Honesty as a Soul-Making Activity
The following is excerpted from Awesome Your Life: The Artist's Antidote to Suffering Genius.
Honesty is not just refraining from deliberate lies, it's the positive act of living in accordance with the deepest truth you can discover. Oftentimes religions and various spiritual and philosophical traditions contain articulations of deep truth that can be inspiring or powerful reminders of our deepest truth, but ultimately we're not honest unless the deep truth we live from is our own. In other words, to live in accord with truth doesn't mean living in accord with any dogma, unless that dogma resonates with you as so full and accurate an expression of your own truth that you feel fully encompassed and understood in it.
It stands to reason, then, that in order to become honest we need to seek truth. How to do that? How to seek something when we don't yet know what we're looking for? I can look for a blue cup in my cupboard because I know what the blue cup looks like -- but if I knew what the truth looked like, I wouldn't have to search for it, right? I'd know it already!
In a sense, we do already know the truth. The truth is already in us, whole. But it lives in us in a fairly quiet and subtle form which has been much overlaid throughout our lives by the babble and lies of the mad world. What I mean by this is that we might not know what the truth looks like, but we know what it feels like when we encounter it. We have this faculty of recognizing truth when we meet it because we partake of the soul. Ralph Waldo Emerson offered that "The soul is the perceiver and revealer of truth." The senses of the soul are not identical with the five physical senses, they're more subtle. So when we encounter truth we have subtle sensations that we can miss unless we're open and attentive.
We can become open and attentive through soul-making. In an important sense, soul-making is just the creative seeking and expression of extra-rational truth. It's what we do when we dialogue with the parts of ourselves that usually go unheard -- whether it be our heart, our guides, or our genius. By extra-rational truth I mean truth that cannot be arrived upon or communicated through reason and argument, but only grasped intuitively and communicated via experiential resources like ritual and dance, poetry and music, parties and drama, embraces and aromas. Essentially, making the soul is the process of awesoming your life. An awesome life teeming with joy and connection is the result of creatively seeking and expressing truth -- whether that expression comes through throwing a great party, singing a song or writing a story doesn't matter.
We might become suspicious of the notion that creative seeking and expression of truth can awesome our lives when we notice that many artists and poets in modern times have made wonderful objects without making wonderful lives for themselves and others. I offer that this disconnection between the beauty of artworks and the beauty of the lives lived by their creators stems from a widespread cultural failure to understand that the real purpose of the human creative capacity, and therefore of art, is not to make pretty or interesting or entertaining things, but rather to heal and to nourish, to bring us into meaning, union and depth.
The purpose of art isn't to shock or dishearten, to impress, to decorate, to mimic or to reflect -- but we've taken our creative capacity and used it towards those desolate ends because we've accepted a very deep lie without question. The lie is this: that we're separate from the power that animates the universe, that we're separate from love. The assumption flows from this premise that since we're detached from love, we can't know truth without reason or dogma to guide us. This assumption leads us to believe that our creative intuition can only be used for entertainment, reflection, and self-aggrandizement, not for revelation of real power. But revelation is the best fruit of our creative faculty.
The creative capacity can bring forth truth through any medium, and at multiple levels of experience. A well-designed and presented meal can plumb the depths of the mellow wistfulness of fall just as well as Keats's "To Autumn."
Through what we make and what we do we are always answering the questions, "What is true?" "Who am I?" and "What is this world?" Perhaps the most basic and intimate of these questions is "Who am I?"
What we may not realize is that through our creative capacity we have the ability to make an answer to "Who am I?" that is much fuller and richer, happier and more wondrous than the answers our culture and family have given us. And as we answer "Who am I?" by uncovering and bringing forth more expansive and lively truth about who we are, we gradually become capable of enriching the world around us ever-more positively with our gifts.
I suggest to you the radical notion that truth always feels good. It may not feel good to our egos -- it can be quite stinging to our shallow, mind-constructed selves -- but it will always feel good, always relieving and brightening to our hearts. To distinguish between what feels good to our ego and what feels good to our hearts can take some practice and attention, but it's really not that difficult to learn. The ego can be made to feel good with falseness and flattery, with apparent success in its efforts to garner external boons -- and these good feelings have a disorienting woosh-y, wobbly, intoxicating flavor. The heart can only be made to feel good with truth, and these good feelings have a grounding, deepening, sobering and awakening flavor. What is true will always feel like expansion and freedom rather than contraction and stress. You can know that you're believing something false if you feel uptight and worried, trapped and scared. Real truth always, always sets us free and opens us up to greater joy.
Most of the difficulties in our lives, all the complications and addictions, the grasping and seeking, comes from a dearth of honesty. As children, we inherit the fundamental lie that all our caregivers have believed about themselves to some degree (unless they're quite enlightened): that there is something wrong with us, that we are not one with love and one with all, that we do not naturally deserve all gifts. The acceptance of this lie causes us pain (because lies always hurt and truth always feels like gorgeous freedom), and as we grow up we seek solutions to our pain in the form of external security, pleasure, approval, prestige, and power. We value these external boons because they seem to provide "evidence" to our reasoning minds that we are indeed okay, valuable, loved and wanted by the world.
In essence, we are frantically trying to prove to our reason that the gift world exists. We subconsciously think, "If only I can get enough money, enough sex, enough safety, enough respect, then that will prove that the gift world is real, and then I can really relax." We think we need evidence and proof that the world is abundant and welcoming to us because we have accepted the lie that we are separate from all-that-is and therefore need reason or evidence to provide us with truth -- we believe we don't have direct access to truth via our intuition, our subtle senses. Only when we accept this lie do we become obsessed with evidence. We confuse ourselves, believing that evidence is the master of truth when really evidence is only the servant of truth.
We do our best to gather the good things of this world to us and thereby to prove to ourselves the reality of the gift world because we sense deep down that we can only relax and be truly free if the gift world is real. But no amount of money, respect, pleasure or prestige will ever prove the gift world to us. A nagging voice will always have some skepticism as long as we are aiming for proof, and this voice's skepticism will be justified. It will say, "Oh, but what I have doesn't prove that the world is gracious and bountiful because I have worked for all of it -- I schemed and earned, manipulated and controlled, planned and sometimes even forced to get what I have. This means it wasn't a gift, and I need to keep scheming and controlling, working and forcing in order to have anything and be okay."
And so our own attempts to prove the gift world to ourselves end up making us feel poor, anxious, on-guard. We can't relax into joy, love and wonder. We have to stay up-tight, continually seeking. Without knowledge of the gift world, we're not truly able to enjoy or inhabit any bounty we accumulate. We become bored and depressed, isolated and numb.
What I suggest to you is to stop trying to prove to yourself the reality of the world of bounty and ease and love. Stop trying to get enough respect, pleasure, security to prove that the universe is friendly. The gift world runs from attempts to reason and prove it because it's pure love, which is pure faith, which is entirely subjective -- and attempts to prove are invasive, analytic, insisting on objectivity and seeking to avoid the fundamental responsibility of choice.
We want evidence to prove things objectively true for us in an objective world, because then the burden of discerning and living the truth seems to be removed from us.
Objectivity seems to remove from us the work of discerning what is true because it puts reality outside of us. When we imagine reality to stand apart from us we think we are not responsible for what we experience within it. This evasion is successful in one sense because by objectifying the world we can better manipulate its material elements. We can see this in all our use of science and technology. Manipulation is facilitated by objectification: the scientific method, which seeks evidence for theories, objectifies the world. But manipulation can never bring forth the gift world, can never make the soul, can never bring us into love-and that's all we truly want.
Image by NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team, courtesy of Creative Commons license.Tweet