1995: “Truth” and “Self”

This is was written during the time when I was having a bad time with the noise of small planes, especially the ones that towed gliders up from the Franconia Airport. I wrote this after a particularly bad day. I’m posting this because it shows how I use my journal to explore important issues in my life.

From my journal for September 30, 1995

The truth is that when the planes come that often, I lose all my skills for effective living, I become emotionally paralyzed, unable to make the simplest decision, even one to get away from the noise that’s driving me out of my mind — literally!  I feel driven out of my mind as I’m driven out of my house.  Well, it won’t be forever.  Winter’s coming, the cold weather will stop them.

It’s very painful to be blasted out of my mind.  I see that’s what I identify with, my thinking self, and when conditions make it impossible to think I feel painfully lost, abandoned, at the mercy of hostile and disruptive forces.  It makes me think of the therapy session when I said I was afraid if I relaxed and gave in that “I wouldn’t be able to fight.”  That surprised me when I said it, but it also let me know how constant was the sense of attack, I saw that I was always “fighting” all through my childhood.  What was I fighting? not a clear danger on the physical level, not a physical fight, but a fight to maintain my “self” and my values against a barrage of emotional sabotage and invalidation.  And I see that my “self” is not what’s important to me, I’m not concerned with the image I present to the world, or even with maintaining some consistency of personality.  What I am concerned with, what I most fear to lose, is what I value, and I’m afraid that if my “self” dissolves, as it did yesterday, what I value will dissolve too.  As though I constructed and maintained what I value through the use of my consciousness and if my consciousness is disrupted then the things I value collapse back into the void and disappear forever unless I can laboriously build them up again.  My goodness!  Is that what I believe?  Obviously I feel that the things that I value have no existence apart from me, that I am “letting them down” if I’m not alert every moment to fight for them and maintain them.

I say “things that I value” and what are they, and the one that stands out is “Truth” and all the rest are connected to it: honesty in relationship, authenticity of artistic expression.  There’s also beauty, and I’m not sure if/how beauty is connected to truth.  But I see that it’s not just “truth” that I value and will fight to maintain, but the truth of truth, which I why I was never content to accept received truth from the experts and authorities but was always searching for what I could accept as truth.  And that search has led me to see that there is no objective, monolithic truth, there are only an enormous number of relative truths all contained within a much larger truth.  (That is to say, that the truth that there are relative truths is itself a larger truth, a larger container, that holds paradox and mystery as well as “established facts.”)  So I see that what I value is what I “can accept as truth.”  This means that it’s my truth that I value and will fight for.  And my “self” is the instrument whereby I detect truth, and this “truth” is not an object, but a path through the shifting realities.  This is why my “self” is so valuable to me, and why it needs to be kept in condition, honed sharp as a razor, tuned up to concert pitch.  I’m as dependent on my “truthsense” as any pilot depends on his instruments when he is flying blind.  And just as that pilot’s survival depends on the existence and accuracy of his instruments, so my “survival” depends on my “truthsense,” not in a physical sense, but in the reality that only my awareness of truth, that is my awareness of my next step, makes it possible for me to go on living.  But unlike the pilot whose loss of instruments may result in a crash, I’m more like the sailor in irons, I have only to wait and the wind will rise again, the sky will clear, and I’ll have something to help give me a sense of direction.

Reading this, I find it too intellectual, I think it’s too easy for me to get caught up in thoughts, in verbal expression, and lose the sense of experience. In the present, I’m still concerned about Truth, but I acknowledge that all that I really know is true is what I see with my own eyes, or hear from someone who saw it, and whom I trust. And even then, I can see incorrectly! Back to the Book of Job, and God saying “My universe is beyond the comprehension of the human brain.”

I’m intrigued by my description of being like the sailor in irons — which means the boat is caught facing into the wind, and so can’t use the wind to move. I also thought it meant when there was no wind at all, which is how I’m using it here. I say that the sailor only has to wait and conditions will change. But unlike the sailor in irons, I have no faith in changing conditions. My belief that I have only myself to change things comes from childhood when if I asked for help, my parents would make me wrong for asking. I believe that there’s no older, wiser being that I can count on.

By the way, the word “truthsense” comes from a science fiction novel, Dune, by Frank Herbert.

Reading this over, yet again, I am struck by a sentence in the second paragraph: “Obviously I feel that the things that I value have no existence apart from me, that I am “letting them down” if I’m not alert every moment to fight for them and maintain them.” I do question whether I really believe that, but don’t go any farther to examine it. Ah! An earlier sentence says “a fight to maintain my “self” and my values against a barrage of emotional sabotage and invalidation.” The only thing I don’t say clearly is that that barrage comes from my parents. I have to defend my values against constant invalidation by Mom & Dad.

I see that I have no faith at all in external conditions changing in a way that will help me out.  When I’m lost and without direction or motivation, I can’t believe that anything will change that except my own efforts, and so I’m unable to wait patiently but begin to thrash around, trying to change what can’t be changed.  This doesn’t mean that my own efforts aren’t important, but that I can’t do it all by myself.  And even in the case of the airplanes, there are some powerful forces fighting on my side, darkness and winter can be counted on.  And I can count on my “self” to come back once it’s clear that the noise has stopped for the day.

It’s now clear that my “self” is much more complex than I think in 1995. Work with the “parts” has shown me how complex my “self” is.

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