– June 2015 –
Everybody has them, and perhaps it is because I have been doing a bit more reviewing and sharing my own opinions of things that I have noticed how difficult it is to separate opinion from judgement.
If I think a thing it doesn’t make it true.
After reviewing and writing about Holly Herndon’s most recent album – Platform – for Freq I read an interview with her in The Quietus where she spoke of the need to complexify issues rather than simply seeing things in black and white terms. I liked that. Complex issues require complex responses. Black and white yes/no good/bad judgemental thinking does a lot of harm and the reality is that complexity is fulfilling, is sustainable, in ways that simple things are sometimes not. It leads me to wonder how often it is the over-simplification of issues that leads to rigidity and segregation.
I read a quote from the writer Cheryl Strayed on Maria Popova’s wonderful Brain Pickings. – “Two things can be true at once – even opposing truths… And you can hold those truths in two hands, and walk forward.” It struck me as a very good way to see this. It is ok to not know the absolute definitive yes or no of a thing. In fact it is normal and healthy. There is so much expectation to be sure, to know with resolution, and I think that is the problem. It’s not true. Truths are tricky, and they can be valid even when they are in opposition. To say that a thing is one way and only that one way is to miss the complex and variable nature of reality. The reality you’re holding on to so tight is just one story.
I deal in stories, they are how I make my life. The stories I read and sometimes the stories I write reveal insights that often stagger me. But they are only true in some ways and at some times and in others they are like the grains of sand in the hourglass, just slipping on through. Neil Gaiman (again from Brain Pickings) says “We will do an awful lot for stories — we will endure an awful lot for stories. And stories, in their turn — like some kind of symbiote — help us endure and make sense of our lives.”
Yoga philosophy suggests that we suffer because of the metaphysical veils that obscure our view of reality. These are called the Kleshas, and it is said that the last four arise from the first: Avidya; forgetting our true nature –
The others are – Asmita – Identification with the ego; Raga – attachment to desire; Dvesa– clinging to suffering; Abhinivesa – fear of change.
It is hard to live in the world. Everybody is running around believing their own thoughts and opinions about themselves, about each other, and those are the veils that obscure reality and keep us separate.
Recognising and paying attention to the kleshas allows us to engage more with reality. Knowing that the veils are there gives us the opportunity to ask ourselves if what we believe about things and the stories we tell ourselves about them is really true.
I think of stories as ways of seeing through the veils – insights into the world through other eyes: Opinions, thoughts, are not absolute truths. Seeing things through the eyes of another can help us see, in turn, ourselves; beautiful and complex in our variety.
You can read more about the kleshas on yoga teacher Kelly Connor Sunrose’s wonderful blog.