Relinquishing Pursuit of Absolute Truth

Relinquishing the Pursuit of Absolute Truth

For as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by language. Words, I’ve come to realize, are much like the individual colors on an artist’s palate. We mix them together to create images inside our own minds with varying degrees of focus, passion, talent, skill and success. We then we gift our words to others, hoping they’ll be able to deconstruct and reformulate them as images inside their own minds, and will be able to view the world the way we see it. Like children drawing with crayons and paper, we offer our word pictures to others and anxiously await approval. When we hear, “Yes, your depiction of reality is perfect!” our ego swells with pride. When we hear, “No, that’s absolutely wrong!” our ego is crushed. Mostly though, what we’re seeking is confirmation that others are experiencing life the same way we are, and that we’re on the right track when it comes to understanding what life’s all about. If others challenge us, our tendency may be to doubt our own perceptions, or perhaps we attack the other person’s perceptions. After all, if we can’t believe in our own perceptions, then whose perceptions can we trust to inform us about what’s true?

It appears today that many adults are jockeying for power. The power most seek is the right to install inside other peoples’ minds the images they think best depict reality. We use these mental images like roadmaps to navigate life, so whoever controls our roadmap controls our behavior. I would respectfully suggest then, that attempting to control the maps of others is a gross abuse of our artistic powers. It’s problematic in part because none of us have a lock on the absolute truth, since the accuracy of every image will be relative to our sensory limitations, beliefs and experiences, as well as our talent, skill and creative capacity. Neither can we control how others might view any image we’ve created. Our own sense of what a particular word means might be quite different from how another interprets it. Distortions are inevitable, because everything we transmit must first pass through our own filters, then again through the filter of the other person’s limitations, experiences, capacities, biases and beliefs.

As children we trusted those who kept us alive, so we willingly accepted the map of reality proffered by our parents. Later we went off to school, and perhaps for religious training, where so-called experts filled our minds with additional maps of life. Our friends, too, shared their renderings of reality, along with whatever they learned from other teachers. Occasionally some of the maps we collected contradicted one another; yet we were taught to embrace them all as absolute truths. At times we put ourselves through punishing exercises to reconcile our internal dissonance. For instance we all learned murder was wrong, and then watched our fellow citizens go out and kill for “our side.” That meant we needed to draw a map to explain why murder was bad, while killing during war was okay. We divided humanity into groups of innocents who lived on our side of the map, and groups who were guilty and deserved to die who lived on the other side. It then became our task to determine which people lived on what side, so we’d know how to interact with them in the future.

Just as often we struggled to quash our doubts about what was true. Often we were rewarded for suppressing questions; people called that faith, and most held it in high esteem. Occasionally we were even punished for raising questions or expressing doubts. Many of us learned that God loved the faithful who followed His maps, while the Devil seduced the doubters and led them astray, so we grew even more fearful about trusting our minds to be able to perceive the truth. After all, our minds were betraying us by summoning us into dark and dangerous places that jeopardized our souls. Our fear of soul jeopardy triggered another division, but this one was internal. We split our interior world into the “good” half of our mind that accepted what it was taught, and the “bad” half that rebelled and wanted freedom. We were free to traipse away through the good part of our terrain, while into the fearsomely dark terrain we shoved all our demons and dragons.

By the time we reached adolescence, the once clear terrain of our minds had been buried beneath an avalanche of images we’d collected over the years. We struggled to make sense of this internal reality map, because it was supposed to help us navigate our world. Some renderings were simple, precise and aligned with what we observed; others contained riotous splashes of color and depicted fantastical, gruesome and terrible images.  Regardless, they captivated us because someone somewhere had convinced us that each was an accurate depiction of reality. Deciding which section of our internal map applied to which part of life now became our challenge.

Rarely were we invited to generate our own map of reality, at least not before we’d been sufficiently smothered beneath the countless maps of others so that any map we produced would look like theirs. If we did offer a unique rendering of our world, it wasn’t uncommon for a parent or teacher to fix it. If we drew our trees purple, for instance, a caring adult might take away our purple crayon and replace it with a green one. That wasn’t malicious on their part; they were simply transmitting the lesson they had learned.

As we step into our adulthood, some of us become struck by the realization that for most of our lives we’ve been parroting the beliefs and stories of others, without having explored reality for ourselves. In spiritual circles it’s known as awakening. In scientific circles it’s viewed as a quest for objective truth. In psychological circles it’s labeled a nervous breakdown. Whatever we call it however, the result is the same. We do to our brain something comparable to a total wipe of a computer hard drive, until the number of items we believe in collapses to zero. For the first time since our birth, we turn inward and unblinkingly confront the absolute clear brilliance that is Mind, and experience pure awareness the way it was before everyone got hold of it and drew their maps of life the way they wanted (or needed) us to view it for their sake.

Today many seem to be experiencing this awakening. If you’re reading this, it’s likely because you’ve either felt glimmers of it, have danced along the edges of it, or have indeed already plunged into your own internal abyss. Whichever state of mind you’re in, I invite you to accept that nobody can provide you a roadmap for the journey. Inner journeys are, by definition, solitary. The fact is, only you know which of your own interior maps are in need of purging. Only you can cleanse your inner sanctum by restoring your mind to the clear state of awareness that is its fundamental nature. And only you have the power to decide – once you’re conscious of your own power  – which new maps you might wish to hang on your walls, if any.

For centuries humanity has engaged in arguing over which rendering of reality is true and which is false. We’ve even been killing each other for the right to be right about which map we should all be using. When we realize though, that our diverse stories and images are simply artistic renderings of life, one at a time we can set ourselves free from the ego conceit that anyone can know the absolute truth. Certainly some maps more closely mirror our own experience of reality, but does that make them more accurate? Who can say? It’s not even the point.

The point of life, when we get down to it, is to be here now. To have a life experience is the only way we can ever access the truth. Truth can’t be known in the form of a mental rendition; it’s much too free. Sure, we can try to capture life as a mental snapshot, and then package our image into language we can then share with others, but by the time we do so it’s disappeared and a new truth has arisen to take its place. Truth then, can’t be controlled, exploited or manipulated for short-term personal gain.  Any harm we do to ourselves or to any other, we do because we’re using a map of life that isn’t the truth.

Once we set aside our old maps, experiment with ourselves and grow comfortable with our ability to change through our countless engagements with life, our ego loses its will to fight with those whose maps may differ from our own. Having reclaimed our sovereignty over our own awareness, others can no longer abuse their power by forcing us to embrace their map of life. We’re no longer victims; we’re masters, because we trust our inner guidance to light our way. Our compulsive pursuit of the perfect map ends (and inner peace begins) the instant we surrender all maps and embrace the real-time unfolding of life itself.

Whatever you choose to do with any maps I may have painted through these words, I invite you not to embrace them as your truth. Rather, I invite you to experiment, to discover for yourself how you feel if you set aside your maps and stories about life.

The advantage of taking responsibility for your own life experience is that you can’t help but develop a more coherent, compassionate and holistic worldview as you go. When your experience is your own, you feel integral with it. Peace supplants resistance and doubt as your general state of being. Even so, you realize no map – not even your most artistically beautiful rendering of life – can be clung to as the absolute truth of what is.

Once you’ve become master of your own interior, you grant yourself the freedom to change your mind. Hating on, quarreling with, or rejecting anyone else’s map of reality, or clinging to a particular version out of fear of getting lost seems rather pointless, because you realize you don’t need a map to explore the existing terrain, or to find your home base again. You’re free to explore the world from any angle or in whatever direction you choose, safe in the realization that – whenever you want – you can return to your inner sanctum and the light of pure awareness, and start again.

Personal relationships take on greater depth and meaning once we awaken to our own freedom. Instead of arguing, or compulsively trying to redraw other peoples’ internal maps to match our own, we’re free to seek the company of those who – like us – realize none of our maps are the truth, yet who appreciate the artistic sharing of all our unique experiences.  In time, we learn to relax and allow others the freedom to share even their wildest images, because we know we can set them aside if they don’t resonate with us. We can also revel in the joy of witnessing others put aside whatever mental maps have been causing them to suffer needlessly. By example, we can further empower others to realize they’re already free, like little mischievous fairies of light and love.

When, as individuals, we realize we no longer need maps to help us safely navigate this space called life, we’re become free to meet reality as it is, right here and now. No longer do we invest the bulk of our energy trying to unwrap the gift of life before we experience it, to decide if we wish to accept it as if we’re somehow separate from life. We become life; and in the becoming we manifest the truth we’ve all so desperately sought, but were never able to find by seeking it elsewhere.

Article by Eileen Workman, author of ”Sacred Economics: The Currency of Life”

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