Thursday, September 26, 2013

Rejection and lying, part two: kitten killers, and other dangerous individuals who dispense unwanted advice

 Hunter and Tiger
From a 3rd-4th century Roman Mosaic originally found in Turkey
at Dumbarton Oaks Museum, Washington, DC

One of the reasons I find this question of rejection and lying so interesting is that I notice how people squirm when you bring the truth directly into conversations with them.

I'm known for being "politically incorrect," that is, I often just come right out and say something that's true but uncomfortable to hear in the middle of a conversation. I have very little patience with lying and prevarication in the middle of personal exchanges, and I will often just directly ask a person whether they actually mean something they are saying, when it's clearly false and based on a failure to see how things are.

Watching how people squirm away from such statements and refuse to face the moment honestly is quite amazing, if one makes a practice of this. One example I recall quite clearly was when a woman from an animal shelter helped us look at several different kittens and we finally selected one. During the conversation where we were supposed to wrap it up and take the kitten home, she suddenly discovered that I let my cats go outdoors. 

Instantly, this woman who had been so nice to us up until now was visibly outraged. She advised me that she would never,  ever, under any circumstances adopt out a kitten who would be allowed outdoors, so I couldn't take this kitten. (Not a word, mind you, of this was briefed to us during the first 15 minutes of the exchange.) Instead, she advised us, there was an animal shelter down the road that would be more than happy to let us adopt kittens which could go outdoors. She emphasized this several times. I didn't respond for a while, but she went on for so long it became annoying to me. And honestly, it wasn't my fault she kept urging me to go down the road to the other animal shelter, which is what I found most especially irritating.

"So what you're saying," I finally asked her, "is that you're worried about these kittens getting killed outdoors?"

 "Yes, exactly," She said.

" Then what you're telling me is that you're okay with me going down the road and getting some other kittens to kill, not just this one, right?"

The woman was outraged. But what could she say? This was, in fact, exactly what the exchange consisted of, and I just wanted her to be honest and come right out and say that. Thinking back on it, I feel bad for forcing honesty on her. It was probably unkind. Nonetheless, her refusal to let me adopt the kitten — who probably would have done quite well with us, as most of our cats  Live unusually privileged lives — was equally unkind, and deserve the return of the favor.

 Readers should pause for a moment here to feel sympathy for my poor wife Neal, who had to witness this exchange in quiet horror. A gentle person, she can't possibly approve of such shenanigans, And objectively speaking, I shouldn't irradiate her with them, but sometimes, my impulses just get the better of me.


I go through this kind of thing all the time with people, where you just try to be forthright and get them to speak directly to the point, and no one wants to. The art of deflection, denial, and refusal to just say what is actually happening has become a disease is so endemic that no one can say anything truthful anymore. If we live in an Orwellian society, it is not one the government has thrust upon us; we thrust it on each other and ourselves because of our habit of constantly lying and refusing to just face life exactly as it is, and be truthful with ourselves and others.

Telling the truth is a dangerous habit. It's reported that Gurdjieff said that the most important possession for a man who told the truth was a fast horse to get out of town with. This means that one has to be intelligent in truthfulness; one can only employee this method of exchange when one knows that the energy in one's being is grounded, and one knows exactly where one is coming from, because it is a kind of swordsman's dance, and if one lunges in the wrong direction, things may not go well, even if they stay on the straight and narrow in terms of honesty. The interesting thing about the practice is that it requires so much absolute attention in the moment.

All cute little details and stories aside, the essential point is to see how we lie. We need to use our intelligence to carefully cut through the baloney we deliver to ourselves; our emotional force should be a force that allows us to move gracefully and fluidly through the feeling – territory of personal exchange; and our physical presence, that is, our sensation, must keep the system grounded so that we do not lose our equilibrium when faced with lies and dishonest representations by other people. The center of gravity of being, if one is in touch with it, serves as the perfect touchstone and anchor for this kind of inner action. But it requires, above all, being honest with oneself first.

There are many times, in an effort towards right and honest action, when others are lying and presenting the most ridiculous kinds of false thinking and nonsense, but one must just agree with them, especially if they are power-possessing beings of one kind or another. The tai chi of stepping aside, knowing when to simply avoid the onslaught of lies and nonsense from others, is an inner art that involves being, for all intents and purposes, egoless. 

The minute that your ego gets involved with an exchange of this kind, you are doomed, because you will instantly fall prey to exactly the same kind of lying the other person is using to conduct their affairs. One must become entirely indifferent to one's own feelings and simply put them aside in order to negotiate the waters and achieve the objective—not by force, face to face confrontation, anger, aggression, or meeting lies with more lies. 

One must be clever enough to affirm, smart enough to avoid, honest enough to tell the truth where one can, and to say nothing where one can't. 

In a word, steadfast.

 None of this is possible without seeing where one is in the first place, and using intelligence to discern what is actually true, as opposed to what the emotions tell us.

 I'll wrap this post up with a comment one CFO (a human being of real quality) often made to me when I talked to him about circumstances and conditions in the business we were running.   The company was plagued by internal conflicts and fuzzy thinking. Things would go off the tracks, and I would call him up to discuss the problem. 

"There you go again," he would reply after I was done. "You're confusing the situation with the facts."

May your soul be filled with light.

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