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Writing & Seeking Truth
The difference between seeking truth and conjuring delusion
There are conclusions that one reaches from Thinking. These might be useful, but there’s another flavor of wisdom derived from insights gleaned and Known.
We can recall times when we “just knew it!” And it seems a great deal of suffering has been caused from times we knew, but did not act.
I can point to times I Knew an employee wasn’t going to work out but didn’t fire them until months later, but of course it goes deeper than this — I knew of entirely different life paths that called for me at various junctures but for which I did not travel. And yet of course there’s only ever one path. Developing Knowledge of it might be our first step.
“There’s only one path,” is an insight I revisit often. We can approach it rationally — that of course there’s only what happened and what could have been doesn’t actually exist. But there’s a deeper recognition of the path that can be cultivated as well. One of deep reverence and respect for what has happened, seeing its sacredness simply by virtue of it being the only thing that did happen, among a truly infinite number of possibilities.
The stream of phenomena that arises and passes in consciousness makes up this path. It’s never-ending. From one moment to the next, we inhabit an inseparable chain of causal and effectual moments.
Seen at this level of fidelity, the path might resemble less of a well-trodden trail through the woods, and more a stream of water headed down a mountain. We can reflect on what it was like to be water a few miles back, but we continue moving downstream nonetheless.
Fighting against the forward pull of the stream does us little good. We might instead recognize what’s happening, see that every moment of the river is wholly unique, and accept our flowing forward in it, just as one might surrender to the rapids while floating downstream on a tube.
The impermanence and ever-unfolding nature of things might cause one to pause and even wallow in despair that nothing is truly theirs, that there’s nothing to hold onto, that indeed they will flow whether they like it or not.
But there’s a flip side: we notice that the stream in its totality makes up an abundance beyond what any reflection of the stream will ever provide. The experience of flowing-forward is more than anything we’d ever hope for from any one particular juncture.
This kind of insight takes practice to maintain. I have experienced its depths for only brief moments at a time, during short periods of wakefulness and luminosity. But in those moments I experienced more ‘truth’ than the totality of every word I’ve ever written. Nothing can be said. Insight is Known.
The paradox of course, is that these moments are not to be pursued. Pursuing them would be fixating on the river three miles back, instead of flowing forward with today’s current. If we spend too much time on what’s happened, we will miss the luminosity that’s directly in front of us. So, when I say “practice” I do not mean in the sense of achieving anything. I mean simply being in the river, noticing each moment rise and fall, accepting what comes and flowing onward downstream.
Our writing practice might be similar. We write best when we suspend self-judgement and simply flow forward, allowing words to spring out of the tips of our fingers moment by moment. It’s much harder to flow in this way when there’s some achievement on the other end to be met — whether as hard lined as a publishing deadline or innocuous as a journaling goal, “I’ll write 1000 words everyday,” or even as subtle as “writing well.” These are all energies of attachment and self-coerciveness, and often result in the practice itself becoming painful and slow, instead of feeling like flowing quickly down a river.
Sometimes when we write we create an imaginary audience in our minds. This audience is ourselves, projected miles downstream and looking back at us. It’s challenging to write freely with such an omnipresent (and often, hyper-critical) audience. The imaginary future distracts from the present flow of sentences emerging from the depths of ourselves.
And so each morning we ride the river of words as they come and go, not getting stuck on any previous passages, and avoiding the creation of false audiences.
We simply notice what arises with delicate, present, and patient curiosity.
The more I become acquainted with this kind of stream, the further I realize the mystery of it. When I sit down to write each morning I haven’t the slightest clue what words will flow from my fingers. They don’t flow from an intentional, thinking-brain, but rather from somewhere else. They might be the river itself.
They flow on from somewhere; some call it our “subconscious” or perhaps on days of particularly powerful and poetic prose, we might use the word “soul.” Either way, we can’t quite know. And yet we do Know, that we’re touching on something.
This is what we mean by writing for truth. We surrender to words as they arise, and for a moment, touch the soul. We glimpse the truth of the matter; a deeper and more salient Knowing.
We can never fully capture it, hell we can’t even come close, but we can record fragments, wholly inadequate and yet still, a marvel of humanity.