WARNING: TRUTH WILL BE TOLD

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If I were to draw a picture of my childhood home, it would show a single-family house, clean to the point of pain, silent in what is left unsaid, false in what is shown to those who dwell beyond the four walls, rising in the midst of a fastidious yard, on a quiet street in a small town dominated by self-contained Scandinavians.

My brother Rick died recently. Properly my half-brother, he was a little guy when his birth dad died in a car accident. Ten years older than me, he left home for college when I was only seven. My dad, his step-dad, adopted him and our older sister Sylvia after he married our mom. Dad could be sarcastic to my brother, and Rick felt that I was the favored child. Which, in some ways, I was. I wish it could have been easier for him growing up. And then he served two tours in Viet Nam. But with humor, a loving wife, great sons, and many friends, he appeared to do very well in his life.

Yet we never fully know the secret complexities of another’s life. Upon others, we may pronounce judgment and dismiss them. We also judge ourselves, as we do our best to cope. And that coping may lead us into the darkness of disfunction and shame until we stop accepting responsibility for circumstances over which we had no control.

As I only learned many years later, our high school counselor, Mr. Woods, suggested to my parents that I see a psychologist, so apparent was my emotional disarray. They declined without telling me. In those days, I carried a well of sorrow that flooded into tears at the slightest provocation. My anxiety was constant. At age 13, I began stealing liquor from my parents in an attempt to ease my distress. After high school, I floated in and out of college and relationships, in and out of jobs and apartments. Then in my mid-twenties, I changed my college major to forest management. The study of solid subjects like calculus and botany and meteorology and surveying began to balance and rectify my soul.

And I wrote.

Now I am older, calmer, kinder to myself, immersed in the beauty of life, family, friends, nature, and my own true beloved. We are composite creatures. Bodies which function autonomically, souls which guide us if we listen. We are the result of myriad generations of successful reproduction and survival. We are born and we will die. What comes after is a supposition.

Today, we are.

Beyond the basics of survival, which none of us should ever take for granted, does it matter how much stuff we have? Are we concerned about the judgment of others, when all anyone else can know is the teeniest corner of someone else’s life? Do we dwell in regret and shame about a past that has brought to where we are today?

No. No more. And the relief is beyond words to express.

My dear friend Sergio Mojica wrote and recorded a song about his family of origin entitled “The Circus”. He turned the reality of turmoil and trauma into song.

 

My story is my own and I turn it into healing words.

Peace be with you. May we each find our way.

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Sergio and Gail

Truth Box

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Once upon a time, on a morning of sunshine, cool air, birdsong, and green smells I hit the pedals biking east on the smoothly tarred Columbia Road out from my long ago hometown. After riding a strong ten or twelve miles, I crest a hill, pausing to gaze and eat a granola bar. A long drink from the water bottle and it’s time to head back toward town. A mile or so down the road, on the right, I spot a cardboard box on the gravel shoulder. Curious, I stop to check out the contents. The box, though open as if receptive to whatever is offered, stands entirely empty. My attention is arrested by a word stamped on the side of the box in two-inch high black letters. “Truth.”

I make mental note of the exact location, in relation to pond, power line, and fence post.

Later my mom and I drive east on the Columbia Road. As we travel, my mom questions my desire to retrieve a cardboard box from the side of the road.

“What’s in it?” she asks.

“Nothing,” I reply.

“I have a lot of nice boxes in the basement,” she sensibly responds.

“Yeah, but this one has truth stamped on it,” I said.

At this she gives up, accustomed as she is by years of experience with my inscrutable eccentricities.

In truth, I collect the box to photograph it.

Why am I so keen on the box?

As I had continued on my ride home, I puzzled over what might have been packed in a box marked “Truth.  It occurred to me that whatever had been packed inside certainly was not truth because truth can never be put in a box. Far closer to truth was the present contents–nothing.

No-thing at all.

The great spiritual geniuses all teach emptiness–Buddha, Jesus, Isaac Luria, Meister Eckhart, Lao-Tze, the list could go on. From these blessed ones we learn that truth doesn’t reside in things, in ideas, in anything that can be written in a book, or shaped by a pair of hands.

Truth is found in emptiness, in the spaces between the words, in the silence, in the still small voice nudging us toward the good, the realization that all is one. Since this life is full of sound and object, of apparent separation, truth can only be approximated. As I biked, what I saw and heard and smelled came as close to truth as anything on earth. The sky. Flowing water. A red-winged blackbird. A beaver lodge in middle of a pond. Nothing that can be put in a box.

Truth is peace, the peace found in the empty and still.

(Here’s a link to the actual Truth Box story: https://www.truth.com/about/history.cfm)