In today’s digitally dominated and manipulated world it can often feel like there are things that are not as they seem and we are left asking ourselves, “Is that true?” and “Can I trust it?” There is a BBC TV drama currently running, The Capture, in which a man is arrested because he is seen on CCTV attacking a woman who subsequently disappears, when he believes that they kissed and she simply got on a bus. The man seems to be unjustly accused and yet the video evidence is plain. Gradually the investigating police officer realises that the video may have been doctored and what people believe happened was not true. The drama then unfolds around a series of such almost Kafkaesque deceptions. Where is truth, honesty and integrity in such a world of lies? It’s like a complex parable for our times.
Things are not as they seem
To me, this TV programme seemed like this was where we are at as a society at present. Things are not as they seem. What we are being presented with is not necessarily how it is. But what is true? Which version do we believe? Which version is just or unjust? We then are asked to accept the consequences, even as we feel morally outraged. Thus in the UK at present it seems like we are plunged into a culture war around two differing versions of reality.
We are living in a world of “fake news”, misleading statements, manipulation and propaganda, and we encounter alternative versions of reality depending on our perspective. Increasingly, it seems, we no longer can tolerate these different perspectives but think we must impose our own on the other person. Some remark on the rise of a certain sectarianism or fundamentalism, where one side or the other is “right”, where things are black and white and we can’t tolerate reasoned disagreement.
The classic contemporary manifestation is narcissism, the false self. Certain celebrities have become leading politicians on this basis. The narcissist is grandiose and shameless, self-focused, with inflated self-importance, often needing positive reinforcement and adulation from others, and usually being a false construct. Their world is often built around lies and exaggeration. Often they are not as they seem.
How do we live in a world of smoke and mirrors?
Here it is important to have the wisdom of discernment, carried by the owl in certain traditional Native American medicines, the ability to see through things, beyond the smoke and fury of contemporary discourse, the threatening posture of politicians and the battle of politics in many countries right now,
“To thine own self be true”, Polonius says in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. He goes on to say, “And it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man”.
In a world seemingly full of falsehood, we are challenged to find our own truth for ourselves, which can involve our ability to explore within and trust in the inner truth and honesty that we find, and, from that space, share with others and ask questions of others that seek to find truth and understanding.
“Cnly connect”, wrote EM Forster, as the epigraph to his novel Howards End, a plea to see and connect with others, even those we disgree with and disapprove of. It’s a challenge of life to reach out to others whom we disagree with. The ability to maintain respect can get lost in these situations, and yet those that we may disagree with are human beings too, who are deserving of our respect even as we may not feel inclined to give it.
Yet the core of all this is trust, trusting our own inner awareness and finding ways to trust others despite what we may feel to be their transgressions. This can involve some exploration, with ourselves and with others, understanding, forgiving and letting go. Many may feel they are not there yet, caught up as they may be in their anger and blame, but at some point this journey will have to be made for healing to occur. There will need to be people to hold that space for others to make that journey.
The inner search for truth
Of course “truth” is likely to be your truth, what you believe to be true. There are often many versions of “truth”. Unless of course you prefer the world of the absolute, like say some given belief others hold, but then you might not find that serves you. Thus people join religious groups and sign up to their belief systems, but after a while decide it is not for them. Something has told them that it does not work for them. We maybe choose to rely instead on our own discernment.
Those who work with others professionally often find that the real truth, one’s own truth, only emerges after some work has had to be done, and people have had to work through layers of their stuff to find and release the inner pain so that the real, underlying truth can be expressed. That’s when people find their authenticity, who they really are, when the layers of the onion are peeled away.
Coming from an authentic space, we can at last be truthful, honest and in integrity. Then what happens is that others believe us, understand us and know where we’re coming from. They can then trust us and work with us. We can then heal together.
Trust is hard won and easily lost. Trust is love-based; lost trust is fear based. Which would you prefer?