“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?
The world would split open.” ~ Muriel Rukeyser
If you live by “ignorance is bliss” then this is not for you.
If you care for “victory” more than “verity” then this is not for you.
If you insist that your version of the truth is absolute, and arrived here for validation, then this will read like garbage.
But if you value an honest life, an authentic life—one with your internal self, and one with the external world—and seek to feel the depths of what’s beyond the stories and fables we are fed each day, then perhaps you will find my notes helpful.
Perhaps you could find what you set out to look for a bit sooner. The first 20 years of my life were lived in manufactured ignorance which has given me an avid desire to never stop pursuing what’s real and what’s true—two things I learned how to separate along the way.
This quest for raw truths is not as idyllic or romantic as it sounds because as awareness is cultivated, a sense of ownership takes over—oftentimes in rebellious forms—and the initial instincts tend to be actions that would destabilize “the way things have always been”; whatever form that takes for you.
I uprooted myself several times around the world for this. A lot of relationships were unraveled, terminated, changed. I switched careers from politics to arts. I traded in a rather comfortable situation to live in high risk, every day.
Life routinely becomes an emotional roller-coaster, and the realization that the good times were often illusions leaves us very much unsure of what to make of everything, and where to go from there.
Perhaps ignorance is bliss and you realize that the pain that comes with the pursuit of truth is very much self-inflicted because, after the initial sparkle of choosing an honest life, you realize that to be fully honest requires the disrobing of all the armor that was built up throughout the years.
Being so naked in such chilling darkness teaches you more about discomfort than you had willingly signed up to learn. You realise that this whatever-the-hell you’ve gotten yourself into, isn’t fun—that it may not even be worth it. If this is a “New Year New You” thing, you might stop by February—too early to have found what you were looking for, and not enough realization to keep going. There is essentially no win.
All that is to say, this is not for the faint of heart.
My own quest has only been about six years in the making and is still ongoing. Some have said to me that it is a futile journey, because there is no real truth (and there is truth to this statement, but not the kind I’m looking for). After six years, I can say that such a process has changed and evolved me in ways no other journey has ever done—and I used to travel alone a lot.
I will admit that it doesn’t really get easier, but a growing sense of awareness helps guide you along the way, and helps you feel more aligned. Each one of us has our own twisted, convoluted path, but here are some qualities of the raw truths we seek, which I’ve gathered and that have been rather consistent, in the volatile world we’ve subjected ourselves to. Initially noted for self-serving purposes, but perhaps it could help all of us.
I. The truths we seek often live in the grey zones.
The truths that are hidden from us are taken out of focus, photoshopped and blurred. They are raw, they are glossed over, and made palatable to polite society with sweeping generalizations. They live in grey phrases like, “don’t worry about it,” “it’s fine,” “it’s nothing,” “it’s not important,” “it’s in the past”…
II. The truths we seek, are very, very specific.
These are difficult and often complex narratives, but precisely because they are narratives, they come with at least one complete set of “who, what, where, when, why.” They are in direct dichotomy with the environment they live in— the grey. They are blurred and taken out of focus because the raw edges are too sharp. A death, a sexapade, a still-birth. You touch, you bleed, and no one likes a bloody mess.
III. The truths we seek, are someone else’s secrets.
The truths we seek, wherever they are, whomever they lead us to, they will not wish to disclose themselves to us or be discussed. A closet, a vault, a safe… They are safe-guarded and locked up. We will be denied entry because of privacy. Much of this journey we are on, we become trespassers. Our visits are unwelcome.
IV. The truths we seek, we will first deny.
In many cases, these truths are what some would call, “instincts.” But for each ounce of instinct, we have about a pound of self-doubt. Not only do we not trust ourselves, but we will first deny what we feel, because emotions are “petty things.” We are in denial because acceptance takes time and awareness—time we haven’t had to process things yet, and awareness we too often are deficient in.
V. The truths we seek, will inevitably hurt us.
It’s why they are hidden from us in the first place. They are hidden to protect us. “I can’t tell her that because it will hurt her.” “We don’t go there because it will destabilize her.” “The damage is enough already”…
How is this going to serve us? Well, let me tell you.
VI. The truths we seek will transform us.
They might make us violent, they might make us cry, but after the rage and the grief, we will have arrived at a place of zen. We will have given ourselves the closures we never got, the apologies that were never paid, and the peace that was mocked with lies. The process itself is very healing, even if we haven’t yet arrived at those truths. Healing is not to be confused with soothing, it is quite the contrary. But we learn to self-pacify.
VII. The truths we seek, will have power over us, until we take them in, and own them.
We live in a culture with a mentality of scarcity, and by default, we are conditioned to feel like we are not enough. What’s hidden from us is hidden because the perception is we’ll be weakened even more—that we won’t be able to handle it. By design, these truths wield power over us, but the very awareness of this dynamic is enough to fuel the engine of change. It is only natural—but no less assaulting—to feel engulfed by all that’s beyond our control, but these truths don’t own us; it’s the reverse. That’s why we’re hell-bent on finding them.
VIII. The truths we seek, are fundamentally a part of who we are.
The relationship with oneself is perhaps the most important and least navigated one of all. The truths we seek are a part of who we are, it’s only that they were never introduced to us. The feeling of not being aligned — part of our own disorientation — is precisely because of this, because we lived largely in absence of these fragments that form a part of us. Yet, once we find them, we recognize them with an alien sense of familiarity. To live fully and wholeheartedly, we cannot be only fragments of who we are. Sparkles are short-lived. The quest for truths is very much a journey of self-discovery. It’s a fortnight spent alone in the desert.
We fill our lives with experiences and try to forge meaning from that but in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “the experience can have meaning only if you understand it. You can understand it only if you have arrived at some knowledge of yourself, a knowledge based on a deliberately and usually painfully acquired self-discipline.” This journey that we are on is part of that self-discipline—deliberately and painfully acquired and applied.
I hope this list helps you. If you decide to continue your journey, then proceed with caution; you are a warrior. If you decide to discontinue your journey, then I’m glad I helped you arrive at the exit lane a bit sooner. It is really terrible turmoil, but nothing comes for free.
P.S. Curious about the wild object in the photo? It’s an oracle figure known as “kafigeledjo”. Currently on exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The label reads:
“A hybrid creation that lies outside the realm of anything recognizable in nature, this oracle figure deliberately provokes anxiety through its shrouded anonymity and the sense of suffocation and entrapment it suggests. These works and the ritual practice in which they are used are both known as kafigeledjo (“he who speaks the truth”).
The figures give visual representation to invisible bush spirits and function as divination devices. Kafigeledjo divination is used to uncover misdeeds, false testimony, and culpability. Although such works have the potential to affect all members of a Senufo community, access to this oracle is restricted to the most enlightened senior male and, occasionally, female members, who keep it shrouded in secrecy.”
Author: Xiren Wang
Editor: Sarah Kolkka
Image: Patricia Marcoccia