The Truth About The Truth

Hi,

Remember that great scene in “A Few Good Men” when Jack Nicholson vehemently states, “You can’t handle the truth!”  I love that.  Because we skirt so many truths out of fear, reluctance, discomfort, personal disgust – I could go on.

Does that mean we are dishonest, horrid liars?  Absolutely not – in fact, I really like us as a species.  For every awful, despicable action that we witness, there is a generous, loving gesture to be seen.  We are cool, talented, smart, and have great music.  Our hugs can nourish us; our humor evokes hiccups, stomach cramps and a warmth like nothing else.

But are we honest?  I mean, really, really honest?  When we insist that we are our own worst enemy – um, not sure about that.  I think we’re honest with ourselves to the point of disquiet.  If it causes us too much agita, we move on to the issues we can handle.  Joe Klaas writes, “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off”.  We certainly can feel self-anger – I’m just not sure if it’s about the stuff that whispers to you in the dark.

Don’t misunderstand me, please – I’m not the icon for honesty.  As a kid, I thought I invented lying – rationalizing (and perhaps to a degree rightly so – or so I believed) that my parents would freak if I came clean.  Obviously to a kid, that means you don’t want to get in trouble, and I hated getting in trouble (of course, who does?).

As an adult, some truths are harder to face, and perhaps if the effect of keeping them hidden causes little harm to yourself or others, those defense mechanisms arguably should remain in working order.  After all, they’re there for a reason.

But the big ‘but’ to me, is the illusion of all truth all the time.  I think that in and of itself is a fallacy.  I think we hide from certain truths, deny others and refuse to even consider some.  And perhaps the admission of this is the most honest we can be.  Personally I think that’s ok.

I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t look deeper, harder and with a more fearless eye. We may learn something about ourselves that really can free us from certain emotional binds that inhibit blood flow.  In fact, I think it’s a courageous thing to do.  I also think that in reality it is the fear of what we might find that makes us our own worst enemy.  Surrounding ourselves with a sycophantic chorus that assures us that our flaws are minor and our assets too numerous too mention – I’m not sure that gives any of us the love, understanding and perspective we deserve.

Where the hell is this all coming from?  Certainly the disingenuousness of the news here in the States, the frustration I feel at all the crap that’s circulating and frankly soiling the air I breathe.  A little self-reflection, a little candor, a lot of humility and a recognition of the failures in our humanity would be welcome.  Whoever you’re for or against is not the issue – what is at issue is the absence of honest self-reflection, for starters.  And frankly, if you’re an enemy to yourself, how can you be for anyone?  Just sayin’.

Of Paradoxes and Pop

Hi,

So here’s what’s been rolling around in this very addled head of mine…My neighbor Gary is an avid gardener.  So much so, that we have never spoken about anything else.  He came to the door a few weeks back to tell me that our grass was being over-watered and that I should adjust the scheduling of the sprinkler system.  Ok, done.  The other day he flagged down my car to advise me that my grass wasn’t getting enough water (I’m abbreviating the conversation to keep this thing going).

Everything needs water – but not too much.  Every meal should be savored – but not so much that you get heartburn.  My cyber pal David (davidkanigan.com), is pondering the extremes of emotional bungee jumping, as I extol the state of balance.  But highs are awesome – it’s the lows that suck.  It’s all a paradox (sidebar – Annie LaMott’s Ted talk on her 12 rules of life and writing – enjoy it).  I got it – and to a ridiculous degree, it’s all a cliché.  Until of course, you get to some lessons I’ve learned from my father-in-law.

Sid calls me his favorite daughter-in-law, and he in turn is my favorite father-in-law.  Of course, we are also each others’ only person in that category, so for me, it’s an easy win.  He’s 92, one of the greatest generation, the head of Andy’s clan and he wears that mantle handsomely.  He recognizes the magnificence of my sons’ as fathers – and tells them.  He literally beams at the mention of his grandkids.  He’s vibrant and engaged and has become the official greeter to his community.  Going up to strangers, introducing himself, inviting people with an outstretched hand and an easy smile.  He’d win “Most Popular” if they had such awards for adults.

Pop has an easy walk, this kind of strolling gait that is unhurried yet purposeful.  He broke his foot a few weeks back, which only slightly inconvenienced his ability to dance at his granddaughter’s wedding.  His two granddaughters wheeled him onto the dance floor, he was handed the mike to sing along with Louis Prima and no one eclipsed him from that point forward.

And yes, now that his boot is off, he’s got golf to return to, bridge of course…you get my drift.  Pop’s unassuming and humble, he’s warm and truly finds no fault with anyone in his ever-widening circle.  He reaches out – with no hesitation.  If you surmise that I love him, you’re right.   I think he finds self-absorption boring – too much is happening for the over-examination of one’s self, or the pursuit of that kind of attention from others.

My parents were too young when they passed away.  I’ve written about them extensively and will not do so now.  What I will say is that neither was able to show me how to grapple with getting older.  I’m grateful for Pop’s lessons, because other than learning how to  play bridge, I try to play this life as he does.

Pop was married to my mother-in-law for well over 60 years.  And he still called her the ‘most beautiful woman in the world’.  We all were deeply worried about him – would he be able to get past the grief, heal enough to make a life for himself, etc.  And here’s the paradox that Pop taught me, the only one that doesn’t make me crazy.

You don’t get past grief (I knew that part);  you don’t get over love and you still live.  One can argue that it is a religious requirement to do so (it is in Judaism) – which is a pretty high imperative;  so is doing it for the spirit within that begs to sing.  Love and grief co-exist.  One doesn’t cancel out the other.  Losing someone you adore doesn’t give you permission to exempt yourself from life’s dance.  They are not different sides of the same coin – they are the same side of the coin.  There is no better moment to thank my father-in-law than today, there is no better reason than his patient coaching and his love.  What can you say to someone who asks the world to be his guest?  Thank you for the invitation, Pop – I gratefully accept and I love you.

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