Cat From The Mat

Post-Truth Be Told

"I sit in one of the dives on Fifty-second Street, uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire, of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear circulate over the bright 
And darkened lands of the earth, obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odor of death offends the September night."
-W.H Auden

This excerpt from Auden’s poem September 1, 1939 was written at the onset of WW2.  As dark and defeated as it begins, it ends up inciting a call to action.  It focuses on the need to make a difference and to step up in ways to be a shining light amidst unsure times, not unlike 2017.

The need to be heard is a common human trait.  When I feel heard, I feel understood.  When I feel understood, then I connect more to others, which can affirm a sense of mutuality and community.  Being heard opens up my ears to listen to the sentiment deeply embedded in the sharing of any story, one’s personal narrative.

A filmmaker, I love exploring stories about what connects us all.  In fictional works, conflict is fertile fodder for character development, where transformation can be uncomfortable.  And even though non-fiction is focused on documenting a theme, the final edit completes a process of interpretation.  Neither movie characters nor filmmakers have objectivity; rather there’s relative subjectivity always at play.

Films are modern day myths.  As children, we learn that fables are imaginary, told in service of a greater truth.  But what is true for one person isn’t necessarily the same for another.  This is why I prefer to rely upon facts and not infer that there’s one absolute Truth.  And as we have seen in recent political debates, the facts have been ignored, discounted, or spun as a way to rewrite the script. There’s been no room for conversation.

We are currently experiencing quandary of TTNR: Two Transmitters, No Receivers.   The loudest shouter might get the attention, but no one actually feels heard or understood.  As anger escalates, attention diverts away from the unaddressed fear, sadness, or pain beneath said frustration.  We are left trying to get anchored in some type of shared reality amidst the ether of a “post-truth era.”  This is where the practice of empathy performs a radical role.

I was not taught the art of listening, but I have learned to attune my ears and eyes to the messages woven into the energies, words, and actions of others.  Understanding does not imply agreement. However, being open to another’s perspective expands the dialogue, while two competing monologues get nowhere.  My attention is my greatest currency.

Author of my own life, I rewrite my narrative daily.  My core belief systems are also tales that I tell myself, which are subject to change.  Why are beliefs so hard to recast?  Like a fish swimming in water that doesn’t even notice the surrounding liquid, we can be unaware of how stuck we are in selective perceptions.  It might be entertaining to live out your reality show, but are you glued to watching your own reruns? Are you also interested in learning about other people’s shows or even switching channels?

Yoga is a practice of self-connection and internal coherence.  A stronger sense of self means less need for boundaries and more room for the unfamiliar.  When I translate my judgments, I cultivate compassion for myself and for others. I begin to see beyond only what I want to see and become open to learning about my blind spots.  This is how I grow and contribute to the world at large.

Yoga is also defined as “skill in action.”  Empathy is just that: holding a space for all voices to be heard.  Personal accounts can illuminate what we value.  Maybe we can even create a shared narrative and increase our elasticity as relational human beings.

"Defenseless under the night our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere, ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame."

In his wise words, poet Auden urges us all to be vigilant, discerning, and aware.  In an atmosphere of “truthiness,” you are invited to be a bright force that guides others who cannot see in the dark.  This to me is way to bridge the gap, post-truth be told.  So let’s get to work and lead the way, one exchange at a time!

Happy lucid, active, and expansive New Year!

Cat From The Mat

January 2017


(* Link to the entire September 1, 1939 poem)