Turn To The Center [on Flawed Wednesday]

I read in my morning horror trawl that 80% of republicans think democrats are socialists and 80% of democrats believe republicans are racist. There you go! Socialists and racists running amok. Society reduced to elementary school antics. Blame games, name calling, stereotyping and over-adamant claims to know-the-truth-the-whole-truth-and-nothing-but-the-truth. We see each other by gaslight.

There’s a little secret about truth. It is very patient. It will sit and wait until all the shouting and belief-flinging arguments are exhausted. It is quiet. It will not prevent us from diving head-first down the rabbit-hole-of-conspiracy. It will let us claim that we possess it – that we are the single owner of it – no matter how ridiculous the face we attempt to paint on it.

Truth will not intervene. If lie and madness are what we desire, truth will, like a good parent, let us learn our lesson.

Truth honors choices. It is the still center and will wait until the whirling stops. It will wait until the lies spin off and we desire to once again turn our gaze to the still-calm-center.

Truth is not an enabler. Truth will let us put our hands on the burner. Truth will let us choke on COVID even as we cough-and-claim that it’s no worse than the flu. It will sit quietly while we protest and profess and propagandize. It will not intercede when we discard evidence or demonize other points of view. It will watch patiently as we give away the farm.

Truth cares not for what gossip fills our bubbles and brains and bank accounts. It will not stop us from acting as the termites to our very own timbers.

Truth watches as we bicker on the playground. It honors our choices. It is patient. It knows that someday we will tire of snarling-fearmongering. It knows we will, one day, lose enough to at last shut-up and once again turn together and listen beyond our noisy protestations.

We will of necessity turn to the quiet center. Truth will be patiently waiting.

read Kerri’s blog post about TRUTH DECAY

Do Anything Else

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It occurs to me now that all along I’ve been asking irrelevant questions. Or, perhaps framing my questions too narrowly. For instance, years ago I went to graduate school to study systems because I wanted to follow a question that reached deep into my life and identity as an artist: can a mythology be rekindled once it has died? Art, after all, is one of the primary life-keepers of a culture’s story and the beating heart of the story is its mythology. And, according to all indicators, our mythology is mostly dead [as Joseph Campbell said, for evidence of our mythological demise, all you need to do is look at the news]. So, the younger version of myself wanted to understand the purpose of my life as an artist if, indeed, I was in service to a dead mythology. Heady questions, yes? Relevant questions?

In the early 1990’s I was invited to a photographer’s studio to see the “newest thing” in photography. The photographer had a new “program” called Photoshop. Before my eyes he “photoshopped” me into a picture, a place I’d never before visited. Today, all of this seems commonplace. Now, any 5 year old can manipulate an image but at the time a photograph stood for proof that something had actually happened. A photograph could not lie. It was evidence of truth. That day, standing in the photographer’s studio, I realized that the old reliable anchors for truth no longer existed. What was our anchor?

The truly significant events in our lives rarely come in with a roar.

We’ve been hearing a lot lately about fake news – as if this was a new phenomenon. It brings to my mind a terrific book written in 1985 by Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves To Death. Here’s bit from the first page:

“Our politics, religion, news, athletics, education, and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business, largely without protest or even much popular notice. The result is that we are a people on the verge of amusing ourselves to death.”

I suppose fake news refers to something wholly concocted but I’d argue that when news agencies pander and promote themselves to conservative or liberal viewpoints, when ratings drive content, it’s all fake news. News with an agenda is…not news. It is, however, dangerous to a democracy and no longer free (as in free press, a cornerstone of our democracy). Historically, newspapers have always had a point of view but there was some attention paid to what was printed as news. Opinion was confined to an editorial page. When the line between true and concocted is blurred, when a populace cannot discern between entertainment and substance, it no longer has the capacity to make sound (read, “informed”) judgments. Worse, it is gullible, gossip-eaten and infinitely manipulate-able. It is, as Neil Postman wrote, entertaining itself to death.

I recently wrote about the absence of recognizable communal anchors (mythology) and the dangers of a community with nothing but the soft soil of belief and opinion as its driver. Is planting a personal-truth flag and defending its territory all that is left to us?

What else can we do? Now, there’s a relevant, open-ended question! Roger once told me that he would never be able to understand suicide. He said something like, “In that moment, rather than take your own life, why not do anything else? Why not make any other choice?” Another relevant question!

What else can we do? In the face of our own entertainment-driven suicide, why not do anything else? Turn off the blather, go outside, meet your neighbor, tell stories of your children or your ancestors. If common ground can’t be found it can certainly be created. Inhabit something bigger than opinion. It’s less entertaining but certainly more useful. Great art – no matter the form- lives in those bigger fields.

 

MAKE ME AN INSTRUMENT OF PEACE – GIFTS

to kickstart your peace, listen to this:

for PEACE on iTunes, go here (track 5 on the album AS IT IS)

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