Cobwebs

So, I spotted some cobwebs in my bathroom the other day.

In the corner between the cupboard under the sink & the wall, a bit up from the floor, in a spot where neither broom nor vacuum cleaner would have rousted them out. A spot I wouldn’t normally even look at.

I only spotted them ‘cos of the way the sunlight & shadows were playing off one another in the room.

Who knows how long the cobwebs had been there? That I noticed them at all was pure fluke.

** This is not, btw, a musing about how bad a housekeeper I’ve become. I don’t even apologize for that anymore.

It’s that I see the cobwebs as a metaphor. And I am always on the lookout for a good metaphor!

The cobwebs were (almost) invisible …but very real. They were there; I just hadn’t noticed them before. Just a fluke of lighting, essentially, that brought them to my attention.

I suspect we all have a cobweb or two in our minds, our lives. Things that are there – but that we have simply not observed (yet). That it might be good to bring our attention to.

You know… bring to consciousness.

Mental/emotional cobwebs. Things that are definitely affecting our lives – maybe even hugely! But that we are oblivious to.

Just ‘cos we can’t see something doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

“If you can’t say something, you can’t see it either.” – Stephen Jenkinson in Die Wise – A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul

It’s similar to the way that, during the day, the stars are right up there in the sky all the while. We just can’t see them … right?

Like that.

Stuff that has a bearing on things – only we’re in the dark about it. As it were. Just not noticing.

Well.

I’ve been a very curious, inquisitive activist for 30+ years now, & I’ve delved into a lot of issues over those decades (waste/garbage/pesticides/ozone layer/toxics/lead/water issues/nukes/energy conservation/climate change … & more recently, vaccines).

& there’s a shit ton of issues I know pretty much diddly about. None of us can know everything about everything!

In order to learn about an individual, particular issue, I’ve always had to shine a little light on it, as it were. Doing research, talking to other activists & researchers; reading what scientists were saying, etc.

Doing some digging, in other words.

Complex issues don’t yield themselves up to us right off the bat! They don’t reveal all their little secrets & complexities without our devoting some work, time, energy – and especially curiosity to them. Takes time to really get a handle on a complex topic.

You know?

Iceberg shrunk image.jpg

Sound bites don’t teach us very much at all.

“I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time -- when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness...

The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance” – Carl Sagan in The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

Now, me, I’ve learned a lot of really uncomfortable things over the years. I can even see now that I have been very slow at times – very hesitant – to fully connect some of those dots I really ought to have put together a good deal sooner than I did.

For sure, I regret this now.

And frankly, a lot of what I’ve learned (am still learning) falls into a pretty big conglomeration of what you might call “inconvenient” truths.

A lot of things many folks might prefer not to know … you know?

Some folks are perfectly content to live among the cobwebs.

For some reason, this has just never been an option for me. My inclination is toward the analytical – always in the attempt to really deeply grasp things. Truth … even when it’s “inconvenient.” (You don’t realize how inconvenient it’s going to be until it’s already too late! Your eyes have been opened already. You can’t just forget what you’ve learned!)

“The trouble is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it, and once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet and saying nothing becomes as political an act as speaking out.  There’s no innocence. Either way you are accountable.” – Arundhati Roy

So.

Several years ago I ran across a quotation that has become a real touchstone for me.

4 Rules for Life

  • Show up.

  • Pay attention.

  • Tell the truth.

  • Don’t be attached to the results. (Angeles Arrien, author (1940 – ) 

 As it happens, I seem to be wired for truth-telling.

For sure I’ve run across people inclined to “shoot the messenger.” They don’t want to hear what I am saying. This has happened to me a number of times, over the years.

I’m getting better & better at the “Don’t be attached to the results” part.

More & more as time goes on, I am content to speak my piece, then walk away & let sleeping dogs lie. As it were.

Now mind you, if I see someone walking along the street & s/he is about to fall into a gigantic sinkhole, odds are I’m going to yell

“Hey! Watch out! Sinkhole alert!!”

… without even having to think about it first.

It’s just the way I’m wired.

Believe me, it would have been an easier life for me in many ways if my wiring had been … configured a little differently.

You know?

What can I say? I yam who I yam.

“Say what you know, do what you must, come what may.” – Sofia Kovalevskaya, 19th century Russian mathematician

Here’s to clear vision, I say – even when what’s coming toward us may be a little on the scary side.

Janet

p.s. I had a number of beach walks recently, while away on vacation. (I’m a nut for walking and also for spotting cool seashells.)

I walked up the beach in one direction, with the sun directly behind me.

Then, after I’d turned around & was heading back, I noticed what looked like a heck of a lot of glass on the sand. Turned out it wasn’t glass – it was sun being reflected off the sand & shells, making it look like glass.

Kind of like the cobwebs!

& the stars we can’t see during the day.

A matter of what the light is shining on at a given moment.

 

There is so much going on out there!!! A lot we miss until we develop a little curiosity & pursue greater clarity.

Sagan on truth copy.jpg

p.p.s. the other night I heard an ‘Ideas’ episode on CBC Radio. It was about scientist (physicist) Neil Turok & some of his views on science/scientific endeavour. He mentioned 4 things he believes are essential to both:

  • Curiosity

  • Courage

  • Creativity

  • Collaboration

For the record, while I don’t share his optimism about what lies ahead for our species, I really enjoyed hearing him share his insights from years of experience as a physicist. I too am all in favour of curiosity, courage, creativity & collaboration. (Collaboration involves conversation, & I am a huge fan of conversation!!)

A Few Relevant Quotes

“You don’t see things as they are. You see things as you are.” – the Talmud

“The important thing is not to stop questioning.” – Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955) German-born American physicist (more Einstein quotes – some great ones! here)

“There is not much truth being told in the world. There never was. This has proven to be a major disappointment to some of us.” – Anne Lamott in the Prelude to Grace (Eventually) – Thoughts on Faith

“Truth is the only safe ground to stand on.” – Elizabeth Cady Stanton ** more quotes about truth

“Frederick Douglass taught that literacy is the path from slavery to freedom. There are many kinds of slavery and many kinds of freedom, but reading is still the path.” – Carl Sagan (I found it here)

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” – Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark  

“For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived, and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forbears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” – John F. Kennedy

“A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.” – JFK

“Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something.” – Carl Sagan, astronomer (1934 – 1996)

** Many great & even surprising quotations about science, here

** & tons of quotations in many different categories, under the ‘Quotation Central’ heading up top.