Life is not as it is. Life is as you are.

Life is not as it is. Life is as you are. The Myths Series

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series The Myths Series

Life is not as it is. Life is as you are.  —  real­i­ty is slip­pery and per­son­al. This scares a lot of peo­ple, who crave fit­ting in.

My first and most pop­u­lar book,

This End­less Moment.

Learn to live a full and sat­is­fy­ing life. 

Here’s a “Life is as you are” quote from the old TV show, “Third Rock from the Sun.”

Mary: “Dick, you are just going to have to accept that there are some things in life you are not going to under­stand.“

I haven’t much use for “under­stand­ing” what is “true.” Most of the time, seek­ing truth and under­stand­ing is a use­less pastime. 

Please note! I’m refer­ring to inter and intrap­er­son­al under­stand­ing, not, for exam­ple, the “rules of the road.” Because we all need to stop at stop signs and dri­ve on the side of the road appro­pri­ate to where we live.

Many years ago I was doing some busi­ness con­sult­ing, and some­one warned me: “Well, ask­ing ques­tions in a meet­ing prob­a­bly does­n’t fit with­in the pro­to­cols of our com­pa­ny.” The expla­na­tion was that the pres­i­dent thought he was real­ly smart (not quite a sta­ble genius, but… 😉 ) and no one ever asked him ques­tions, for fear of being judged to be stupid.

Imagine the communication at that company. Somebody needed to challenge what was perceived to be “true.”

Life is not as it is. Life is as you are.

We have a propen­si­ty for cre­at­ing sto­ries about what we think is true. Many of them are cul­tur­al accre­tions, cre­at­ed to meet a spe­cif­ic need.

Wit­ness the “god­less sav­age” men­tal­i­ty pumped into 18th and 19th cen­tu­ry whites on the North Amer­i­can continent. 

How do you per­suade peo­ple to head west and kill every­thing that moves? You cre­ate a myth about the peo­ple liv­ing there being (much) less than human.In the USA, you cre­ate the idea of Man­i­fest Des­tiny. You then hand the the white guys guns and you get out of the way.

Jeez, this sounds a bit like things in the USA today… but I digress…

A myth is defined as “a theme or char­ac­ter type embody­ing an idea.” In oth­er words, a myth is a sto­ry that explains how some aspect of the world works.

For exam­ple, vir­tu­al­ly all cul­tures have a “cre­ation of the world” myth, and a myth about how peo­ple came to be  —  about how peo­ple are blessed by God or the gods, and have domin­ion over the earth.

We have also cre­at­ed polit­i­cal myths, hero myths, myths about wealth cre­ation (typ­i­cal­ly called “eco­nom­ic the­o­ries,”) and even sci­en­tif­ic the­o­ries that were lat­er dis­cov­ered to be lacking.

Those of you born in the ear­ly 50’s will remem­ber being taught the solar sys­tem mod­el of the atom. Big nucle­us, lit­tle elec­trons cir­cling in orbits around the nucleus. 

Then, in High School, we learned how many elec­trons could occu­py each orbit.

Now, we know that there are no such things as orbits, that sub-atom­ic par­ti­cles make up the atom, that they are actu­al­ly both par­ti­cles and waves, that we can­not know both their speed and their loca­tion (mak­ing them sort of not there.) 

And then, we find out that atoms are 99.9999999 per cent nothing.

At least, that’s the cur­rent myth.

We seem to need some­one in author­i­ty to tell us what is real, as opposed to under­stand­ing that both noth­ing and every­thing is real.

Which means that when asked what is real, a good, truthful scientist (the shamans of our age) will say, “That depends.”

Over the next while let’s explore a cou­ple of our cul­tur­al myths.

The Myth of One Reality

I’m just par­rot­ing your reality

The Myth of One Real­i­ty comes from the Enlight­en­ment. It runs thus:

If we study things, break­ing them down prop­er­ly, we will be able to under­stand any­thing, and the view we have will last forever. 

This view was so preva­lent that, near the end of the 19th cen­tu­ry, a sci­en­tist bemoaned the dis­ap­pear­ance of sci­ence: “Soon, there will be noth­ing left to learn.”

This” “one real­i­ty” assump­tion is rife in reli­gious cir­cles. And here’s the weird part. Peo­ple believe that there is only one real­i­ty, one answer. One expla­na­tion. AND, by some mys­te­ri­ous process, the right answer is always the one my group and I already hold.

This would explain, for exam­ple, the Inquisition. 

The Church, after “study­ing Scrip­ture,” felt itself quite pre­pared to sort out the wheat from the chaff. And if there was any doubt, a good, red-hot pok­er where the sun don’t shine would clear up the mat­ter. Praise God.

We know that the “one real­i­ty” view does­n’t hold water over time. We see its flaws as we study the his­to­ry of thought on almost any topic. 

None the less, we still crave the certainty of an explanation that will hold.

Most cou­ples who request mar­i­tal ther­a­py want only one thing. Each wants their view of the rela­tion­ship to be upheld as the “true” one. They hate it that, in almost all cas­es, there are two sides or more to every­thing, and that noth­ing is absolute­ly true, even that statement.

Adopt­ing the view that truth is rel­a­tive is a scary propo­si­tion. It means con­tin­u­al­ly dis­cov­er­ing the real­i­ty that is mine, in this moment. It means under­stand­ing that my real­i­ty will only imper­fect­ly match the real­i­ty of anoth­er person.

We may, for social convention, agree to agree, but this is more an exercise in semantics than the truth.

It all comes down to choice. I can mouth the “truths” of my group, fam­i­ly, soci­ety, faith com­mu­ni­ty. But if I speak the social­ly accept­ed truth, un-reflec­tive­ly, I give up my pow­er to be oth­er than what soci­ety demands  —  I give up freedom.

How can that be? Well, rec­og­nize that change only hap­pens when some­thing fer­vent­ly believed is dis­proved. You know, of course, that

  • the earth is the cen­tre of the uni­verse, don’t you?
  • That humans will nev­er be able to fly?
  • Once a per­son gets the flu, they die?
  • That time is absolute?
  • That mar­riage is about the wife obey­ing the husband?
  • That mas­tur­ba­tion is a sin?
  • That sex is a sin?

Or not. Depend­ing on your perspective. 

Some­one, some time, decid­ed to chal­lenge these pre­vail­ing beliefs. As to the first exam­ple, declar­ing that the earth orbit­ed the sun cost not a few of them their lives; many were excom­mu­ni­cat­ed or threat­ened, in the name of God.

Through sheer perseverance, these myths changed.

Each gen­er­a­tion, though, wants to believe that the cur­rent ver­sion is the final truth. For many, uncer­tain­ty is scary. 

Which is why old­er adults are threat­ened by Mil­len­ni­als, who seem to have dif­fer­ent work ethics and val­ues. Which is why teen-age rebel­lion is always about rebel­lion against the rules (read myths) of the culture.

And sadly, in most cases the rebellion goes away when the rebels assimilate.

That’s cer­tain­ly what hap­pened to my gen­er­a­tion  —  to the 60’s hip­pie movement. 

While it might be argued that “we” stopped the War in Viet Nam, brought down a Pres­i­dent and brought in Affir­ma­tive Action, we cer­tain­ly are into our BMW’s and Brooks Broth­ers suits now, eh? 

A sell out? Sort of. An assim­i­la­tion? For sure. We think life is ter­ri­ble, but we don’t want to screw up the retire­ment funds.

How do we live comfortably in a world with multiple realities? Isn’t “follow your own understandings” a cop out, designed to lead to everyone doing anything to anyone anytime?

It could.

The sav­ing grace is that we are capa­ble of deep self-reflec­tion. At some deep lev­el, we seek to explore. We then wish to to join with oth­ers in the search, to iden­ti­fy our path and to walk it.

The vast majority of people feel a pull to this centering in the Self  —  feel it in the pits of their stomachs or in the hole in their hearts.

Bet­ter to note that we haven’t exact­ly solved any­thing with our present world­view. Doing more of the same, or pre­tend­ing, along with a gen­er­a­tion of delud­ed Trumpian neo-cons, that turn­ing back the clock or build­ing a fortress will solve any­thing is mud­dy thinking.

This walk into a new myth is not some­thing many peo­ple are going to jump right into. Scott Peck once said, in a lec­ture, that he fig­ures 5% of the pop­u­la­tion ever fig­ures this stuff out. Some find that per­cent­age to be depress­ing. I don’t.

I sim­ply choose to be in the 5%. What about you?

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