The Beautiful Truth
by Jennifer Paros
Truth is such a rare thing, it is delightful to tell it.
-- Emily Dickinson
I have heard about an African tribe in which female members, early in pregnancy, go off with other women to pray, intending to hear the “song” of the spirit of the new child. Once the women intuit the song, they sing it in celebration of the upcoming birth. When the baby is born, the community sings it again, in welcome. And whenever the child goes through a rite of passage, the group sings the song in his honor. And if that tribe member does something considered socially aberrant, the community encircles him and, once more, sings the song. There is no punishment for the crime, only the acknowledgement that this person has forgotten the song of the spirit - who he really is.
The truth of who we are is the best source for direction and guidance in the creative process of writing or anything. The personality never provides a true purpose; it provides an image and representation in the world. It is more about outer form than inner content, which is useful – just not as a compass for a meaningful journey.
A true purpose is fulfilled when we allow our intrinsic drive to love and share lead us and let our image identity take its place as servant. Otherwise, we forget our song.
In Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, set during the Salem witch trials, the main character, John Proctor, faces a painful dilemma of whether or not to lie and confess to “communing with the Devil” in order to save his life. The witch-hunt mentality is a frame of mind in which fear and accusation carry the weight of “fact,” and judgment is mistaken for inner wisdom. After realizing his confession will be posted on the church door, he cries out in distress that he will not even be left his “name.” In other words, how he identifies himself in the world will no longer be an honest reflection of who he really is. It is at that moment he tears up his confession and goes to his death on the gallows. John Proctor remembers the song of his spirit and cannot bear to disregard it.
When we find ourselves in a challenging situation, involved in drama that seems to have power to overwhelm and sadden us, we are faced with two realities: one driven by fear, the other residing below the surface level of accusation and reaction. What lies there, separate from the noise, is who we are – not a story of who we are, but the beautiful truth, distinct from our egos or personalities – what some call thediamond self.
The truth is more important than the facts.
-- Frank Lloyd Wright
This is the great recalibrating factor. It is the key to resetting the system when things go awry. But it must be purposefully and intentionally felt. Since few of us have a group able to gather round and sing us our song, we must go within and listen for it. When this is done consistently, the beautiful truth inside us becomes more and more the “factual” truth of our outside experience.
Writing naturally sets us on a path of going within to listen - often specifically for the direction of characters or development of plot. But we can also choose to listen for a nonspecific feeling, a feeling that knows, a movement of energy that uplifts. And then, whatever we create from that remembering, whether in the day-to-day of our lives or in writing, can’t help but be our best and of service to others.
When I am “sniffing around an idea” (as Roald Dahl once put it) to see if I want to pursue it as a story, I do my best to feel what is present. If the idea enlivens and feels loving, it indicates I’m listening to something other than a busy mind. I’m listening to my song, which is the strongest foundation for any creative work or life direction.
In the story of The Crucible, John Proctor appears to surrender his life, but in truth, he surrenders the form of his life, and embraces the reality of who he is. Surrendering the form can mean letting go of the book we thought we were writing for the book that wants to be written, letting go of the life we thought we should lead for the life wanting to live through us, or letting go of who we thought we were or should be - in order to hear our song and share its beautiful truth with the world.