On truth

I’m guessing that anybody who’s read more than three posts I’ve written on this blog will be aware that Kurt Vonnegut is my biggest hero.

I thought I might introduce you to some others:

Duh, right?

But wait!  It’s not (just) because he led India to a nonviolent victory over Britain.  It’s not (just) because he fought tirelessly for the rights of those less privileged.  It’s not (just) because he was an extraordinary writer, and one of the most quoteable folks of all time.

Here’s another one:

She might be fictional, but she’s real to me.

For those of you who haven’t seen this movie, stop reading.  Go watch it now.  No, but seriously.  It’s amazing.  More importantly, Hedwig is amazing.  For the same reason as Mr. Vonnegut and Mr. Gandhi.

Satyagraha:  Truth force.  Insistence on truth.  My Eastern Philosophy professor called it “absolute truth.”  That’s the one I like best.

It was something Gandhi searched for all his life, quite outwardly – it was a huge part of his yoga…he coined the term, after all.  I think it was also something Kurt Vonnegut searched for all his life, as well, and Hedwig, too.

All three of these incredible human beings had inner demons and outer foes; all of them found themselves the survivors of war or great conflict; all of their choices in all of their lives were a reflection of the scars and epiphanies with which they were left after those terrible times.

And somehow, all three of them made excellent choices about their place in the world around them, because of – not in spite of – it all.  (Admittedly, Hedwig had the help of some excellent screen writers and musicians.)

When is the truth not really the truth?  Or rather, what is the deepest truth that exists in a given situation?  And who gets to decide what that truth is? In my life, and in my work – this is what I’m constantly grappling with.

When a loved one asks you if you support a decision they’ve made – a decision you know was terrible, but upon which they cannot turn back, what is the absolutely true response?

And how about racism?  For example, when an elder makes a comment you perceive to be ignorant or bigoted?  When a colleague makes a joke to which everyone laughs nervously but with which no one is comfortable?  What about the bigoted thoughts that run through our own minds?  What is the absolutely true response to this?

What about our truest selves?  Does it even matter?  Should it even warrant deep thought and reflection?  Is it not a terrible manifestation of one’s ego?  Is ego truly all bad?  Doesn’t it exist to some end?  Is the absolutely true response to deny our independence among our brothers and sisters (we are all one), or to assert our individualism (I am a snowflake)?

When I was younger, I considered the lives of MLK, Jr. and Malcolm X to be easily juxtaposed thus:  Martin Luther King found truth through his endeavors for others; Malcolm X found truth via a deep personal inventory.  Ergo, I surmised, one can take either route on one’s path to righteousness.  To truth.  Outrageous oversimplification, I know…but then complicated things in life are often more easily digested if one allows oneself to oversimplify just a bit.

I’m afraid there won’t be a tight conclusion to this post…because I’m many, many miles away from any kind of understanding on the subject.  I’ll leave you with some interesting things my heroes once said:

But I could swear by your expression that the pain down in your soul was the same as the one down in mine.  That’s the pain that drives a straight line down through the heart.  We call it love.                   ~Hedwig

Just because some of us can read and write and do a little math, doesn’t mean we deserve to conquer the universe.                     ~Vonnegut

All the religions of the world, while they may differ in other respects, unitedly proclaim that nothing lives in this world but truth.             ~Gandhi

0 thoughts on “On truth

  1. I love this post. Seeking Satyagraha looks different for each of us, as you illustrated with these 3 people that you admire. Sometimes it’s through writing, sometimes it is through peaceful living, sometimes it is done dressed in drag. We each have to find our own way which in itself is satyagraha. yes.

    • ann says:

      thank you, amanda! i love your responses to my posts…you always make me think just a little more (not to mention make me feel great about what i’ve written)!

  2. ronaldanne1 says:

    truth is such a slippery bugger. the religions all profess commitment then each goes on to define/pursue their own brand of it. One of my heroes, Socrates, was fond of pointing out how little we know of the Truth, and as with your heroes truth is something to be embodied in how we live our lives. Truth is i love this post.

    • ann says:

      tell me about it…wonder if i’ll ever wrap my head around it, but i guess – as with so many things in life – the journey is the important bit!

  3. Wanderlust23 says:

    I struggle with identifying anyone as being a hero of mine. There are people I admire for what they have done and how they have contributed and helped advance society/humanity.

    I can truly only say that if I were to call anyone a hero it would be my mom. She is the only person I know well enough to know what she has done in her life, decisions right and wrong, that I would ever identify with. But with saying that if there was anyone out there who could come close to hero status for me musically would be Nina Simone. It has been said and I feel as though she was one of those strong unofficial voices of the civil rights movement.

    When we are taught that history the men are the ones we hear most about as the ones who had the most impact during that movement. We may hear about Harriet Tubman, and Rosa Parks but there were so many women who were the driving force behind it all. Their efforts are lost in the passage of time while we look to the men who were often very flawed and didn’t practice what they preached. I guess I suffer from impossibly high standards and know that no one, even myself, can attain that. Bringing me back to why I don’t have heros. I just take what I can from the good that people put out into the world.

    In regards to the old person who says something racist or the kind of racist joke said by the co worker I guess we all have to figure out what we are comfortable with and where we feel we should stand up. Great post.

    • ann says:

      yeah, nina’s always been a hero of mine…although reading her biography – that you lent me, no? – did make it a little harder! putting people on pedestals can be tricky…just found out john lennon was a wife beater! yikes! guess that’s why i like these three…kurt vonnegut’s the best example of a perfectly flawed fellow!

      • Wanderlust23 says:

        Yes I did lend it to you. I have a biography of her that is still on my shelf. I know Ghandi was weird about women, and black people so you can’t win. I have my biases, I will never gel with seeing white people with dreads. Something in my mind says it shouldn’t happen. Doesn’t mean I am right but I know it is something that annoys me to no end. I own up to it fully. Lennon, hm…does not surprise me actually.

      • ann says:

        hehe…as a product of the 90s, i remember white people i knew putting things like honey and peanutbutter in their hair to make it dread…gross. once in a while i get proven wrong when a person of european ancestry rocks them well (and respectfully), but more often than not, they creep me out, too!

  4. suncitymom says:

    IIsn’t it the parent that most naturally makes their off-spring think deep thoughts and teach them to “dig just a little deeper within themselves”? How is it that my own daughter does this for me–her mother, with 90% of her posts——————- amazing and proud and grateful.

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