Let’s Be Honest

Now, I lay claim to being a truth-teller (it's right up there in my job description) – but let’s face it, I hold back a fair bit…in my writings, as in life. Most of this is due to simple getting-along-with-people politeness. Some of it, the fear of laying myself a little too bare. How will I feel if I scrape off yet another layer of skin? Well. Here goes:

  • 18 years into a divorce, divorce still sucks. I guess I knew from the start it would always suck, given that there were/are children involved, and even though you could probably call ours a “righteous” & “very civilized” divorce. Probably an unavoidable one? Nonetheless, it has been (still is, for me at times) a gutwrenching experience/life circumstance. Why? Hmmm. That’s another essay altogether…
  • Sometimes, often, I’d say, most of us “pull our punches.” Hold back from telling deep (or even rather minor!) truths that might better be articulated. On the personal level, on the cultural/societal. Maybe we all need training in some new language/communication skills. Maybe a course called ‘How to Tell the Truth Politely, Diplomatically, & with the Least Amount of Painful Fallout for All Parties Involved 101.’ Something like that, maybe.
  • Loneliness can be very brutal. It cuts like a knife. But I think alienation & anomie are much, much worse – & I suspect that many suffer from these much more nasty & pernicious feelings/phenomena.
  • Solitude is a balm & a blessing. I know that without a decent bit of solitude & silence, my spirit pretty much shrivels right up. I don’t think most of us get anywhere near enough of either in this very noisy, device-addicted, device-driven world.
  • Truth is sometimes (often) painful, disturbing, shocking, even. I suspect we all need that kind of jolt from time to time.
  • A lot of HBs (human beans), I think, are not really adults. We’ve never really grown up. We’ve never “recovered” from the various & sundry debilitating assaults of childhood. We are never satisfied, never at peace. Driven by emotions buried so deep we don’t (I think) begin to understand the impulses that drive us. Sentenced to lives of self-absorption, over-sensitive emotionally, easily flayed. Consumed by pettiness. All quite tragic, to say the very least. Tragic & very, very poignant.
  • The state of the world is pretty terrifying. Increasingly terrifying. Floods, storms, exploding factories/tanker cars, burning factories, grotesque social inequities/exploitations of all kinds. Etc. As Don Henley sings in the brilliant ‘Goodbye to a River,’ “The captains of industry, & their tools on the Hill, they’re killing everything divine, what will I tell this child of mine?”   Perhaps we middle-class Canadians, a tad too smug & self-absorbed, thought none of this nastiness would ever land on our doorsteps. But alas & alack, it’s definitely arrived. It was always here, of course, in one form & another – now, we can no longer avert our eyes.
  • Here’s a possible truth that is no walk in the park, Readers, gentle or otherwise. There is a suspicion now that we humans have only a rather short time left to run. They’re calling it Near-Term Extinction (inevitably, NTE for short; several links listed below in the p.s. section). Most people I know won’t hear of it, won’t talk about it, shut me down if I attempt to do so. Me, I rather suspect we ought to acknowledge it as a possibility…consider it, & start talking about it. (Maybe in sort of the way that the family of a terminal cancer patient needs to get real, in the palliative phase, & stop pretending a “cure” is in the offing.)
  • Let’s be honest. It isn’t as though I like the idea of near-term extinction. (Big duh, hmmm??) I just think I’d rather take off the rose-coloured glasses & deal with (what looks to me to be) the truth. It kind of renders a lot of our usual pursuits & preoccupations a little … moot, wouldn’t you say? I wonder what it might mean if more people started telling the truth about NTE. Quietly, you understand. “The powers that be” will never do so – we have to do it for ourselves. But I wonder what it would mean. People might begin doing some sensible things with the time that is left, possibly. I really don’t know. I’m curious.

 

A little shout-out here to 2 people for helping jump-start this little essay. New acquaintance AJ lent me her copy of the very lovely Starting Out in the Afternoon – a Mid-Life Journey into Wild Land, by Jill Frayne. This writer grabbed me powerfully within the first few pages (I’m only on page 19 as I write this). Her disarming honesty disarmed me, utterly!

It’s so liberating when people are honest about their feelings. Especially the ones we all share, but have trouble admitting ... even to ourselves.

It’s occurring to me that right now, I have very little patience for people who are still living completely up in their heads.

I often reflect lately that I am heartbroken – about personal “stuff,” & about the state of the world.

“Head” stuff just doesn’t interest me very much at all right now.

Let’s be honest.

Janet

p.s. earlier this week I watched a Stephen Jenkinson lecture entitled ‘The Skill of Brokenheartedness: Euthanasia, Palliative Care & Power.’  It struck me as powerful & very timely, & I’m delighted to have come across it by “fluke.”

p.p.s. here is something Jill Frayne said in her book: “People think that because it’s common for families to break up, children must weather it okay, but I don’t think they do. I work with families for a living, and for their sake and for mine I’ve held out against the idea that breakups are apocalyptic―but they are. For children, it’s an atom bomb going off, no matter how tactfully parents manage it. Family life, whatever the quality, is the medium children live in. They’re not separate from it. An individual self that can prevail, that can withstand change and loss, is a wobbly construct at the best of times. It’s theoretical or, if it exists at all, must come sometime later. Maybe by middle age we have a self. In a child it doesn’t exist. A child has no skin. When the adults come asunder, the child does too. They just do. I know this mournfulness in Bree [her daughter].” – from Starting Out in the Afternoon – a Mid-Life Journey into Wild Land, by Jill Frayne.

p.p.p.s. links for relevant items regarding NTE from Guy McPherson's ‘Nature Bats Last’ blog:

Nov. 9/11 -- Three paths to near-term human extinction 

Aug. 10/12 -- Not even a spoonful of sugar could help

Aug. 23/12 -- Conspiracy Theories or Conspiracy Facts?

Aug. 30/12 -- What are we fighting for? 

Sept. 19/12 -- Let go, or be dragged 

Jan. 6/13 & frequently updated -- Climate-Change Summary and Update 

April 28/13 -- The Irreconcilable Acceptance of Near-Term Extinction  [Daniel A. Drumright]

May 6/13 -- Preparing for Near-Term Extinction  [Carolyn Baker]

May 21/13 -- On the Acceptance of Near-Term Extinction [Gary Gripp]

July 17/13 -- Can We Really Walk Away from Empire?  [Carolyn Baker]

Sept. 5/13 -- Fukushima, Climate Change, Near-Term Extinction: Resignation vs. Surrender [Carolyn Baker]

* & no doubt many more!

‘Quote of the day’ with this post: “What we cannot speak about, we must pass over in silence.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein (quoted in Voltaire’s Bastards, by John Ralston Saul)

Runners-up:

“You can describe the predicament that we’re in as an emergency, and your trial is to learn to be patient in an emergency.” – Wendell Berry

“So long as I breathe and have the strength to do it, I will not cease philosophizing, exhorting you, indicting whichever of you I happen to meet, telling him in my customary way: Esteemed friend, citizen of Athens, the greatest city in the world, so outstanding in both intelligence and power, aren’t you ashamed to care so much to make all the money you can, and to advance your reputation and prestige – while for truth and wisdom and the improvement of your soul you have no care or worry?” – Socrates, Greek philosopher, 469-399 B.C.

“What magnifies a voice is its human character, its compassion, honesty, and intelligence, and against the weight of things as they are the best resource is the imaginative labor of trying to tell the truth.” – Lewis Lapham, Harper’s Magazine [more truth quotes]

“When in doubt, speak the truth.” – Mark Twain [more MT quotes]

“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 (John F. Kennedy, U.S. President assassinated in 1963)

“The world is too dangerous for anything but truth, and too small for anything but love.” – William Sloane Coffin

“We run heedlessly into the abyss after putting something in front of us to stop us from seeing it.” – Blaise Pascal in Pensées, quoted by Chris Hedges in the article on ‘The Careerists’) 

“Once you know the difference between right and wrong, you have lots fewer decisions to make.” – Joseph Campbell, quoted in the fascinating biography A Fire in the Mind – The Life of Joseph Campbell by Stephen and Robin Larsen [more J. Campbell quotes

“I can say that it is time now to play ‘the end of the world’ symphony. I don’t know what instrument you hold, but you need to play it as best as you can, & find your place in the score. You don’t have to play a solo here. But this is our task now.” – Dr. Sandra Steingraber, in a recent interview with Bill Moyer