Another person I've been thinking about and trying to summon is Joe.
Whoever you are reading this, I appreciate you being here and hope you find something of value in what I am about to say.
Here is what Alton sent today, "the four questions," asked by Katie Byron. First off, my radar ears of skepticism perk up here because by claiming only four questions she is dismissing many others and making assumptions that might not be true. Yet her questions concern truth.
Here they are:
1.) Is it true?My gut reaction to question #1 is:
2.) Can you absolutely know that it's true?
3.) How do you react when you believe that thought?
4.) Who would you be without the thought?
How the hell do I know?I do know, however, that truth arrives (at times) with clarity obscured.
I have lately been engrossed in a fascinating memoir, Broken, by William Cope Moyers. And by odd coincidence, he and I have a number of connecting points. One of them is that we were born the same year, less than two months apart, in the same city. Another is that his oldest son was born on my eighteen-year-old nephew's birthday, and was given the same name as my nephew's uncle. But the main connection I feel with the author of this book, however, is that I sense in him the same familiar deep-down longing I have always felt, which is to be understood, and to understand.
On one level, I tell myself: "You don't need to show anybody anything, nor do you need to explain yourself. True friends don't need your demonstrations of worthiness." Yet what a contradiction that is! Life is all about showing, and explaining, demonstrating, and the like.
And it's also about success and failure. Consider this: Could it be that failure to understand the true meaning of success, in an individual and a collective sense, is failure to grasp the meaning of life?
Back to the book I mentioned, in part of it the author describes how his boss at work responded to his news that he needed to leave his position in order to move on to something different. Although Moyers had received clear direction about the path he should take, the lack of support from significant people in his life (including his father) had an impact. He wanted his boss to say, "That's a courageous decision. I am proud of you." But instead, he received discouragement and disappointment. (Likewise, his father later confessed to him that he thought his son had gone nuts.) He knew on a deep soul level that his decision was the right one, though. It would have been nice to have the blessing of these significant people in his life, but he knew what he had to do, despite all objections.
There is no good reason to vilify people we care about. What purpose does it serve, except to bring shame?
"When we become aware of our needs, anger gives way to life-serving feelings." Those words were written by Marshall B. Rosenberg, in Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. Time and again, I refer back to this book when facing difficult life issues.
I will admit I am angry, at certain friends and at myself.
Yet what it comes down to, according to Rosenberg, is that we come closer to getting our needs met when we empathize with those who have offended us and express our needs and feelings nakedly, even though we place ourselves in positions of intense vulnerability when we do so. (I think of what Moyers has shared in his memoir.) In other words, Rosenberg is suggesting authenticity.
If we create an atomosphere of hostility and mistrust, we can only expect negative responses. In other words, trust must be present in order for there to be understanding.
Rosenberg goes on to say: "It is a rare human being who can maintain focus on our needs when we are expressing them through images of their [other people's] wrongness." I am not that rare being. The only thing we win by telling people what is wrong with them is the "success" in using these judgments to intimidate them into doing what we want them to do, or what we think they should be doing instead of what they are actually doing. If a person changes his behavior because he feels frightened, guilty, or ashamed, that is not a gain (win) but a loss. In other words, my needs are not met when someone only wants to avoid my wrath.
Breathe deeply, Rosenberg advises. Do not blame. Do not punish. Identify the thoughts that are making you angry. (Injustice is often at the heart.) Harsh judgments are tragic expressions of unmet needs.
Some of these needs are for inclusion, equality, respect, connection. The idea, according to Rosenberg, is to transform anger into needs and need-connected feelings. Before one person can truly connect with another, however, s/he must be able to empathize with that person, authentically.
Back to the four questions, can you absolutely know that it's true? And how do you react when you believe that thought? Who would you be without the thought?