I often find myself thinking about how we tend — or at least this is my theory — to talk about most, to value most, the opposite of what we find most atrocious in ourselves. Like in any of those large scale battle/world domination games, we choose an aspect, a target, a single battalion, a city, a town, and zoom right in, watching its movements obsessively; altering, intercepting, expanding, shrinking it; so sure that this little spot right here is the key to something greater. We are fascinated, transfixed, consumed; unable to zoom back out it, to see the activity around it. I’ve noticed that what we regard as our biggest issue in life is often seen to be a complete non-issue by others looking in. In fact, oddly, it often goes far the other way; so far as to be utterly confusing.
Take, for example, lying. Maybe I am convinced I have a problem with it. I’ve noticed the urge to fabricate has been with me since childhood, and it is constantly causing me guilt. I am hyper-alert to whether or not I am lying. This hyper-alertness comes out in my interactions with others as a fixation on the idea of truth, a compulsion to question truthfulness, over-praise for others I see as truthful. I express an apologetic attitude when I find shades of ambiguity in my speech. I may apologize for past episodes of untruthfulness vaguely but regularly. If I am not the apologetic type, or if I prefer to keep that lying part of me under wraps, I may be quick to condemn others of their lies, in an attempt to meet what I am sure is the expectation of how to act towards a liar.
But, when all of this is combined, someone taking a broad look at the thing might turn to me, smiling, and exclaim: “Oh, I love that you are so honest!” And I leave confused, confused at my hypocrisy, at how I managed to pull this one off. Or I leave unsure; could it be that I am very truthful? Have I been wrong to be so hard on myself; should I turn everything on its head and realize that I am, in fact, very honest? The answer is, I imagine, somewhere in between. I am not anywhere near as truthful as they believe. I am also not anywhere near as dishonest as I believe.
I am just very attuned to it, the whole subject. People around me have sensed this, sensed that I am utterly fixated by the idea, the spectrum, the whole spectrum of truthfulness and dishonesty. And yet I have failed to grasp that it is a spectrum. I treat it like black and white, an honest person vs. a liar, when in reality I slide up and down the chart like every single other person. Perhaps I tend towards one end, perhaps I need to work on it still, but I am certainly not off the charts in either direction, as my mind would tell me, as other people might tell me.
Maybe we should zoom out sometime, see the whole spectrum, see the whole map; all the other cities and troops, because they have potential to change something too, they are there — and what consumes our focus is surely of no more or less importance than them. The things that we are worst are the best at stealing our attention. But, second to those, are the things we are best at. We would see them if we zoomed out. We would see the mediocre things too, the aspects of ourselves that level us out, the vices and strengths that hover near the middle, that don’t seem to be of much importance but which have the great ability to draw us closer to the people around us, who too suffer from the great discomfort of having to accept and work on the middle ground.
Or I could be very wrong; it could be our extremes that are important, our extremes that bind us. Here’s another piece of advice; good or bad I’m not sure, but the other night I was lying in bed, thinking about how I was so very flawed, beyond what could be explained, flawed in a crucial way, in a way that made me want to protect myself, hide myself, a way that would only inflict harm in others, and I told God I would stay by myself, it was my fate (it was quite late at night, when I usually tend towards theatrics). I saw myself alone, barbed wire wrapped around me, miserable — but then the image changed and I saw another person next to me, miserable, their own defense surrounding them. And then others.
I reached out and touched the other person, and neither of us imploded, and I had an odd moment of zooming right out, of seeing that everyone had some form of defense, and yet it was important only to each single person. Each person was so concerned with their own barrier against the rest of the world that the neighboring person’s barrier might as well have not been there, for all it was seen. And the defenses canceled each other out that way, and were exposed for what they were: useless.