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:
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:
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