Thursday, November 15, 2012
What lies beneath
In another of my many former lives, I used to be a preacher man (not the son of one, though). I want to make it clear from the start that I no longer have any religious affiliation of any kind. I say this in order to avoid frightening away those who find all things religious anathema. Of course, in the process I may alienate those who do consider themselves to be religious. I am not interested in a debate on the issue here. I raise the point only because what does remain of my previous life is a desire to look into things, or beneath things, to vary the spatial metaphor. I have always found that what is beneath the surface is much more interesting than the surface that conceals/contains/ protects it. The surface is not a bad thing. It is necessary to do all these things from time to time: conceal, contain and protect what is within.
It is also very important, at other times, to expose this hidden substance of the world, of people, of me. Above all, I need to be aware of the hidden substance of me. Hidden it may be, but it is not inactive. It is this substance that ultimately gives shape to the exterior of my life, though I do not always recognise how, when or where. “Know thyself” – these are still wise words. As always, there is a warning that goes with this: It can be very dangerous to bring some of the hidden stuff out into the open, particularly too much, too quickly. Nevertheless, I believe that the dangers of not doing so are greater. I think that the source of much of the unexplained, explosive violence in many of our modern societies is due to the denial and suppression of this hidden substance. We make the dangerous assumption that the surface is the truth and nothing but the truth; and that nothing but the surface is the truth. Has there ever been a less tolerant society than our “tolerant society”? Probably many; but not one that denied its own intolerance, lying just below the surface, so vehemently. There are many other creatures swimming around down there, some of them malicious, some of them harmless, some even benevolent. We ignore them at our cost.
What my life as a writer has in common with my earlier life as a preacher is the desire to raise awareness of this underneath. It was never my desire to tell people what to think, only to encourage them to do so. Whether I am successful at this, either as a preacher or as a writer, is for others to say.