Anthony de Mello
Like most folk I can be a stubborn bugger at times; I am more like my granddad than I care to admit at times. I’m better than I used to be but there are still times when I find it hard to admit that I am wrong. And yet when I can I find it so liberating, it sets me free to a new freedom and a new truth.
The truth is that the great thing about being wrong is that as soon as you are able to admit that you are wrong about something you are no longer wrong, you are right once more. Sadly so many of us find it difficult to see when we are wrong, me included. Why on earth is this?
I agree with DeMello's claim that a truth seeker needs “an unremitting readiness to admit you may be wrong.”
Although he and I could be wrong about this.
I believe that this applies as much to people as ideas about life. I know I have been wrong about many people in my life. So much so that I try not to judge people by my first impressions these days. I say I try, but it isn’t so easy.
At the beginning of this blogspot is a clip from the film “The Philadelphia Story”. If you watch it you will hear the following words uttered by Katherine Hepburn.
“The time to make up your mind about other people is never!”
Life is fluid and so are people, nothing ever really stays exactly the same. I suspect that it is the same with truth. My truth today is not exactly as it was a few years ago. How about yours? Do you see things today exactly as you always have, or have some things changed?
I have for some time been fascinated by the Buddhist concept of “Dukkha”. Now "Dukkha is one of those words that is hard to explain in English. It is often translated as suffering, that "all life is suffering". Now I am not convinced that this is an entirely accurate translation, in the sense that suffering is understood in the west. I believe it is trying to teach that suffering is a part of life, that nothing ever lasts for ever. That nothing stays exactly as it in its current state. Impermanence is central to the Buddhist path; the path to enlightenment is to accept that nothing ever lasts forever. This speaks powerfully to me, especially when I think about truth. I have certainly noticed, over the years, the impermanence of truth.
Accepting impermanence helps in the search for truth; it helps us to see the freedom that comes with changing our point of view about things. If you think about it if nothing ever stays the same then surely our point of view ought to be ever changing too. Life is always teaching us something new if we would but stay open up to it.
It’s a good thing to feel like a beginner in life, to feel lost and confused about everything, at times. It does not mean we aren’t making progress it’s just that we are taking shape, forming and re-forming over and over again. There is a false security in certainty that can end up enslaving us.
I have heard it said that God works on us like a skilled carpenter. Once God has worked on one side of us and polished it up, God immediately turns us over and begins working on the other side. I suspect it’s the same with life, once we sort things out in one area, we quickly become aware of something in another that needs improvement. By something in us changing everything else seems to come into another light and appears different. It’s the same with the world around us and the people in our lives too…nothing is permanent, nothing ever stays the same.
That’s why “The time to make up your mind about other people is never!” People change, nothing and no one stays exactly the same for ever. Nothing is permanent, the leopard is capable of changing his spots. Or at least from time to time, those spots appear to get re-arranged...
Nothing ever last forever...
These words have been singing a song in the ears of my heart for some time, there is real wisdom here. There have been times in my life when I have been afraid to bring forth what is within me and I have witnessed the same fear in others too. After all isn't it a little less scary to receive our truth from elsewhere rather than to let it come forth from within ourselves:?
The key is openness, this I believe is the method for truth seeking and spiritual growth. It does not necessarily offer absolute truths, instead it shows a way that enables us to experience truth; a truth that will set us free. It will allow us to bring forth what is within us and by doing so we might just uncover what will save us from the delusion of what we think we know about ourselves, one another and life itself.
Do we trust ourselves enough to seek out the truth and therefore to bring forth what is within us and allow this to keep on saving us from the delusion of permanence, that things will stay the same if we will them too? Or would we just rather stick with the safety of what we think we already know?
In John’s Gospel Jesus said “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” when I first read the piece of wisdom by DeMello at the beginning of this blogspot these words immediately sprang to mind. What I have discovered is that we are only truly set free by living in the truth. Not by accepting the truth we are given but by fishing for the truth and by seeing that some of the fish that we catch are of no use at least today and throwing them back. As DeMello taught if you want to be a seeker of truth then above everything else what you need is an unremitting readiness to admit that you may be wrong. Remember nothing is permanent especially not the truth. We cannot keep on living on the fish we caught in the past, we cannot live off them today.
The key I believe comes from trusting what we unearth, what we catch, whilst not putting a fence around what we see as the truth today; the key is an open attitude whether that’s in finding our own truth or in offering truth to another. Now the challenge of course comes in dwelling in the ambiguity of truth without becoming overwhelmed or paralysed by it; the challenge comes in maintaining a deep commitment to the openness that truth seeking requires and not allowing ourselves to become closed down by what we think we know.
This is not for the faint hearted. This takes courage. This is not the easier path, but it is definitely the one worth taking, for it is the one that will set us free to dance the impermanence dance.
You know its ok to get it wrong to make mistakes. It’s ok to feel lost and confused about life at times. That is so human. There is something both glorious and beautiful in this.
This is a truth that can set us free, if we learn to live in the impermanence of what we think we know.
As Katherine Hepburn said in “The Philadelphia Story”
“The time to make up your mind about other people is never!”
I suspect that this applies to everything, especially truth. For the time to permanently make up our minds about truth is never.
If we keep on living faithfully, casting that fishing line of truth, it will continue to set us free.