I’m a liar, apparently.
Since settling in England years ago, the English have often told me to stop being so honest. It gets you into trouble, they say. The trouble was that I grew up alongside a tribe who despised any shade of dishonesty and those noble peoples helped solidify my character. In the streets of Kenya, if somebody shouts thief, everyone, and I mean everyone runs to stop the criminal. If the shouter has lied, everyone faces them.
With that conditioning, it’s going to be fun trying to become a liar for the first time in my long and adventurous life. However, I’m not sure if the role will suit me. Honesty leaves you clear headed, you know who you are and your position in disputed events isn’t muddy. What, I ask, is the advantage of not telling it as it was?
We were at Lyme for Christmas and as people wound up to lunch, the lifeboat was launched. A dog walker had called to demand that brave men and women drop their Christmas lunch and dash their small craft out into a growing swell to find their pet. We watched the storm threaten as those volunteers bounced and dipped along the line of cliffs and hoped they would all be OK.
Further along the beach we spotted a cafe door wide open and my instinct was to go in and see if there had been a break-in. Camilla, who has had to suffer this aspect of my being (encouraged by that Kenyan tribe), drew back, concerned. She’s so often watched me get involved without concern for my own safety to prevent crime, rescue people being mugged, seriously endangering my own life in many ways over the years. Sensing her reluctance, a touch of Englishness kicked in and I stepped back. But being Kenyan, I listened. Water was flowing, a tap?
“Perhaps,” said Camilla, “the owner’s preparing for Boxing Day.”
Despite being a guy with a crutch who is also worn down by serious health issues, I can’t help responding. The powerful urge is instinctual. On the last shopping day before Christmas, I ought not to have got involved. It meant that I was called a liar and what was said about my character (by people who don’t know me), this view could spread. I’ll say no more, I don’t wish to implicate anyone, even though I assume nobody here reads these blogs.
It reminded me of a Zen monk who was accused of making a woman in his small town pregnant. He said, not asked, “Is that so.” When a young man eventually couldn’t bear the strain of lying, the town apologised to the monk for having been so nasty. He bowed, “Is that so.”
Why be cowed or be concerned for your reputation? I know who I am. Furthermore, why feel sorry for myself being in this situation. People face racism daily, imagine living in a hostile neighbourhood. Though we’ve not been welcomed in our street, (but have elsewhere in this tiny town), how lucky we are in comparison.
All we can do in life is to live as honestly and as empathetically as possible. Shrug our shoulders and move on. Why bear the weight of other peoples’ views. We each already have enough to carry. And we all need to toughen up and be less petty, Climate Change is going to get far, far worse because so few people wish to change the way they live. What is needed is generating compassion within one's being and living with it.
That's easy. You just have to make it routine. On that note. Happy Mid Winter!