Do You Want The Truth or Something Beautiful?
Beneath the frosted icing that overlies every Lance Armstrong, Kim Kardashian or Tiger Woods, whom we adore and then vilify, is our very own delectable humanness. We have all been erratic, dishonest, mean-spirited and selfish. We have all betrayed, and been betrayed. We have all lied, withheld, presented our false faces to the world. So often we find ourselves mere spectators, looking through net curtains at the lives of others – those people we imagine to be happier, richer, more passionately in love, more successful, more fiercely outrageously creative in life than we are. We hold them high above our shoulders, then let them fall. We are blindsided by our copycat version of the truth, which is just one truth in a casket of truths that all shine like rubies when the light falls upon them. Perhaps the truth does not set us free but is the mote in our eye. Our “truth” is so often a carriage that turns into a pumpkin at midnight, as we return from the ball of our subjective perceptions. The stories we tell ourselves about the world are so often like the wily Gingerbread Man – eaten by the even wilier fox that, of course, has his own version of “the truth” which justified his appetite for athletic Gingerbread Men.
Anais Nin and, allegedly, the Talmud suggested that “we do not see the world as it is. We see the world as we are.” Perhaps the truth is that there is no truth. Each human heart is the same no matter how famous or infamous we are. Rich man, beggar man, thief: even the poorest of the poor have hearts that beat out their soul songs. Even the richest of the rich feel the sharp sting of loneliness as they gaze upon their smiling circle of sycophants.
We may isolate ourselves, in imagining that we are unique in our failures, the heat of our yearnings. Or we may gorge like vultures on the public humiliation of others. We hide our secrets from each other – our holy longings, our heartache, the ache of our bewildering disappointments. And like self-deprecating clowns, we make light of our pain, diminish the untidy details of our humanness. We don’t want to appear weak or sad or self-absorbed, so we lightly say, “I’m doing well, thanks” as the shame of our secret rustles in the dry straw of our life.
“Run, run as fast as you can; you can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man” is the refrain from the old fairy tale. As we run from our pursuing thoughts and that uneasy feeling that we are out of integrity, perhaps we could stop and breathe in compassion for our vulnerability that creeps into the corners of the lies we make up about ourselves – and others. We are not alone in our fears, our pain, our aloneness, our moments of madness. We all have the same foibles; we all rumble along through life in all our guises, rich and poor, famous and infamous; we are all in the same old bus here for a magical mystery tour and it’s often quite a ride.
Just close your eyes and make believe I am happy to deceive … sings the delectable Paloma Faith
Photographs: Gingerbread men by Candy Caldwell, portrait of instructor Nadene Rogers at her “Art of Clowning” class, and the powerful Hearts ad campaign – United Colors of Benetton