The Best of Times

My son gave me a song to hear yesterday, “The Best of Times” by Sage Francis, from his new album, Li(f)e (“lie with an ‘f’ in it”). I wanted to share it because it made me cry. If you’re visual, you can go to the web site or YouTube and watch the video for the song.

I’ve been thinking lately about life and lies, and about what I wrote about mentors last month. I’ve thought a lot, in fact–so much that I haven’t wanted to write anything. In a life full of fruits, I’m a root vegetable, brooding and buried deep and cold. So a song about life and album about lies comes at a good time, for after letting my thoughts lie in the cold, dark earth of my unconscious for awhile, I realized that I not only believe but am quite certain of a few things involving truth and people. The song had an uncanny connection to what I’ve been thinking, perhaps mostly because the artist is simply honest. He’s honest about himself and his life–and after all, what else can we be honest about? Other people’s lives? Other people’s selves? Hardly. We can only observe others; it’s our own selves we are supposed to be living.

Only the True-Hearted Say, “I’m Sorry”

What does my own self know and believe? What I know is that only conscious and even enlightened people can be honest and truthful. I also believe that only a real person can say and mean, “I’m sorry” because they can empathize with the other person’s suffering, or can humbly and honestly put themselves in someone else’s place. And, after thinking about it, I still deeply believe in the need for mutual accountability, transparency, and, yes, mentoring in relationships. These are some hallmarks of awake and loving personhood: Honesty. Empathy. Humility. Accountability.

Why? Why do I believe we need teachers or mentors, someone with insight who is willing to call us out when we bluff ourselves or others? I believe we need independent accountability mentors because when someone who needs me or uses me is in relationship to me, their need can blind them. I can mislead them or lie to them just as I mislead and lie to myself; but when I’m in relationship to someone who doesn’t need me but simply loves me, and has the courage to reflect truth, then and only then am I in a relationship where I can have my own flaws reflected to me with all sincerity. I have seen so many times when even inside a long-lived marriage, one spouse is a liar and the other is completely bamboozled. The bamboozled needs to be bamboozled and dazzled; if the bamboozled one wakes up to the truth, then the truth is going to need to be dealt with. Since the truth is often messy and can cause suffering, a lie is easier to deal with. And so the web of deceit continues, and anyone who won’t participate in spinning or maintaining it or in catching prey in it will be summarily dismissed.

We Need One Another

In Proverbs it says “deceitful are the kisses of an enemy, but faithful the wounds of a friend.” In half a century I’ve learned a lot through experience and book learning, and from being a counselor and mentor, mother, wife and friend, and what I have seen is that a friend who’ll tell you the truth is invaluable. A mentor who sees you but loves you and is willing to hang in there with you while pointing out your deadly mistakes is worth his or her weight in gold. So, after thinking about what Dr. Hollis told us a few months ago about the fundamental need we have for accountability and mentoring, I have to agree with him. The need to be part of a community of those growing toward consciousness, and also to have mentors or teachers is a central tenet of all our religions and there is good reason for that. Otherwise it’s too easy to be self-deluded. We need others to remind us of so much–that we are lovable, that we need teaching, that we resist being humble and teachable, that we are liars and yet, at the same time, we’re also so good.

Victims

I’ve known and continue to know some neurotic and personality-disordered people, and without exception they share the traits of being unable to empathize, of being defensive and unteachable; they are unable to think outside whatever box they live in, and they are dishonest. They avoid suffering like the plague and they prefer a pretty lie to the ugly truth. They generally can’t say, “I’m sorry,” which means that they don’t take personal responsibility for outcomes. They are victims, even when they don’t whine, and even when their finger-pointing is subtle. They don’t participate in solving problems and indeed don’t approach life as though it has solvable problems. People are problems for the fuzzy-headed and wonky-hearted. They don’t call a spade a spade and consider it rude to be honest or to have spontaneous feelings and reactions. They are often measured people with textbook approaches to life, but no real joy, passion, or suffering.

I love the song my son shared with me because the artist says therapy couldn’t break (the real) self, that therapy and life never taught him a word to “insure safety.” People tend to want safety and to avoid suffering. But safety and comfort are impermanent if we rely on outward circumstances to give us those feelings. Safety and comfort arise from conscious relation to oneself, others, and to the Ineffable Mystery we call G*d.

It was beautiful
It was brutal
It was cruel
It was business as usual
It was heaven
It was hell

That’s life for the alive.

8 responses

  1. I have to say, that made me cry too. I could barely look in that man’s eyes for the pain that was there, the flickering vulnerability.

    My thoughts about a mentor, or one who you go to as an analyst to help you to see yourself, are this: how does one know there will be clarity from this person? How on earth does one find someone who will not project onto you? And how will I know if that happens? I guess I’m talking about transference and counter-transference. If we think along the line of a Jungian analyst, I understand that they will be in therapy themselves, and hopefully further along the line of individuation than you.

    I am a person who tends to like to hide, not be so visible to others, to walk very quietly through life. And then I am so mad when no one takes any notice of my work. Currently I find myself really desiring a mentor, but aware of the long journey it takes to learn to trust a new person, and for them to get to know (and trust) you.

    “We can only observe others; it’s our own selves we are supposed to be living.”

    Okay, I have a wee bit of terror about that…

    • Irene, you saw that too? I did, and it so moved me.

      I continue to think about mentors from time to time. Perhaps a time comes when we don’t need one any more, where we keep our own counsel and let God deal with us, when we very nearly have no peers we come in contact with, and can’t hire a peer. I think that’s possible. For instance, what peers did some of the great philosophers, spiritual leaders, poets, and artists have? How did they maintain some kind of accountability? I see holes in my arguments so will continue to keep trying to achieve balance between theory, possibility, and reality.

      What you wrote is true: it takes a long time to build a true friendship or mentoring relationship. The time and effort combined keep me from working hard at new relationships right now, so I understand.

  2. Well, Eve, how wonderful that your son would share such a powerful reading with you. He must be very heartfelt. And as for your description of yourself being a root vegetable? I’ll take vegetables over an apple any day; look what happened to Adam and the First Eve.

    Honesty. It’s refreshing. It makes for a feeling of security for me whether I’m giving it or receiving it but as you know, it can cost one because when truth is directed toward the unconscious person it is rarely well received.

    We recall Magic Mirror on the Wall Who is the Fairest one of All? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0rj2uyWdpU – Sometimes we don’t want to know the answer to that question. Who is Snow White and who is Queen? As for friends, I have a dear friend since 1962 who tells me which one she sees in me, periodically, and we have never had a cross word between us. That makes me extremely fortunate. We were in each other’s weddings; we have both lost a child.

    I have also come to believe that people who can say comfortably, “I love you” can also say, “I’m sorry.” They are accountable. They understand omission and commission. There is no passive-aggressive agenda, no dirty fighting. Give me a punch in the nose if I deserve it but that takes courage and consciousness.

    Thanks for sharing yourself with us, Eve, you are a great blessing. Peace on Father’s Day to your husband. St. Richard is living with Snow White today over here. I hope she’s still here come sunrise or at least apologizes if she is not.

    • MJ, I’m glad you have such a good friend; I have one, too, and I treasure her. And I too would prefer “a punch in the nose” (figuratively). Give it to me straight, I always say. I can take it, and I’ll appreciate it, even if I react at first. I’ll get over it and will love you even more for your honesty. Love me enough to be honest.

      I don’t think love is real without the ability to empathize, and without empathy, a person cannot apologize. They all go together.

  3. It’s so easy to lie to ourselves and of course the worst kind of lie. We have to live with ourselves.

    I do strive to be honest with myself and am finally learning to hold two opposing feelings and be okay with that. Took my a long time to be able to do that. I always thought it had to be either/or. Now I can honestly say I am confused or I feel conflicted and not feel like a wobbly, unstable person.

    I didn’t get the job that I had worked so hard for these past six months. I like my boss, a lot which made it hard to be angry with her but I did feel angry with her and when I let myself go there I realized I wasn’t angry with her, I just wanted to be angry and have someone to blame. I told her all of this, poor woman. And the woman who got my job, I feel both happy for her and jealous of her and that’s okay too.

    And the lovely man, I told him how I felt, without blaming him. Explained to him what drinking means to me and I listened to him while he told me what it meant in his family. The same with debt and sex. We both talked, we both listened and we don’t agree but we are starting to understand.

    • It sounds like you’re living in reality. I don’t know whether to congratulate you or offer condolences, for one thing I’ve discovered is that reality and being in the present and being honest with oneself all combine with a bittersweet flavor. On the one hand, you’re not in denial any more; on the other, reality bites.

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