My son had changed the theme of his brand new blog, choosing a red and black affair more suited to a thriller than a story of overcoming the odds. To be fair, the picture of Death and the first lines of his blog do read like a murder mystery… as, in some ways, they are, though the mystery involved goes deeper than a detective story.
We had discussed the practicalities of accessibility and navigation as well as questions of personal taste. “It’s a Marmite blog,” he grinned. “You either love it or hate it.”
“Well anyway,” I brandished the cloth with which I was polishing the black gloss furniture and red leather, “it matches your house.” He looked at me wide eyed. “And your suit.”
“So it does…Must have been subconscious.”
He hadn’t realised. He lives in that colour scheme. The suit and shirt he wears for special occasions are black and red. So is half the gadgetry in his home and although he moves through that colour combination daily, he genuinely had not realised why he had chosen those colours for his blog. It had been an automatic selection, based on an unconscious combination of taste, habit and the subtle influence of place.
Nothing unusual there, it is something we all do, all the time. What was surprising was his astonishment when he was brought to conscious realisation by my offhand comment; he hadn’t seen what was so obvious to me, looking on from the ‘outside’. Yet neither of us should have been surprised by that at all. We are almost always the last person to know anything obvious about ourselves.
We have probably all itched to make someone see something that is plain to us. “ If I were you…” Many of us will have offered advice or suggestions based upon what we see, oblivious to the fact that it is irrelevant until and unless they see the same things we do. Many of us may then have taken a moment to wonder…if others can be so blind to themselves, how self-blind are we?
Even worse… how come we recognise so much in others? Is it because we see in them some shadow of what we know in ourselves… even if we don’t care to look? How much is based upon patterns of behaviour and habits we are so accustomed to that we are no longer conscious of them? How much are we simply reacting to the influences around us without thought?
The good thing about this self-interrogation is that as soon as you begin to be aware of the questions you also begin finding answers. It is as if up till this point the world has been a hall of mirrors, like the distorted ones at the fairground and now you are able to place a clear glass between you and the world that allows a more accurate reflection and in doing so you also start to see others more clearly too. As with any other undertaking, if you start to see flaws in what you do, you are going to try to put them right. Change does not come simply from admission but from understanding why we think and act the way we do.
This clarity of vision has been taught under many names and guises throughout the ages by spiritual schools and teachers. The examination of conscience is one example, so is the modern practice of mindfulness; the 42 Negative Confessions of ancient Egypt, also called the Declarations of Purity, is another. These declarations were made in the presence of the goddess Ma’at, the personification of natural order and truth, and the soul could only progress on its journey were the heart to weigh less than the single feather of her crown.
The natural order for any learning process is to start, faltering and unknowing, at the beginning. With time and practice, skills are learned and put to use and the results echo the level of individual learning; a novice will not paint the Mona Lisa, no matter how gifted… technique isn’t everything, there has to be an understanding too and that only comes with living.
We could ponder long and hard, castigating ourselves for our flaws, our lack of vision or imperfections… but if life is a learning curve, we are not yet at the end of that process, have not yet graduated… so to be less than masters is the natural order, the truth of Ma’at. To be a work in progress is enough. In fact, by the very nature of the process, wherever we are on the journey, right now is where we should be.