I’ve been working on a post titled “On Bullshit” since including “bullshit” on the list of things for which highly sensitive people have a low tolerance in “The HSP: A Breakdown”. I’ve been keeping a list of things that make me say “bullshit!” when I hear or read them.
Examples: Whenever anyone says “I don’t see the color of people’s skin” or the idea of having “guilty pleasures”.
Bullshit, according to bullshit expert Harry Frankfurt, author of the essay “On Bullshit” (yeah, I was going to steal his title; read the pdf here), is not a lie. It is worse than lying. Liars care about the truth which is why they say things they know are false; they’re trying to protect the truth. Bullshitters don’t care about the truth. They care about presenting themselves in a deceptive and ambiguous way. Bullshit is more untrue than a lie. And it makes me more uncomfortable than straight out lies.
As does anyone who is cryptic. Social media is rife with cryptic crap. It drives me crazy. Being cryptic is like bullshit in that it is purposefully ambiguous. Not always deceptive, but definitely manipulative. Cryptic tweets/posts scream “care about me, wonder about me, ask about me, but I will never tell you the truth of what’s happening.” Grrrr…
What bothers me most about these cryptic messages is the authors had two other options — if you can’t tell all, say nothing. They chose the worst option — being vague. Author Sarah Schulman wrote in her book The Mere Future that “the continually vague are continually lying.”
Cryptic tweeters and Facebook posters make private matters public and invite questions, comments, speculation, and wonder. Like the media does when it serves us the sordid details of (usually sexual) private matters of celebrities for public consumption.
I live in Canada and the alleged sexual misconduct of the popular radio host Jian Ghomeshi is big news here. If you want to read more about it, check out the Toronto Star’s coverage here. I was kind of interested at first and then as I read more about it I became disgusted. Not just because of what he is alleged to have done (I really do not get mixing violence and sex or why it’s fun), but because we will never, ever know what is true. All we get is he said, she said, the CBC said, opinions, takes, takes on opinions, opinions on takes and on and on.
Lies, bullshit, ambiguity, uncertainty, vagueness make me so uncomfortable. Physically uncomfortable. My mind aches with frustration and confusion and unmet desire to know and my body aches with tension. The only thing that would make me feel better is the truth… I think.
I’ve tried to accept that life is uncertain and to accept mystery as part of it. But my desire to know what is true won’t die. My belief that there is a Truth, capital T, that exists and I can understand won’t die. I want to believe that an absolute truth exists, a truth against which we can measure everything and it will ease my tension and unravel the knots in my stomach.
What we have a lot of in the world is opinion, not truth. Everyone has their own truth against which everyone else’s truth is measured.
What is “true” is whatever each of us wants it to be and that “truth” is usually whatever makes us feel better, or whatever will get us what we want, or help us be whatever we desire. How can the truth be different for everyone?
I like to imagine there’s an actual place in some other dimension in which the truth is kept. I imagine this place is a glass library (I was inspired by an actual library in the shape of a glass pyramid in The Netherlands) with stacks and stacks of books filled with the Truth, answers to mysteries like who really killed JFK and the identity of street artist Banksy and answers to questions like “why do bad things happen to good people?”. I imagine that I’ll find out what bliss feels like in that glass library.
Until then, what can I do? If you’re a regular reader of my blog, this is where I usually reveal some wisdom that helps or comforts me as I deal with whatever issue I have. This time I got nothing.
Well, maybe not nothing. Maybe Tom Robbins was right when he wrote in Still Life with Woodpecker:
A person’s looking for a simple truth to live by, there it is. CHOICE. To refuse to passively accept what we’ve been handed by nature or society, but to choose for ourselves. CHOICE. That’s the difference between emptiness and substance, between a life actually lived and a wimpy shadow cast on an office wall.
OK. Then there’s the idea that anything that changes is not the Truth. I read that and the title of this post in A Course in Miracles.
So what never changes?
We’re all going to die…but only if who we are is a body.
Anything else that doesn’t change? I’ll always be asking these questions, wondering, seeking the truth.
And I love art. Enjoy this photo from photographer Mikko Lagerstedt.
You can find Mikko on Facebook here.