Recently, my sister and I spoke about a post which she had read on Linkedin.
‘NO AUTHORITY IS HIGHER THAN REALITY. Truth isn’t a matter of your personal viewpoint. Learn to see things as they really are, not as you imagine they are. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or who says it. No matter what you believe, it never changes the facts. If they are there, the facts always speak for themselves. The truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of people. If sixty million people say a foolish thing, it’s still a foolish thing. The sky is no less blue because the blind man does not see it.’
After we spoke, I read this post myself. I know that I could not disagree more with the person who posted this to Linkedin. The underlying belief of that writer is that there is only one interpretation of events and that that interpretation is set in stone by some outside authority: an authority which has the power to make such judgments for the rest of us. And that authority’s decisions regarding what is ‘real’ and what each event means can never be questioned. They are ‘god’ and their word is immutable.
I believe that each person must decide what is real for himself or herself so that they can choose to live their life on their own terms and in ways which are full of personal purpose. As we grow up in the various collectives to which we belong – family, school, work – we’re expected to accept the thinking of those various collectives. One of the major intentions of the collective mindset is to keep us in line and supporting the status quo. We are expected to be mindlessly compliant and strive very hard to fit in. So we learn to “march in step single file, Indian style – facing traffic all the while” [which rhyme I learned as a child of how I should move forward to keep myself safe in the world]. We don’t question, we don’t make waves, we don’t disturb anyone if at all possible. We live in fear of thinking outside the box so to speak to find our own unique answers and personally relevant meanings.
If we believe that we must kowtow to the collective’s expectations, we become powerless to open up our lives to dreams, to questioning, to creativity. We figuratively end up plodding through our lives never looking up, never seeing possibility, never opening ourselves to the tacit knowledge we all have, never forging our own paths.
What I’ve come to know it that no one can tell me what’s ‘real’ for me – what my reality is. No one can decide what I see, hear, and experience means for me except me. And I know that I can only be right about my own reality. I can’t tell anyone else what is ‘real’ for them. If I try to do that, I’m terribly arrogant and then I’d echo the pronouncement of the writer to Linkedin.
I know that for much of my life, I’ve hamstrung myself and tied myself up in psychological knots in my attempt to fit in to a collective’s reality. My life has been all or nothing at all, right or wrong, black or white. There have been no grays. And I know that living my life that way has been exhausting and dreary and ultimately impossible.
What would your life look like if you, at least to yourself, told someone who decided what something means and how you should respond to it to take a very long leap off a very short pier? What if you asked, “Who died and appointed you God?” I know that this can seem rude and possibly scary. That’s what I felt when I first gave myself permission to own my own reality and to not buy into what others decreed – when I first asked out loud, “Who says?”, when I first told someone that their decisions about my reality were wrong.
It takes awareness of when we accept what others say is real, and practice to stop betraying ourSelves by accepting what our culture and the collectives to which we belong say is real. And with each breath and each time that we stop that and own and honour our individual realities, we live our lives, awake and aware, and in the fullness of who we each, individually, are.
So listen to yourSelf. Be courageous for yourSelf. Remember that your reality is truly YOURS. No one can tell you what to think, how to respond, what to feel. The choice is yours.