How my desire to investigate the nature of truth came about…
It’s difficult to find a place to start. I think the importance of this concept began to dawn on me around 2000 (in Portugal). And this is only a guess, as I believe the thing has been haunting me from the very beginning.
A couple of sessions in my life of solitary living and traveling set off a chain of thought that became documented in journals (beginning in August of 1998). I remember being dropped at the airport in Calgary on a late November night in 1999 for a flight to England and then on to Europe, landing at last in Barcelona en-route to Portugal. Prior to that, the year before, I had spent Christmas and into January just outside of San Pedro, on Ambergris Quay off the Coast of Belize. These solitary excursions came on at times in my life when I had room to explore my mind. And with some angst driving me.
The result was a couple of large notebooks of stream of consciousness writing that later became one short story and a great deal of raw material for a novel (in progress). For example:
I don’t think I can describe the effect that the sound of my boot heels made on me in the Picasso Museum. I have tried to describe what I felt overall, but the emptiness of the hallways and the genius staring back from every wall and the sound of my heels on the marble floor held a completion of sorts. “It took a long time. Welcome.”
It’s not just the impressions I’ve felt or the things I’ve seen on this trip that make it worthwhile. It’s the events leading to this. The events that foretold its necessity. The people, the ideas and the hints laid before me. This is a culmination of something. The plan of something bigger than me. A confirmation of bigger purpose. It is nowhere near finished.
You only really exist in the hearts of the people who love you. When you isolate yourself you are in danger of losing perspective. You are able to misplace your soul. There is no reflection of your value. This is a terrible thing to see and will drive one to find mirrors in questionable places. Anything will do when there is a threat that you may lose your grip.
You’ve decided to live in a reality that contains an inordinate amount of unnecessary shit to worry about. Turn off your television. Go enjoy the day.
These Brits contain an unusual amount of phlegm. They are constantly honking, sneezing or purging into handkerchiefs. It must be a chore to be saddled with the task of forever caring for a snotty nose.
So, from the profound to the absurd. All the thoughts spew, and as I’ve typed elsewhere; life contains infinite possibilities. Each instant contains infinite possibilities. Physically speaking, each isolated moment is not of time, but of eternity. Everything at once in possibility. Poetry selects a thread, and the rest is waste.
I recall the first days after flying back to Canada from Spain and decompressing on my bed, overlooking the trees of lower Mount Royal. I would stare for hours out that window. Calm. Then I found a copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and began to read. Those moments held a kind of synchronicity that’s hard to fathom. The days were meant for me, scripted in order to form my life as it would become. A true gift. My love affair with that book goes on, and the impression of those days lingers as a motivator anytime I think I may be lost (a more frequent occurrence than I would like to admit).
So, I have been looking all my life for evidence of truth. I have not necessarily defined it that way in the past, but I can say in retrospect that it’s the driving force for my social, recreational and spiritual investigations. All of it. Every last sniff.
My mantra when receiving anything, from a tarot reading to a supply of information is that the return of information be truthful.
One of the first distillations was this:
Perhaps religion is an ancient virus. It feeds on spirituality and produces dissent, anger and fear. It spreads thought-borne through the vapor of consciousness uncontrolled, and the antidote is as nebulous as the disease. In the end, the Church is the antichrist. All religion is evil – a condition that becomes apparent only when the tenet reveals itself as monotheist, requiring dedication to its spread as a condition of absolution, and the promise of hell it’s punishment for non-believers.
You can see this virus – It is its nature that its greatest need is to propagate. It needs walls, books and participants to survive. Tangible things.
The infected espouse its existence as evidence of ‘truth’
But, religion is not truth. Instead spirituality, ‘divinity’ is truth.
It is the nature of truth that truth needs nothing to be perfect. Truth doesn’t require your participation or belief. Truth doesn’t promise hell in the event you disagree. It promises nothing. It is not a virus. It just is.
You can feel truth in your heart.
Religion must be learned.
I was trying to define the problem I felt inherent in religious faith. I thought that faith in something required a better return on investment than unquestioning loyalty; fealty – the establishment of a vassal/lord relationship. So I typed my vitriol and captured a great deal of venom and a smattering of truth. That is – truth needs nothing to be perfect. It doesn’t require your participation or belief, it promises nothing, it just is. You can feel truth, or it’s only a considered thought away.
Now, I feel the pursuit of this ideal pushes one out of society. Away from normal, only because society has evolved to hide truth in favor of universally acceptable alternatives. But that sounds formula, and it’s actually more than that. Who at work can understand anything I think or feel in a normal day? What ratio of truth/invention is one exposed to in a day, and what ratio does one spout in the effort to present a reasonable demeanor? The world is tuned to an expectation of something less than truth. We’ve been programmed from birth for ‘want’.
It’s difficult to be immersed in this idea at the best of times, but supporting a family with a corporate position in the urban city center is anathema to the concept, and it pulls against a person’s constitution. This leads to a life that is hard to manage. And as a result, I am beginning to find little ways to assert my autonomy.
(As an incidental aside, it’s interesting to me that autonomy seems to equal truth. Perhaps not surprisingly it’s easier to come to terms with truth in isolation. Likely for a couple of reasons. Firstly, truth cannot be guaranteed in conversation with another individual. The judgment is subjective. Secondly, truth is more readily considered in isolation as the only individual to consider is oneself. This presupposes that one has begun the inward journey that allows comfort in the pursuit of truthful answers; some sort of soul alignment).
So does the pursuit of truth require that one assert autonomy? Does this pursuit have to be a solitary one? Did Robert Pirsig go mad because his quest was undertaken as an individual with no one to share the weight? Or did the investigation proceed at a rapid pace because a solitary mind can contemplate more deeply and freely, unfettered by the need to integrate with other systems, and as a consequence, introduce him to a higher form of thought than a human is normally capable?
Is a mind alone more agile? Does that agility supersede any benefit gained from the power of two, or multiple minds together? Do multiple minds have a better chance of success at deep thinking? Or would interference lower the effective net of the group? I supposed these are good questions, but subjective for the most part. I don’t think you can make any quantifiable statements without some multi-year, multi-discipline, multi-personality deep field study.
And this is not an indictment of humanity. There is beauty all around and especially in people (groups of them, however, can be less than charming. Frequently).
As an aside, some of this behavior and some of this thought comes to me as a result of sobriety. I swear, this brain is both a blessing and a goddamned uncontrollable, runaway curse. How does one stop this train? I used to use scotch and cocaine. And I will never do that again, but Jesus, is there no respite from this machine in my head?
What does it feel like to look truth in the face? I have limited experience, but it’s well considered. And I’m not shy to share;
- It’s gratifying, it builds pride, it changes ones outlook, it allows for continuation of itself, it can be humorous, it can be humbling, it connects one with nature and likely all other things truthful.
- It is lonely, it is unsettling, it is filled with doubt, it exposes one to fear, it requires passion and drive, it is exhausting, but it must be valuable as that attribute (value) is part of the essence of truth.
- It does not make one superior, it does not make one smarter, it does not make one more able to cope.
- It does not set one any advantage at all. In fact I can’t think of any reason to recommend the pursuit or contemplation of the nature of truth except that it is its own reward. Or as a new hobby; something to keep you busy.
And I have noticed that at times when (if) I can turn off my brain and pause this pursuit, my connection to happiness seems to become stronger.
What the hell is up with that?