That’s left in me
I want the whole damn world
To come dance with me
- Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, "Man on Fire"
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Ideas are cottonwood seeds in early summer: they float everywhere. If you are even half awake, you hold millions of conflicting ideas and thoughts about life, your life, the day in and day out-ness of life, the silence of the other side, the distance between galaxies, why your parents stumbled, the morality of religion, the constancy of war, what makes for a good time, death rituals, how dogs are so easily superior to cats, why you prefer the color green to all others, how sex can either open or close a door inside you, what should be done to cool our planet, about oligarchs, politicians, money and the insidiousness of profiting from illness and old age; you have ideas about books (nah, don't read 'em), books in translation, comic books, hipsters, old farts, gentrification, institutional racism, poverty, debt, veganism, margaritas, Michael Brown, commencement speeches, corporate values (hah! like there is such a thing), the invention of love, and any last thing that humans put their hand to, their mind to, somewhere you have an idea about that, a way of filtering and knowing the world so you can navigate it. These ideas and filters often come to us from our families, we believe as they believe or we reject what they believe as a matter of conscience, from the communities we grow up in, to the media we absorb, the stories we accept and the ones we reject. Each judgment is a means of wrestling life into a small enough box so we can simply fucking move through the shit shower and shaveness of living and not go mad.
Except when you're fucked anyway. All those ideas, coming out of the sky, coming at you left and right, the ones you are attracted to and the ones that sicken you are not to be trusted because you don't trust yourself. Maybe you carry a barrel of guilt with you. Maybe a barrel of shame, or anger, or fear. Perhaps you've been betrayed and trust is elusive. It could be you've endured tragedy and the world is ever seen as an untrustworthy place. Barrels of guilt, buckets of tears, the metaphors of our losses and yet this one fact cannot be denied or shunted away: by every choice, by each decision, every word and act we birth the future we will walk into. Moreover, we create the future others will inhabit in their turn.
* * *
There is a difference between honesty and truth. Truth speaks of certainty, irrefutable, unchanging, sacred. It is the home of religion and faith and doctrine and dogma and sin and heaven and hell and forgiveness and ritual and finding one's identity in those tenets. Honesty is personal, vital and prone to error (I am certain there is at least one climate scientist who hasn't been bought by the oil industry who honestly believes there is no man-made global warming, but that doesn't mean his honest effort isn't wrong); it includes memory and requires judgment–in order to be honest you have to be able to determine what is dishonest as well. All of this is to say the two words, the two ideas are not identical and carry very different meanings into the field of your days. I have come to the point in my life where I value honesty over truth because it demands my attention, requires my effort, holds me accountable for the things I say and do. By being honest with myself about myself, my ideas, my gifts, my lack, my mistakes, I am ever honest with the world around me. Truth, as I am using it here, is always focused away from this moment trying to grasp a certainty that either remains out of reach or we contort to fit our expectations and so hold a truth while others cannot.
Honesty is a challenge. Truth is a nap.
To live honestly is to be fully engaged in your life: its trials and triumphs, its fallow days, its fleeting glory and mystery. This isn't meant to describe a hyper censor or black robed superego. Not in the least. It is meant to describe a way of putting your feet on the ground and not hiding from yourself or others how you've come to be the person you are and to chart a way to becoming who you may yet be.
* * *
The work you have is to decide what happens next. You create that. That choice is inherent in each of us: we get to choose how we will respond to the world that we inhabit, that surrounds us and feeds us information and ideas. To choose honestly is dangerous. It can be upsetting to the flow of your days. It may require adjustments, abandonments, acceptance, acquisitions, but mostly it will require action. Living by truth can absolve you of any requirement to think or act or discern a way forward. It has been done for you. It is in the book. Follow the rules. If this makes sense to you, if this is your honest response to life, then all will be well for you there. If not, then there is work to do.
* * *
Hasidic Jews dance as part of an exaltation of joy and community, but also because their scholars believed dance and music was a mystical act that altered the course of heaven. It was both a requirement, an expression of faith and an honest response to their circumstance: to dance in front of one's sorrows was to give no dominion to those sorrows. I have loved this image for years and years, but only now understand it.
Ideas can come from anywhere. It is what you choose to keep that matters, regardless of the source. Judging and assessing the litany of life's trials and joys is a function of discernment and the filter for that discernment can be honesty or truth and each leads in different directions. Choosing your way will have an effect on those close beside you and those you cannot imagine. Make certain your words are your own and your acts are conscious rather than rote.
As for your sorrows, there's only one desire that's left in me. I want the whole damn world to come and dance with me. It is how the course of heaven, the course of the future is changed.
* * *