Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The View from my Bicycle [COLUMN]

The whole hard truth - by Nick van der Leek

I recently watched an excellent flick by Sam Mendes, starring Kate Winslet and Leo diCaprio.  It's called Revolutionary Road, and it forces one to contemplate the unreality of our lives.

John Givings: The hopeless emptiness? Now, you've said it. Plenty of people are on to the emptiness, but it takes real guts to see the hopelessness... 

Someone once said we can love completely without complete understanding. I have a feeling that may be true. But all of us have a funny relationship with the truth, which oftentimes isn't so funny after all. Take relationships. We love someone and are loved in return. But who we love is as much a matter of our own perceptions, receptions of ourselves as it is the person who loves us doesn't necessarily see themselves, or you, but their own version through how you reflect... Does that make sense? Someone once said, a kiss may not be the truth, but what we wish were true. I know now what that means. It means the kiss itself may not be all that we want, but it represents more than it is, and in that, it can be more... The kiss is the manifestation of wishes, hopes, desires, including for ourselves and how we wish others to see us and love us...

Here's the point. If we want a genuine relationship with someone, doesn't that presuppose being completely honest with that person. And having them being 100% transparent back. If you're a teenager who has been in love once, you'd probably say yes. Everybody else knows that when it comes to love, a slim veil needs to be cast over the truth. Why? Because the truth hurts. Sometimes the things one person cares about means little to another, and there's nothing right or wrong about it. In some things, truth is vital, such as, for example, one's HIV status or sexual history. In other things, our gripes, our complaints, our regrets, our bitternesses, our disappointments, one can err on the side of being too honest. One can err also by being too honest about our desires, and where the winds of desire sometimes blow. Each person must try to steer themselves, and in tandem, a relationship. If a relationship is steered in the same way a pin ball machine operates, it will go nowhere, and the rudder will soon break.

Frank Wheeler: Well I support you, don't I? I work ten hours a day at a job I can't stand!
April Wheeler: You don't have to!
Frank Wheeler: But I have the backbone not to run away from my responsibilities! 

Beyond relationships is also our attitudes to the truth in the greater scheme of things. Is there really a God? Do we realise how fatally addicted all of us are to something or other, whether it is cigarettes, or caffeine, or eating, or porn. Do we pay attention to news. Do we pay attention, in fact, to any thing? Because a real dedication to the truth should involve a certain amount of listening. Listening and evaluation. But mostly listening.

Once again, I am someone who consumes a great deal of news. I feel a sense of utter relief when I am away from civilisation for a few days and thus unable to update my menu of news items. We - people I mean - are on a destructive course. It is perhaps good not to know all the time about how we are fucking up ourselves and this planet. It is good to know what is happening, because we need to make a difference with our lives. But we can also choose to divorce ourselves from the muck that others make. That muck, may be the truth, but some truth is not essential to know, and this is where I reach the door to my conclusion.

April Wheeler: Don't you see? That's the whole idea! You'll be able to do what you should have been allowed to do seven years ago, you'll have the time. For the first time in your life, you'll have the time to find out what it is you actually want to do. And when you figure it out, you'll have the time and the freedom, to start doing.
Frank Wheeler: This doesn't seem very realistic.
April Wheeler: No, Frank. This is what's unrealistic. It's unrealistic for a man with a fine mind to go on working year after year at a job he can't stand. Coming home to a place he can't stand, to a wife who's equally unable to stand the same things. And you know what the worst part of it is? Our whole existence here is based on this great premise that we're special. They we're superior to the whole thing. But we're not. We're just like everyone else! We bought into the same, ridiculous delusion. That we have to resign from life and settle down the moment we have children. And we've been punishing each other for it. 

The truth that is most essential for us to know is not the truth about the world, or about someone close to us, but our own truth. That may seem faintly solipsistic, or even narcissistic. Here's what I mean. If you do not know yourself, how you respond to the world, and to others, and to being loved, and hated, and humiliated, and praised, you cannot form any cogent opinion either about the world or other people. First, and foremost, you need to know yourself. Then you have to have the courage to be yourself. The question whether you want to immerse yourself in the world beyond what we do, where the opinions of others begin to shape you, the beliefs of others begin to change you, that is a dangerous road.

No, the firsthand experience of the world through oneself and knowing oneself is absolutely vital. Because it is through this knowledge that we discern first of all a personal truth, and secondly, the potential for an absolute truth. It is our business to try to align our experience and personal truth with the idea we have of an absolute truth that we can all belong to. But it is not our business to get others to do this, or know this, for we cannot. Only they can. Only each of us can walk his or her road to what is true. And if they love us for that, or hate us, that is their truth, and one we can offer nothing to change but the demonstration of our own lives. At best, we can try to see the truth in the lives of others, and where it is good, let it resonate, or inspire us. And we can live in a way that resonates or inspires others with a similar sense of truth.

The moment we pursue the truth for and on behalf of others, I feel, we step away from our path towards our own truth. It's something we should never do.

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