Most people are taught that the truth is some final answer that can be fully known, comprehended and owned, that it is finite and describable.
Well, it is so NO-OOTT, as the valley girls would say.
There are two major aspects to the truth that when acknowledged could make this world a very different place. The first is that it’s ability to reveal is only limited by our willingness to look, and the second is that apparent contradictions are contained within it. Here’s where the ocean as metaphor is helpful.
Everyone can agree on what an ocean is, but what do we know is the truth about it? Only recently have we been able to peer into the depths of the ocean, yet still for most of us the “truth” about the ocean comes from what we see on the surface or close to it.
We only recently have had the technology to discover it’s depth and to go to places we could not go to before. It’s not rocket science to get that if you explore a new region you’ll discover new things. Also with new tools and changing conditions, places that have been explored continue to reveal new things.
Things that were once true are no longer true e.g. species of fish that are now extinct or greatly reduced, and sometimes things that we thought were true, turns out are not e.g. sharks are dangerous man-eaters.
And from what we do know, what can we say about the oceans? Are they hot, cold, or somewhere in between? Are the oceans shallow or deep? Are they blue, green, turquoise, red or grey? Are they calm or rough? Are the inhabitants air breathers or water breathers? All of these are truths about the same thing, and also there is no simple answer to any of these questions.
The answers to any of these questions must be qualified with the classic “it depends,” and even so the surface contradictions remain: that the ocean is all of these apparently contradictory things. We can accept these obvious contradictions when presented in this way, because we already have an appreciation of the vastness of the ocean. We can get that while in any one moment the ocean may be calm, it may simultaneously also be violent: because the ocean is wide and these two conditions can occur simultaneously in two separate locations in one giant ocean.
So here’s what may be your moment of “hmmmmmm”.
What if every single relationship you have is like an ocean – a stealth ocean – with as many regions for discovery and contradictions as a real ocean? (Hear the valley guys go “Coo-ooool.”)
I think this is a fitting analogy. We at least know that the oceans have more to reveal because their scale is clear. We know that as long as we keep looking we’ll keep learning more of what is true about them. But what if every relationship you have is like an ocean, that you’ve only been looking at the surface and coming to regard what you see on the top as the truth about it. The whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you ….
It’s easy to get that there’s a lot you don’t know about the woman at the check-out counter, or your co-worker down the hall. But the funny thing is that most of us think we know the people close to us. We think we know the truth about our mom, dad, brother, sister, husband, wife, son or daughter.
We think we know what they like, what they did, what their views are, and then we stop looking, we stop exploring, we stop asking questions, and worst of all we stop listening. What if what we know about the people close to us is like the surface of the ocean, and all we had to do was practice our swimming and diving to learn more.
What if there was no end to what our loved ones could reveal about themselves, ourselves and our relationships as long as we practiced listening for the truth about them like the truth about an ocean.
The stories that make up individual lives, their beliefs, their fears, jealousies, loves, hates, desires, their accomplishments and failures all make up the oceans of truth about the people in your life and you may know only a few of them. It only takes a practice of well-intentioned questions with a willingness to listen to learn more about the truth of your loved ones.
Wouldn’t it be a shame to leave your oceans unexplored? Wouldn’t it be a shame to not see more of the truth of your loved ones, a truth that you will never be able to fully and completely know, but that you can at least be in wonder of? Wouldn’t that be a shame?