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.

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