Friday, June 2, 2017

Truth-Telling

Maybe fifteen years ago, the Thoroughbred that was teaching me to ride better was called the Truth-Teller. He kept leaning in; and while I fussed that my cues were saying to stay out on that imaginary perfect circle, the coach insisted the horse was doing exactly what I was telling him to do. Many times later, around and over again through a decade of riding, my inner horsepower now makes a clearer, more accurate reading on our balance, more aware of degrees of pressure, stillness, softness, and tilt, as well as clearing our mental and emotional states. All this makes for telling the truth.
Sometimes with just a glimpse of a person in a position of leadership, an extremely unbalanced, hypocritical condition jumps out, glaringly obvious. I wonder how others fail to notice it. How can so many persons support someone who repeatedly imperils the future of their children? Recognizing the vital role played by compassion, I’m trying to remember my experience when I just didn’t get what the Truth-Teller was making abundantly clear. 
The gift of discerning truth and the continued development of moral sense depend on dedicated commitment to peace, justice, and love. Also, the path includes some difficult aspects. Suffering, tolerance of uncertainty, and trust in a higher power must play a crucial role in becoming truth-tellers. Our world shows so much failure to face the truth: denial of addiction, cheating, false labeling, staying on the surface of skin color instead of moving deeper to know love, listening to praise instead of heeding the inner divine, on and on. What will it take to make a commitment to truth?
Sometimes, “white” lies are called “telling stories,” meaning the person is fibbing or making something up for deceptive purposes or for fun. Yes, it’s wise to recognize that all stories are not good stories. And we should know that not just any person can tell a good story, in both senses: 1) discerning truth from lies and 2) composing an embodied truth-narrative, telling a moral tale. 
But we are “wired” for story. As Alasdair MacIntyre puts it in After Virtue, “man is in his actions and practice, as well as in his fictions, essentially a story-telling animal. He is not essentially, but becomes through his history, a teller of stories that aspire to truth” (p. 216). The moral dimension of the history we compose can be best understood, many of us believe, as a Narrative Covenant (e.g., David Damrosch; also see the volumes on hermeneutic phenomenology as well as archetypal psychology).
Genesis 1 says we are made in God’s own image. I believe in the divine gift; some call it genius. A gift needs to be nurtured. Moral sense can be tended by good stories.