This may well be my only post this week. I am hosting Thanksgiving at my house and so I will be knee-deep in food prep, house cleaning (and restoration once they’re gone) and general holiday fun. I’ll post from time to time on social media, but won’t be back blogging full-time until after Thanksgiving.
That being said, I wanted to offer up some food for thought. I wish someone would develop a USB port to the brain, because I’ve got a lot rumbling around in there and if you could only read the blog posts I’ve thought up in my head we’d both be set until 2016.
But alas, that does not exist so, for now, I will do my best to share my thoughts in a cogent way.
I was walking with my friend K the other day. She is still nursing a little fella. He’s a hungry sort and a big guy, so she spends a lot of time nursing. A lot. And, evidently while she’s nursing, she drafts blog post ideas for me in her head.
(See, that brain USB would come in handy, no?)
So anyway, on our walk, she says to me, “How – in this day and age of the internet – do we know what information is right?” We were talking about infant sleep that particular day and she used it as an example. “You can find experts with good credentials who tell you you have to sleep train. And then you can find experts with good credentials who will tell you that sleep training will cause long-term damage.”
“How,” she asked, “are we supposed to know the truth?”
The ideas behind Eastern philosophies like Hinduism and Buddhism make a lot of sense to me and, more importantly, they offer me tremendous peace. The notion that everything is temporary – because, okay it IS – and that it is in denying the temporal nature of existence that we find suffering … I get that.
But one of the ideas that Timber (the guy behind Buddhist Boot Camp) is always sharing goes something like this: It’s a waste of time to argue your point of view / defend your position because it is possible that at any given moment, the exact and complete opposite of what you believe to be true may also be true.
(I’m going to give you a second to let that one sink in.)
Here’s a quote from his Facebook page posted on November 17th:
No matter how certain we are of our version of the truth, we must humbly accept the possibility that someone who believes the exact opposite could also be right (according to their time, place, and circumstance). this is the key to forgiveness, patience, and understanding. (sic)
So let’s take these two together – Ks question about how difficult it is to know the “truth” and Timber’s suggestion that even when we think we have found the “truth” we must humbly accept the idea that the exact opposite position could be correct.
I was on another walk this week and listened to a great podcast related to nutrition and the human body and the guest made an assertion that is the exact and complete opposite of what I believe to be true.
My beliefs are well-grounded in expert opinions. My beliefs are also buttressed by personal experience. Adopting these beliefs has had a significant positive impact on my health and well-being.
And yet, the speaker is an expert in his field. His assertion was made on the basis of research he’s conducted and personal experience.
And all of the sudden, I had this kind of epiphany, where I realized that both he and I could be absolutely right with our diametrically opposed viewpoints.
So getting back to K, my response to her was that I think the first thing we have to do is be really, really self-aware. We have to know what we think and what we value when we approach information out there. And then, sometimes, we just have to adopt a viewpoint and try it on for size. We have to see if it serves us well and, if it doesn’t we have to keep hunting, exploring and researching.
Thanksgiving is such a glorious time of year – families come together around tables filled with lovingly prepared food. But it’s also a time when political, personal, religious and sometimes even football (I do live in the South, after all) divisions can erupt and long-standing wounds can fester.
I think Timber’s on to something. What if, instead of getting irritated and irked or provoked by someone else’s version of the “truth” this holiday season, we just say to ourselves that that person’s truth is as valid as our own and move on?
We live in a world where you can literally avoid all other viewpoints and perspectives by strategically selecting your media stream. You can opt for a certain news channel, subscribe only to blogs and “news” services that affirm the narrative you’ve chosen to adopt and you can “unfriend” anyone on Facebook whose comments irritate you.
But, what if, instead of blocking out the different perspectives and voices, we listened to them, heard them, and affirmed that they are as valid as our own? Would that be transformational? Freed from the burden of living that other person’s “truth,” can we just accept it and then go about living our own lives?
Our civil discourse in this country has reached a fevered pitch. I am starting to believe that we have actually lost the skill of discussing important issues without polarizing language and the infusion of partisan politics. I’d like to be a voice advocating for change in the way we talk to and treat one another.
And I’d love for that to start this year at our Thanksgiving tables.
The TRUTH … no one’s got a monopoly on it, right?
So keep exploring, keep listening and have a great holiday, y’all.