One of movie history’s great lines comes from Jack Nicholson’s Marine Corps character in A Few Good Men, when he barks, “You can’t handle the truth!”
He’s right. We can’t.
Well, we can, but that requires a turn of the worm, a willingness to challenge the thoughts that pop into our heads, pass from our lips, are acted out in ‘real life.’
I get that. Who wants Minnesota cold when they can have Palm Beach warm?
Mind you, nothing I wrote was slanderous or even particularly edgy – just honest (and yes, I’m aware one man’s honesty is another man’s insanity). But I’m willing to discuss, debate, consider both sides.
We humans would rather hide in our stories and, just as important, refuse to examine those stories for fear of discovering their many fictions. It’s as if all of humankind has clambered into leaky boats we call ‘life’ and set off for the far shore knowing we’re very likely going to sink – just too many holes in our stories. But hey, if we don’t look to close we won’t see the holes, won’t recognize the insanity of the voyage. Birth, death, to be alive at all – who really has the time to look at such things when there is so much to do?
For many, god is apparently the biggest boat of all – an ark, anyone? But that’s not good enough for me, not anymore. As a child I might blindly recite my prayers, might hope for meaning, purpose, a light on the other side of death. But you can’t open your eyes to these things – not really – and fail to see the willful self-delusion in all of it.
“That’s why they call it faith,” argue the faithful, the ones who fervently believe in god or at least the idea of god. “Look at how god saved X from that terrible disease.”
Right. But A, B, and C all died on that same ward, including 5-year-old D. What people in such instances really mean is that they’re damned grateful ‘god’ spared them the awful agony of losing someone and at the same time sustained that desperate need to believe. (One of my favorite lines: “My faith was restored. Not very faithful if you need to have it restored, right?)
Faith, my friends, is just another seedling planted in that fertile soil otherwise known as your brain. If you were a member of the Oomba-Galoomba tribe of some remote Pacific island and had never been introduced to the concept of ‘god,’ the cure of your friend’s disease would instead be credited to the witch doctor or the medicine man or whatever.
Your god is an invention of the mind and if that eats at you then ask why instead of running away and hiding. Mind you, I didn’t say “god does not exist.” God very well may exist. He might even be a He sitting on a throne combing dry hummus out of his beard. But do you know that god as the truth and not some neuro-chemical emotion, thought, or memory? If not, your god is a fiction, the invention of other minds planted into your mind much like a bacterium passed from one host to another or, again, a seed spore that has taken root in your own fertile imagination.
So while this is still a blog about a quest to end human suffering, it’s also about ending human bullshit. At least my own variety. Self-destabilizing honesty is the only way out of suffering.
You may nod at this (if you haven’t already stabbed at the ‘unsubscribe’ button), but very likely you’ll also go right on diving into the ’10 Keys to Human Happiness’ or scripture or prayer, never really stopping to consider that you are merely planting new seeds in an old field – the same field that, while sustaining you, nevertheless also leaves you wanting more. For a time those shiny new sprouts will look good – what a harvest for a feast! But in the end that field too shall go fallow and you’ll need to drum up still another religion or feel-good diet in which to believe.
On this end, what feels right is David Carse’s admonition to allow myself to be gutted, to question everything, to ask the difficult questions, the ones that will bring an end to this life, the one the Buddha characterized as suffering itself.
In other words, to end human suffering requires that we end that sense of being, but that we still continue to be.
Crazy, right? But somewhere it has been said, “The truth shall set you free.”