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It Gets Easier Each Time

November 28, 2011 – I’m reading a book called Spiritual Radical, a biography of Abraham Joshua Heschel. Heschel was an Hasidic rabbi and scholar, brought to the United States at the beginning of World War II by an American rabbinic seminary. Having experienced at first hand the suffering imposed upon so many millions of people in Europe by the Nazi’s, he was aghast at the adamant refusal of American Jews to accept that things were as bad as he, and others, insisted they were. I think there are many environmentalists today who can empathize with Heschel’s heartsick disbelief. Truly, there are none so blind as those who will not see!

Truth can be the sternest taskmaster. Terrible truths can break the heart, throw lives into utter disarray, destroy friendships, tear apart families. Indeed, they have been known to overthrow governments, Egypt being a case in point. Because we hurt already, as a result of the lies we have learned in place of the truth, we believe the truth will be unbearable. Far better the devil we know than the devil we don’t know. Every one of us has lived a lie, at one time or another. Only those who have broken free can understand the blessing of being able to look each and every human being in the eye with a level gaze. There is no longer anything to fear.

The truth is simple. Lies are complicated. The truth walks down a wide path of openness and acceptance. Lies confine us in prisons of our own making, one convoluted path leading to another. Truth invites us in. Lying must always look over its shoulder, for fear of what may come next. Still, we must be prepared to endure the initial shock that accompanies the speaking of truth, particularly when it follows a period of denial or lying.

Truth can also be a demanding taskmaster. The Truth is, something is terribly wrong. Well, says Truth – fix it! Truth says that African-Americans suffered centuries of humiliation and cruelty at the hands of white Americans. White Americans say: but I have never owned slaves! How can that be my fault? Why should I apologize? Truth says, you mean that if uttering the words “I’m so sorry that happened to your ancestors - it should never, never have happened,” could relieve other human beings’ sense of unrecognized, invalidated pain, you would be too proud to grant them that relief? Wrongdoing on a national scale cannot possibly be ignored forever. Truth says the wound must be acknowledged and cared for, the grievous tears cried by both victim and perpetrator alike.

When it comes to climate disruption, the 1% dread the Truth. After all, the Truth means losing their monarchical prerogatives. The money, the houses, the travel, the clothes. Repeat after them: “corporations are people, and the earth will give up its riches until it has nothing left to give, the environment be damned.” That is their truth. A truth which is a lie that follows them wherever they go. Their children have asthma, just like yours do. They have a selection of fancy inhalers, of course, but their suffering is just as real. Their flight will be cancelled, just like yours. They’ll be flying their own plane, but it still won’t go anywhere. Their houses will be flooded, just like yours. The island they bought for their get-away vacations will be buried under the sea. They will die of new viruses and dengue fever and malaria, just like the rest of us. And they will look over their shoulders, for fear of what might come next.

Speak your truth as loudly as you can and don’t stop. It’s all that matters.


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