Ramblings of an Old Flower Child: Truth, Righteousness and the Slippery Slope to Hell
I cannot help but notice the prolific posts on the net asserting various truisms, imperatives and calls to action. It seems to be the latest way to picket. Yet we are not on the streets with like-minded souls, braving the elements. Instead, we sit comfortably in our desk chair and broadcast our version of the ‘truth’ with a few effortless keystrokes. It can make us feel like we’ve done our bit to right the wrongs that are so overwhelming at times. On another level, the web seems to be an outlet for people trying to hold on to a central core of ethics and balance, whilst the world ‘out there’ twists into an increasingly political and convoluted quagmire of problems. As we face the specter of an uncertain future, where we seem to have little control over where our lives are heading and the fear around that, we need to be able to hold onto something stable and inviolate. We need to feel that we know the truth of it.
The specific posting on ‘Faceplant’ (my term for Facebook) that engendered my reflection on personal truth (and what we do with that) was the quote, “Fight for what you believe in.” That sounds innocuous enough at first glance. Yet what came up for me was that the Klu Klux Klan are passionate about the subjugation and denigration of blacks. I have heard that the Arian Nation hates everyone who isn’t white. These groups and the like have such a tight hold on their truth, they are fighting for what they believe in. I also put many missionaries, capitalistic elite, political right and countries at war in the same category. In the face of all these groups, I recoil in horror.
In the meantime, it puts a different spin on the Faceplant post’s call to take action, based on someone’s idea. We have a wide range of perspectives in approaching any concept, event or whatever, since we come with our preconditioned personal ‘lens’. Without vigilant scrutiny and reflection, this perspective (with our left brain ‘ego-will’ needing to judge and control) gets us into trouble. People with an entrenched idea, along with the brazening effect of passion are further steered off course when fear is involved. They may then light upon the idea that God is on their side to boot. All hell breaks loose when a sense of righteousness comes into play.
I have heard the word, ‘righteousness’, a few times recently and each time a shudder ripples through me. Righteousness, by its nature, talks about sides. There is the correct or natural side and there is the incorrect or unnatural side. The bottom line is that one side, the in-crowd, knows the truth while the other side contains, well… the others. It would appear that sometimes the others just don’t know any better. With passion and a bit of religious fervor thrown in, the game may become sanctified-in-crowd versus condemned-others. With that, you can pray for the others or you can just kill them already. The attempted genocide of the aboriginal peoples of North America (and around the world) by a religious-political juggernaut comes to mind.
The flawed seed behind the stance of righteousness is that it not only separates us but also elevates one person or group’s ideas above another’s. It is the antithesis to, ‘Live and let live.’ Within it’s black and white constraints, acceptance of differences and acknowledgment of alternative ways are almost eclipsed. The more fear that is part of the formula, the more intense the righteousness. (This may be something to be aware of as we ramp up to the Mayan cycle at the end of December and all the anxiety that seems to be building with that.) In the righteousness arena, judgment (including salvation-ability) is absolute and sentencing (whether it involves shunning, denigrating, subjugating or annihilating) tends to be absolute and merciless. Righteousness can be the road to Hell on Earth paved by the machinations of the out-of-control, left-brain-skewed ego.
I wonder at the arrogance of anyone who (with a righteous flair) would go as far as pontificating about their version of truth or wanting to impose their absolutes on others. Am I looking at self esteem issues, ignorance or what? In any case, I tend to avoid people who brandish their righteous truth since it does not serve me. There tends to be no exchange of ideas or personal growth for me or them. No thanks.
In the meantime, I have recently heard that daunting word, righteousness, uttered by people who I normally regard as seemingly aware and deeply connected to spirit—people with whom I want to grow. Yet I cannot imagine embracing that word in any way, shape or form. The encounters serve to help me stop and ask myself, ‘What might I be righteous about?’ I then work on flushing whatever that is. It also reminds me that we are all works in progress.
In contrast to subscribing to an absolute truth and the ridiculous insanity of righteousness, I hold truth as being fluid or perhaps expanding in nature. This stance allows me to be more open to new ideas and adapt or evolve as new information is forthcoming. It supports me in keeping my balance as I bear witness to a societal landscape that at times seems unhealthy. At the same time, I recognize that we all seem to find our way through the labyrinth of life using various routes. We all seem to be traveling the same handful of paths, only within our own bubble of awareness. As we walk side by side, we are united in our human condition. With enough time and experience, we end up (by and large) in a more humble and quiet place. Thankfully, a peaceful surrender becomes part of the fabric woven into the tapestry that we continue to weave.
So rather than touting, ‘Fight for what you believe in,’ a more promising directive may be, ‘Know thyself.’ With that, we may focus on an inner rightness instead of an outer righteousness. It seems to me that we have an endless journey ahead in harnessing our predisposed egoic will as we develop personal clarity anyway. With that continual challenge (in my humble opinion) we don’t have time to worry about what others should think, say or do.
Helena Green is a Registered Professional Counsellor in Nanaimo. She also volunteers as the Vancouver Island Regional Director for the Canadian Professional Counsellors Association and is a professional writer.