Sometimes pining for a lost illusion prevents us from facing reality once more.
People ask me if I am not overwhelmed by the state of the world as a twenty-two year old: how do I deal with the truth crisis, with a mistrust in our political system, with an awareness of the profound imbalance in the way we treat nature (and each other) as some “thing” outside of ourselves that can be conquered, extracted, burnt.
I know the world is crazy, and that I’m a little crazy too. I feel the wounding wounds of a sick system that must either change or collapse. But I have never known otherwise; due to the timing and circumstances of my upbringing the illusion that somehow my family, my school, my town, my country, my world are “all correct” never took hold. I consider this a blessing.
Sometimes I think it is easier for someone my age to accept the uncertainty of our times than someone my parents’ age, who grew up in the eighties and nineties. While the system was based on a lot of the same lies and illusions, it still delivered the economic prosperity it promised. Its cruelties and inconsistencies were much more heavily offset by momentous “progress”. Now this has plateaued.
What benefits, what promises do we have to justify confusing and divisive responses to the pandemic, an energy crisis that brings bills sky-high as inflation rates increase, and decades of deafness to our earth’s louder and louder cries for a more balanced way of existing? What was a gust of wind three decades ago has snowballed into today’s tornado. At the same time, the good old ice cream one could buy for a dollar now costs five.
I know people, such as my parents, who suffered in the faithless, materialistic, selfish society they are asked to “educate” themselves for, to bend themselves into, squashing the taste and intuition for truth. Keeping in touch with what is good and beautiful also means cultivating a discerning taste for them. The best argument for local, heirloom, small-scale produce as opposed to jacked-up supermarket stuff is its taste.
Pick an apple off a tree. Bite it. Work around the worm. It comes with a zing, there is something moving and alive about that juice and pulp. Unwrap your waxy supermarket apple. It is object(ively) perfect. Shiny. Bite it. It may even be sweet and crunchy, but there is an underlying dullness and detachment to it.
Anyone who has grown up picking fruits off a tree, as I fortunately have, knows the “aliveness” I am talking about. That said, everyone can tune into and refine that sense. Of course, hammering your taste buds with dead, processed foods desensitises people to what is naturally good and healthy. So when one says “I need a piece of candy,” to some degree they are lying to themselves, for nobody on this earth has ever needed a piece of candy. Or fifteen T-shirts. Or to vacation four-thousand miles away. Yet people and societies accumulate and calcify illusions that guide their actions and aspirations. The more these lies go unquestioned, the more we invest in them, the harder it becomes to let them go…the harder the fall.
Being afraid of truth is being afraid of death, afraid that one’s castle of lies will come crashing down, that the entire edifice of one’s efforts and existence will prove itself to be based on smoke in mirrors. The taller the construction of lie upon lie in our lives, the more we fear truth, as for the liar it heralds transformation, destruction, a loss of identity.
We are all, in part, liars. First of foremost, we are excellent at lying to ourselves. I am caught in some form of illusion when, on a crowded street, I feel like elbowing my way through all those slow-moving “idiots”. I am caught in an illusion when I separate myself from “the crowd”, when I take the righteous stance that I understand and “they” are the problem. I am especially caught in an illusion when I think I am free of illusion.
Thankfully we can hold both light and shadow, both clarity and illusion. While to some extent my generation counts the most disembodied and virtualised creatures that ever existed (we tend to limit ourselves to watching sex, drugs, and rock’n roll on TV shows and cripple ourselves, our relationships, and “reality” into 4 inch screens), as soon as we even brush upon ourselves and our world the inner and outer tornados are howling so loud that it is really hard to remain in the illusion that things can indefinitely go on as they have. Clearly people who in the past were able to muffle the bitterness of lies with high fructose corn syrup, or even people who remained ostracised for dreaming of something different, have more drastic adjustments to make.
This is our time to be brave, to let the truth change us. All that was built on lies is bound to fall. This is our chance to dare a way of living that is true, good, and beautiful.