On my way home from visiting some old friends at New Year’s, I'm spending some time in a pretty little nuclear town on Lake Ontario where it seems an awful lot of the townspeople don’t want to know about (or talk about) the radioactive wastes that are here & there in & around & outside their town. (I’m sitting in a restaurant in this town as I draft this little essay.)
It kind of feels to me as though people not wanting to know a lot of really serious shit (otherwise known as truth) has reached pretty much epidemic proportions these days.
(Of course I know perfectly well this is true, & have known it for quite some time.)
But I’m trying hard today to understand. Is it possible for me – a person who’s more or less addicted to finding out, & then talking about, the truth – to understand why so many people I encounter don’t really want anything to do with it?
Let’s do a little brainstorming here, shall we?
Why would the people in this town not want to know the truth about the major industry that provides employment here?
(I just took a sip of the water; was that foolish?)
Well, duh. I guess I just answered my own (dumb) question, didn’t I, & pretty darn fast, too.
Don’t, don’t ever, bite the hand that feeds you. Even if it proffers the food with poison attached, & might one day down the road cause brain cancer (or some other disease or condition or very unpleasant outcome) to your children or grandchildren or your neighbour or, Heaven forbid, even yourself.
(I’m not going to drink any more water. Hey, I’m really not all that thirsty right now anyway.)
So, why do the friends that I was visiting down the highway not want to know? They don’t seem to mind knowing that the pretty town only half an hour up the highway (hmmmm….so they are downwind & down-lake, as it were, actually, although I didn’t bother to point that out), has rather a lot of radioactive waste strewn about, but they don’t seem to want to ponder what Frank Zappa famously said, which is that “Government is the Entertainment Division of the military-industrial complex.”
Most people don’t seem to want to know this. (Hell, I don’t really want to know it myself, to be quite honest, but the problem is, once I know something like that, I’m not very good at un-knowing it, if you know what I mean.)
Okay, so now I’m asking myself to be brutally honest about not knowing, & what I myself have on occasion resisted knowing.
I do remember that OUAT (once upon a time) I found out something about my father that kinda threw me off & pointed pretty strongly in the direction of his having been not just obnoxious and well, pretty horrid & mean ... but actually probably crazy.
Gotta admit, I think it took me a couple years to really absorb (& articulate) that uncomfortable little truth. When I did spit it out, finally, a couple of years later, it was as I repeated the story out loud that the insight finally landed in my guts with a thud. (I’ve written before about the power of speaking words out loud.) That moment – that repeating of the story about our father to my sister – was definitely an “Ah-ha” moment for me, in a) acknowledging that our father’s unpleasantness was, um, maybe more than just strictly unpleasant-ness,(1)& b) the unique power of saying words out loud to others in order to bring them home to myself – & to feel a powerful insight sparking as the words were flying out of my mouth.
Well. Clearly it is easier for people to just refuse to know things, isn’t it? Denial means much less work, much less effort. It’s the “no change” option, hmmmm? It does miss the critical truth, though, that just about the only constant any of us can count on in our lives, & on this planet, is, in fact, change. Stuff is just plain changing all the time, whether we like it or not. (Clearly we mostly don’t like it, so it seems, but there it is, hmmm? We pretty much just have to suck it up.)
As Joanna Macy once said “We do not need to protect ourselves from change, for our very nature is change.”(2)
Another time she’d said “Grace happens when we act with others on behalf of our world.”(3) (I’ve always found this to be true, btw.)
&, just in case anyone is worried that learning the truth is going to make us all start falling apart all over the place (I kinda get that we can fear that; I sort of sometimes fear that myself), she has also said “It is good to realize that falling apart is not such a bad thing. Indeed, it is as essential to evolutionary and psychological transformation as the cracking of outgrown shells.”(4)
Here’s my sort of prayer for 2012: May we all become more & more & more open to truth…more & more conscious…& less & less afraid of change…growth…& transformation.
P.S. Despair is nasty. Joanna Macy is not unaware of this, & has in fact done extensive work on what she & colleagues call “despair and empowerment.” I attended a very memorable despair & empowerment workshop run by her colleague John Seed & blogged about it here.
P.P.S. Writing this has helped me understand that yes, indeed, sometimes there are things we do really need to know, but we really don’t want to know them. I get it, I get it, I get it…
P.P.P.S. The post 'Atomic Towns' may be of interest.
‘Quote of the day' with this post: “There is an almost gravitational pull toward putting out of mind unpleasant facts. And our collective ability to face painful facts is no greater than our personal one. We tune out, we turn away, we avoid. Finally we forget, and forget we have forgotten.” ~ Daniel Goleman, Ph.D.
Runner-up quote: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the one most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin
(1) Hmmm. I’m noticing here that I still don’t really like knowing this…
(2) World as Lover, World as Self – Courage for Global Justice and Ecological Renewal, Parallax Press, 2007, page 96.
(3) Joanna Macy & Molly Young Brown in Coming Back to Life – Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World, New Society Publishers, 1998.
(4) World as Lover, World as Self – Courage for Global Justice and Ecological Renewal, Parallax Press, 2007, page 95.