets very quiet. The mind may still be there chatting in the background, or it might not, but consciousness is no longer bothering itself with the mind. You don’t need to stop it. Your awareness just goes right past that wall of knowledge and moves into a very quiet state…

…Once your conceptual world of knowledge gets put in its rightful place, it is transcended. You see that you are eternal consciousness now appearing as woman or man, this or that character. But like every good actor, you are not what you are appearing as. Everything that exists is consciousness appearing as, or God appearing as, or Self appearing as, or spirit appearing as. The Buddha called it no-self. When that’s seen, you see Unity. There is only God. That’s all there is: God appearing as floor, as a human being, as a wall, as a chair.

No knowledge, no statement of the Truth touches what’s eternal, what you really are. And no statement about how to get there is true either, because what gets one person there doesn’t get another person there. A mind that likes to look for the one truth path cannot find it. Of course, the mind doesn’t like that. “No right path? Nothing that could be said or read that ultimately, in the end, could be true? The most enlightened being can’t speak the Truth?”

No. It’s never been done, and it never will be done. The only thing you can do is to put a pointer on the way that says, “Look that way.” A false spiritual arrow is one that points to the wall and says, “Look this way.” A true arrow is one that points beyond the wall of concepts.

As Complete as Possible

Excerpt from "Happiness and Completion," by Ken McLeod:

For me, spiritual practice is now not so much about happiness as about completion, a way of experiencing life that is as complete as possible in each and every moment.

...when we see and accept what is actually happening, even if it is very difficult or painful, mind and body relax, and in that rest, there is an exquisite quality that comes through just experiencing what arises, completely, with no separation.

Some might call it joy, but it is not a giddy or excited joy. Rather it is a deep and quiet joy, a joy that, in some sense is always there, waiting for us, but usually touched only when some challenge, pain, or tragedy leaves us with no other option.

Others might call it truth, but this is a loaded and misleading word, carrying with it the notion of something that exists apart from experience itself. The notion of truth also sets up an opposition, with what is held to be false, and such duality necessarily leads to hierarchy, authority, and institutional thinking and its associated forms of mind killing.

... the desire for happiness itself is a form of suffering as it leads to a struggle with experience, e.g., in the context of relationships, the desire for continual happiness undermines emotional connection.

Thus, for me, the purpose of practice is how to be with whatever arises in this experience we call 'life', nothing more, and nothing less. Everything we do in practice is aimed at the development of the willingness, skills, and capacities needed to experience life this way.

Read the complete essay…

No Other Meaning

The House Was Quiet And The World Was Calm
by Wallace Stevens, from Harmonium

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

[Thanks Mark!]

We Can Be with Both

“Psychology has refined such a nuanced observation, understanding and insight about the particulars of our human psyches. And certain existential truths that are universal, of course. And there is a realm that we call absolute or universal. It’s not separate. We can call it emptiness, there are so many names. But it’s completely interwoven. It’s one with, it’s connected to, the words don’t express the fact that it’s not  separate from the particular. And the trick for us as practitioners, whether we are practitioners of psychology or meditation, is to really see and unite these experiences so that we can be present with the ordinary moments of our life, and more and more hold an understanding of those moments as Weeds and Purple Flowersbeing deeply significant, expressions of the truth of that moment. Not truth with a capital T that some reified, always true…but the truth of that moment because it’s life. It’s life in the form of you, me, this moment of experience. And then, when we really can truly know that, so many things are possible for us. We don’t have to be afraid of experience or afraid of our own minds. Of course, we like flowers, we hate weeds. We wish for happy experiences and we kind of dread scary sad ones. But as practitioners we can really be with both.”

~ Trudy Goodman, from “Zen, Vipassana, and Psychotherapy,” Buddhist Geeks Podcast: Episode 173 (May 24, 2010)