It is not always needful for truth to take a definite shape; it is enough if it hovers about us like a spirit and produces harmony; if it is wafted through the air like the sound of a bell, grave and kindly.– The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe
Over the last few weeks of action in our country, I have tried my best to listen and to learn. To force myself to look at inconvenient truths, to weigh my own understandings against those of others whose perspective I don’t regularly see through. To acknowledge the ugliness that does indeed exist in the world, whether I choose to look at it or not.
It has been an often inconvenient ongoing exercise. But it is one that I know in my heart is the right thing to do, and that makes it not as scary to look into the figurative mirror. The unease and the defensiveness of instinctual reactions is more easily diffused for me when I know that I’m doing the right thing.
The words above by Goethe have been giving me hope through this. Even more challenging than doing the work of breaking down my own biases and recognizing how I benefit from the world today in a way that others do not, is trying to see a way toward a productive path forward of fixing these deeply rooted problems of injustice and inequality woven into the threads of our entire society.
Just as frustrating as taking the journey itself, is watching others obstinately refuse to take it. Watching our current president purposefully antagonize the very wounds that many are seeking to heal is simultaneously infuriating and saddening. Seeing people refuse to sit down and talk to each other, to learn from one another, is depressing.
And yet, opposite of that I see room for hope and truth. I see people acknowledging things they never have before. For the first time, I see people empathizing in ways they previously have not. People are listening.
We live in a time where no one listens anymore. We only shout.
But right now, if you pay attention closely, and you look out over the cacophony and the multitudes, I see more people with mouths shut and ears open than I’ve seen in years. And it gives me hope. I see people who have previously been discouraged to the point of apathy suddenly taking action. And it gives me hope. I see society’s weak suddenly finding strength.
And it gives me hope.
And reading Goethe’s words above, the thing I am hoping for us most as a society is that Truth becomes a thing we learn to embrace again. That it isn’t a scary thing. That it shouldn’t be something we are ashamed of, and that the noblest thing we can do is seek it always, regardless of the shape it takes. I hope that it shines a piercing light into our speech, our politics, and our relationships, so that fiction or plausible deniability no longer guide us, but the patient, reconciling transparency of truth becomes a thing we all chase and aspire to. That truth will become an attribute that all individuals seek to prioritize again, instead of greed or gain. And I hope it is enough.
“…it is enough if it hovers about us like a spirit and produces harmony; if it is wafted through the air like the sound of a bell, grave and kindly.”