By: Nikki Savage
Listening to my current favorite podcast, On Being, over the last few weeks, I found a common thread in the dialogue. Though each conversation had its own topic, I found a shared response from each of the guests in their view of the truth. All acknowledged, in some way, that what we perceive to be true is as emotional as it is logical. That facts need to be true but truth isn’t always factual. It was the ways I heard this, in various conversations talking about things unrelated to each other -physics, capitalism, faith, politics, neuroscience – that made this so palpable. It formed a more solid picture in my mind and a deeper understanding of why we seem to be so unsuccessful at healing our divides.
We experience truth. And no two experiences are identical. So we can have two opposing stories each telling the truth. Our brains are hardwired to access memory when we perceive. We don’t all come at things with the same lighting (our awareness/perception) so we most likely will describe the view a little differently. We can have two conflicting stories of our shared experience and they both can be true.
But we don’t want to understand this, especially when it comes to highly emotional experiences. We have been fed the lie that there is only one truth – and that truth is always right. Ultimately, I do believe that. But as humans, this just can’t be. This experience of life offers all of the colors in every shade and hue. It holds the extremes and everything in between. They all must exist to create the whole. The truth isn’t concerned with right or wrong. But the way we think, how we act, what we say in response to our truth, can be.
So I have been putting this to practice by recognizing when the defense mechanism switches on in response to information that conflicts with my understanding. I recognize this as a sign now to listen more deeply. I see it as an opportunity to test the integrity of my own truth and find those pieces of another’s experience that I can relate to and accept as another truth. And see where we can go from there. I’ve been finding that we have the capacity to hold conflicting truths together if we give them the room. And that although they may not always settle nicely in my mind, I need to diligently hold that space until I understand them in relation to one another. And from this new understanding can arise an even greater truth.
This practice has offered me a kind of peace and presence and an insatiable want to find that one light we all can find truth within. The one we can use to to illuminate our path to healing, individually and collectively. I don’t try to find my way to agreement, though I may find it. I want to find my way to understanding. I think the way is found in an openness to the constant and continual revelation of truth. And a willingness to abandon those ways of thinking that block my view of its unfolding.
Do you have a practice for reconciling your truths against the truths of others? What works for you when you seek to bridge the divide between your understanding and anothers?
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