Why the Truth Isn’t What You Think It Is

By Zat Rana (medium.com)


have a sacred relationship with sound. When certain types of music find their groove, I fall into a trance: My right foot taps into the rhythm, a smile carves across my face, my head begins to nod, and my eyes, at first, grow wide as they take in the surrounding imagery and then, at last, let themselves drop as the vibrations move through my body.

There is a certain completeness that I experience when this happens. For one, the subject-object dichotomy appears for what it is: a delicate creation of either the mind or the body. I cease to exist as a separate entity in my environment, shooting beyond my day to day self-centeredness, as I shine a light on the invisible threads that connect me to the world. On the other hand, this same subject-object dichotomy appears even more pronounced, highlighting the strange contradiction inherent in everything that I, otherwise, think of as true and beautiful.

I’ve long wondered why I respond differently to sound than I do words or visuals. To be sure, it’s not that reading a book or looking at a painting can’t evoke a similar experience. They can, and they do. It’s just that the depth of consciousness that I reach when I lose myself in music extends into a state of mind beyond the flow that I encounter in words and images.

There is, naturally, the fear, as I write this, that I’m being overly romantic, that my description of how I make sense of my relationship to music is more a post-event rationalization than it is an accurate encapsulation of what truly happens, but let’s play the game anyway. Let’s see where it takes us.


Asa kid, if you had given me a math or a science test, that test would have been returned to you not too long after, all the questions completed as they should. If, on the other hand, you had asked me to create something, I would have failed; not only due to incompetence but also because I wouldn’t have tried. That’s not who I was.

To illustrate the difference, think about how a conscious experience works. In any moment, you, as a subject, will focus your attention on a particular part of reality, where there are various distinct objects in front of you. When doing a math test, you may objectify a triangle, a few numbers, and a question. On a creative assignment, you may instead have a pen and a blank paper.

Now, when it comes to the math test, all the information is already there. You just need to use your existing knowledge to connect those objects in a way that creates a certain answer. There is something that is clearly right; there is something that is clearly wrong. On a creative assignment, only some of the information is there, but you still have to use your existing knowledge to connect those objects, and this creates an important distinction: The lack of information means that there is no certain answer.

My thinking for most of my youth was logic-heavy. If I had a clear question with rigid boundaries to confine it, then finding a solution to anything was never a problem. As long as I knew what I was looking for, I could make sense of the objects in front of me, and I could connect them in a way that would lead to my preferred destination.

This love of certainty, however, did come at a cost. Much of my incompetence with creative tasks was borne from an identity that didn’t think of itself as creative because it couldn’t find a clear answer on the blank page. And when it couldn’t find a clear answer, it told itself that there was no truth there and that it wasn’t even worth looking.

My mistake was to see creativity as nothing more than a game, a kind of play, one that I didn’t need. Of course, play it is, but associating the lack of certainty that is inherent in any artistic creation with a lack of truth-value ignores the uncertain nature of reality, a reality in which what is most true is fluid and dynamic, a reality that transcends pure logic.

As I’ve gotten older and more comfortable with this uncertainty, I have walked towards it, letting it pull me away, embracing its inconsistencies — one step at a time, one moment at a time.


Inmathematics, a fractal is an object with a recursive, geometric pattern that repeats itself across different scales and sizes. No matter how far you zoom in or how far you zoom out, the pattern remains the same. In nature, for example, we see this kind of complexity in snowflakes, seashells, and lightning bolts.

A year ago, on a late night in the company of friends, lost in the sound of the classical music of Bach (which we are usually not in the habit of playing around each other), I was struck by a particularly strong intuition. At that moment, I was so moved by the sound around me that I couldn’t help but feel that that man had tapped into a rhythm of the universe that was as true to reality as the laws of physics.

For months, I didn’t think much of this intuition beyond appreciating its sentimental value. But then something else struck me: What if there are fractals embedded in music that make it what it is?

Sure enough, a quick search returned studies by others who had had similar thoughts, indeed finding elementary hints of them in Bach’s music. Benoit Mandelbrot, the man who coined the term fractal, was sure that music in general carried them, hiding in patterns we have yet to decipher.

Fractal Pattern (Source)

Afamous, old quote by the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus says: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” In other words, we live in a universe of change: matter changes, the mind changes, and the interaction between them changes.

This change is neither predictable, nor consistent. Parts of reality, those that abide by the laws of physics, have a mathematical harmony that we can trust, but as soon as you mix in observers with subjective experiences, this trust, at least in the broader context, gets clouded away by uncertainty.

Living with uncertainty, then, brings forth a question: What do we do about truth? If we can’t be sure that there is ever anything fixed and concrete to hold onto, no foundation other than the simplicity of change and impermanence, is there any hope we might capture some aspect of what could be considered eternally true beyond the confines of a systematic, logical framework — something not bound by specific questions and answers?

One response, perhaps, is that if we move away from the reduction of reality created in our conscious experience by the language we use to divide and conquer our surroundings, we can aspire toward more complete knowledge.

If we understand change for what it is, there is a way to see that uncertainty isn’t the absence of truth but a component of it. When change is viewed as a non-divisible process that doesn’t stop so that we can measure it here and then there — that it can’t be captured in words and formulas— there is a way see how every moment is both consistent and contradictory, a part and a whole, bounded and boundless — everything and nothing.

Growing up, I didn’t see that. My mind worked to uncover the consistencies, the parts, and the things that are bounded, but it completely missed the other side. It wasn’t until I started thinking outside of that box, pursuing more creative thoughts and activities, that I was able to complement my limited understanding with everything that I was missing — like the contradictions, the wholes, and the boundlessness.

The truth is both logical and creative at the same time, and this tension is at the core of what it means to exist, and it’s responsible for creating every other dichotomy that we find ourselves being pulled between.


One thing to note about fractals is that their abstract mathematical existence differs from how they appear in nature. In our mind, captured in symbols, they are infinite. Whereas in the natural world, they are not. Even if music exists on some hypothetical plane of logic, the world of matter doesn’t fully correspond to it, disturbing its sense of flawlessness.

There is, however, something about music that attaches it to the truth, and this something is precisely the fact that it isn’t infinite as a fractal. It combines both the perfection of logic and the imperfection of creativity when it manifests in reality, and it uses that combination to overload our senses with an experience that is larger than both the order and the chaos, without taking away their unique essences.

As I think this through, I suspect that my own connection to sound is a bias of my body, or perhaps even a bias of our technologies, as once we set music in motion, we can easily augment its effect by manipulating it so that it hits harder than the words and the stories on paper or the visuals and paintings on canvases. We have more control over how and where we interact with it.

The point, nonetheless, is that art in general does something that we typically and mistakenly credit science with: It lets us peer beyond appearances and see the truth of our existence. Science, contrary to popular belief, isn’t about truth; it’s about utility: about what works in this world, with a certain degree of confidence, where one thing is wrong and another one is right. It does, of course, capture some truth, but not all of it.

Good art, on the other hand, isn’t just merely creative. It, too, has a partial system of logic tied to it, where some degree of rightness and wrongness is distinguished. This logical edifice, however, is also peppered with contradictions, wholes, and boundlessness — things that balance the order of what we understand in fixed and concrete terms.

As someone who until a few years ago had an aversion to the word spiritual, I don’t feel qualified to claim alliance to a particular source of absolute truth, nor do I feel complete certainty about what it even is. But what I do know is that if art has any real purpose beyond its role as an outlet of expression and connection, it’s to mimic the dance of reality.

The great books, albums, paintings, and other mediums of ingenuity condense the mystery of the universe into a form of vitality, one that not only shares a message but also moves you to really see the world.

In one way or another, we are all looking for a connection to something that transcends the impermanence of change. The only way there, however, is to latch on to the thing that best embodies change itself.

Thoreau on Nature as Prayer

By Maria Popova (brainpickings.org)

thoreauandthelangaugeoftrees.jpg?fit=320%2C431

Walt Whitman saw trees — “so innocent and harmless, yet so savage” — as a wellspring of wisdom on being rather than seeming“When we have learned how to listen to trees,” Hermann Hesse exulted in his love letter to our arboreal companions“then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy.”

Two generations earlier, another poet laureate of nature and the human spirit made trees a centerpiece of his emotional universe. For Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817–May 6, 1862), there were creative and spiritual companions, sane-making and essential. His love of them comes alive in Thoreau and the Language of Trees (public library) — a selection of the great Transcendentalist poet and philosopher’s meditations on trees, drawn from his two-million-word journal by writer and photographer Richard Higgins, whose beautiful black-and-white photographs complement Thoreau’s arboreal writings.

thoreauandthelanguageoftrees.jpg?resize=680%2C506

Photograph by Richard Higgins from Thoreau and the Language of Trees.

Thoreau reverenced trees as living incantations, wordless prayers, benedictions for the art of being. In their company, he found a counterpoint to the falsehoods of society. Fifteen years after his mentor Emerson lamented in his own journal that “in cities… one seems to lose all substance, & become surface in a world of surfaces,”Thoreau redoubles his insistence on defining one’s own success and writes in a diary entry from January of 1857:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngIn the street and in society I am almost invariably cheap and dissipated, my life is unspeakably mean. No amount of gold or respectability would in the least redeem it — dining with the Governor or a member of Congress!! But alone in distant woods or fields, in unpretending sprout lands or pastures tracked by rabbits, even on a black and, to most, cheerless day, like this, when a villager would be thinking of his inn, I come to myself, I once more feel myself grandly related, and that the cold and solitude are friends of mine. I suppose that this value, in my case, is equivalent to what others get by churchgoing and prayer. I come to my solitary woodland walk as the homesick go home… It is as if I always met in those places some grand, serene, immortal, infinitely encouraging, though invisible, companion, and walked with him.

Four decades later, Whitman — who was two years younger than Thoreau but long outlived him — would record a kindred sentiment in his own notebook“After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, love, and so on — have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear — what remains? Nature remains; to bring out from their torpid recesses, the affinities of a man or woman with the open air, the trees, fields, the changes of seasons — the sun by day and the stars of heaven by night.”

Complement the thoroughly elevating Thoreau and the Language of Treeswith Rachel Carson on our scientific and spiritual bond with nature and David George Haskell on what a dozen of the world’s most interesting trees taught him about life, then revisit Thoreau on the spiritual rewards of walkingknowing vs. seeingthe difference between an artisan, an artist, and a genius, and how to use civil disobedience to advance justice.

Buddha’s Three Poisons

In the Buddhist teachings, the three poisons (of ignorance, attachment, and aversion) are the primary causes that keep sentient beings trapped in samsara. These three poisons are said to be the root of all of the other kleshas.  (Wikipedia.)

(Submitted by Melissa Goodnight, HW, M)

Sunday Night Translation Group – 11/25/18

Translators:  Mike Zonta, Melissa Goodnight, Richard Branam, Hanz Bolen

SENSE TESTIMONY:  Human relationships are often limited by tribal allegiances and lies and confusion

5th Step Conclusions:

1)  Truth is “heaven born” being, bearing allegiance to the Lord (Consciousness/Beingness), a roaring success in the melding cauldron of infinite Consciousness/Beingness.

2)  Infinite Consciousness Beingness is one limitlessly seamless  commonality, that is always superseding by revealing to all — the certainty of true knowing.

3)  The Truth I AM is the only identity, only agreement, only power, the innate self evident ability and value soundly touching and being Universal Essential Integrity in and of each and every Individuation I Am. Truth is clear integrity everywhere always.

4)  Truth is in alliance with its own I am I individuated identity allowing itself to flow in its transcendental beingness. This relationship is the only principle continuum necessary.

A Soldier’s Silent Night

A Soldiers Silent Night Follow now—–> Senior Airman Brian Kolfage

Posted by Brian Kolfage on Friday, December 16, 2016

Nietzsche’s three steps to a meaningful life

By Steven Gambardella 

Friedrich Nietzsche will accompany you in your own search for meaning (Painting: ‘Sunset’ by Caspar David Friedrich)

In 1882, Friedrich Nietzsche was a man who had known the depths of despair. Nietzsche had lived with a number of health problems, mental health issues, and post-traumatic stress syndrome from serving as a medical orderly in the Franco-Prussian War (during which he had also contracted diphtheria and dysentery). The final straw was that the woman he loved deeply, whom he had proposed to a number of times, had abandoned him.

Nietzsche was an extraordinarily gifted young man. He had studied for a PhD while still a teenager and was awarded a tenured professorship at the remarkably young age of 24.

In the late 1860s Nietzsche also excelled as a horseman and soldier. He was fated, it seemed, to be made a captain in the Prussian military but a riding accident and his failing eyesight (which made him almost blind) ended his soldiering career. He returned to academia where he excelled again.

Nietzsche was a gifted writer as well as an academic prodigy who developed extraordinary insight into some of the most deeply buried ideas that structure our beliefs. He had taken an intellectual wrecking ball to most moral and philosophical concepts that are taken for granted even today.

Books like Human, All Too HumanUntimely Meditations and The Joyful Science, tore down the edifice of morality, religion, reason and exposed the emptiness at the heart of modern civilization.

However Nietzsche was far from a nihilist. The philosopher had a profound belief in the possibilities of human beings. He sought to write a gospel-like fiction that served as a guide to those who shared his disdain for traditional values, taboos and sacred cows.

It was in 1882, at that low point in his life — increasingly physically and mentally ill and living in virtual isolation in Rapallo, Italy, having been abandoned by Lou Salomé, the woman whom he loved so much, Nietzsche started to write one of the most extraordinary books of the philosophical canon: Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

The book is a philosophical novel that chronicles the descent of a wise hermit — Zarathustra — from his habitation in a mountain to a fictitious land where he dispenses wisdom in a series of themed episodes.

Zarathustra’s legendary namesake is the founder of the ancient Persian religion of Zoroastrianism. The prophet is credited as being the first to devise the binary morality of “good” and “evil” that made its way into the Abrahamic religions and that we take for granted today.

Values and customs that were once considered eternal have crumbled over time. Nietzsche believed that the “meaning” of life is to be found within ourselves. (Painting: Caspar David Friedrich ‘The Temple of Juno in Agrigento’).

Nietzsche preached “life-affirmation”, an honest and courageous questioning of all the doctrines that hold people back, no matter how prevalent they may be.

In the place of those doctrines Nietzsche developed his own doctrines that serve as a toolkit for people who seek to become what the philosopher called the “Übermensch” – “overman” – those who have mastery over their emotions, who take joy in simply existing and who create above all else.

Zarathustra was the perfect mouthpiece for Nietzsche because he believed Zarathustra could make right what was his ultimate mistake (morality).

“Zarathustra created this most calamitous error, morality; consequently, he must also be the first to recognize it.”

That’s not to say that Nietzsche lacked ethics, more that he was against the way morality held people from acting out of love or creativity. The philosopher was against handed down rules, values and codes.

Nietzsche himself had his own values. The philosopher strongly opposed the antisemitism and nationalism so prevalent among fellow Germans in his time (and which would become such a catastrophic mix in the Twentieth Century).

Nietzsche believed that obsession with shaky concepts like “nations” and “races” prevents the individual from finding their higher selves.

This is an important point: Nietzsche didn’t believe that racism and nationalism, for example, were morally “evil”. He believed that they were sicknesses handed down the generations, that those seeking their higher selves would break free from.

Nietzsche’s ethics were about precluding bad ideas, not categorising them as evil.

Through the mouth of Zarathustra, close to the beginning of the book, Nietzsche lays out the three metamorphoses that the individual must go through to find true freedom and an abundance of creative power. Using allegorical imagery, he describes the metamorphoses as the camel, the lion, and finally the child.

When Zarathustra finds his way down from his dwelling in the mountain, he is shocked by people’s indifference to what he wants to teach.

The sage likens people to the herd. The town he visits is called “Motley Cow” which is a clever philosophical allusion to Plato’s contempt for majority rule in democracy. Motley Cow essentially means “rule of the herd”.

Nietzsche’s character Zarathustra is disdainful of the herd. Herd animals do not wish to carry, they simply want a safe and abundant pasture: a quiet, no surprises, relatively (but not very) wealthy life. The herd stick close together and do not wish to take risks, they rely on the shepherd to show them what is good for them.

The Camel

But some people are strong in spirit, and they begin a spiritual journey to self-actualisation that they may or may not complete. The first stage of that journey is when we become “camels”.

As bizarre as this metaphor sounds, it makes a lot of sense. The camel is a carrier and represents the “strong” spirit who, unlike the herd animal, is happy to take on burdens.

“There are many things for the spirit, for the strong heavy spirit in which dwell respect and awe: its strength longs for the heavy, for the heaviest […] thus it kneels down like the camel and and wants to be well-laden.”

Those of us who are strong in spirit want to delve deeper into the meaning of things, but that task requires carrying a lot of baggage. We want to be well-laden, we want to take on the heavy load because the spirit of the camel seeks to “rejoice” in its strength, to “hurry into the desert” with reverence for all those heavy burdens that are great and good.

We read, we travel, we learn, we uncover. The weight adds up. There is so much knowledge, so many great minds that came before us that we can hold in reverence. We rejoice in our strength in carrying their burden.

The journey of the camel is lonely. (Painting: Caspar David Friedrich, The Monk by the Sea, 1808–1810)

What’s more, the camel takes on the most difficult things that life throws at it. The camel must overcome fear, confront truth, endure unrequited love and so on.

But the desert is lonely, and the camel spirit no longer wants to bear the burden of ideas and knowledge that are not its own. The world, the camel has discovered, does not have essential or universal values. There is no one meaning of life.

The camel develops the desire to unburden itself, take control of its own destiny and say its own “I will”.

The Lion

But to unburden yourself and create your own meaning and destiny you must undergo a new transformation.

In the lonely desert the second metamorphosis happens: to fulfil its destiny, the spirit needs to rule over the desert, to become lord of the desert to capture freedom. In order to do so, the lion, Nietzsche tells us, must struggle with the existing lord. The existing lord is a dragon called “thou shalt”, and that dragon is the great barrier to true freedom.

“Thou shalt” is permission; it’s all the moral laws and societal values that have come before that tell us who we are and how we should act. The dragon is seductive, it sparkles with golden scales and on each scale glitters a “thou shalt”.

The thousands of scales represent thousands of years of the “thou shalts” that have come before us, the centuries of codes of how you ought to think and act. The dragon is the enemy of true self-mastery.

The spirit of the lion must take on the dragon. The thousands of glittering scales on the dragon each have a golden “thou shalt” written on them. The dragon represents permission: all the values that have come before us.

When confronted by the dragon, the lion says “I will!” But the dragon retorts that all values are already created, every one that makes up its golden scales. The dragon says, “there shall be no more ‘I will’.”

The lion must then fight the dragon to become lord of the desert and win its freedom.

As the lion confronts the dragon it roars what Zarathustra calls “the sacred ‘No’.” The sacred No is the rejection of all values that came before the lion. Nietzsche was stateless (he had given up his citizenship of Prussia), jobless and godless. He had to fight those who disapproved of the life choices he had made, including his own family.

When describing the lion, he was perhaps writing from experience. The Overman, he believed, was a true individual, one who must build self-mastery on his or her own terms.

Caspar David Friedrich, Two Men Contemplating the Moon, 1825–30

The Child

The spirit now wills his own will, those who have relinquished the world that came before them, now have the power to conquer.

Imagine a state of the pure individual who is unburdened of the rules, customs and conventions of society. Imagine the person who wills their own destiny, makes up their own values (that they do not impose on anybody else), and exists in a liberated state of free creativity and play.

What does that state resemble that is right under our noses? Of course, it’s the child.

“The child is innocence and forgetfulness, a new beginning, a game, a self-propelling wheel, a first motion, a sacred Yes.”

Nietzsche believed that the truly free spirit will resemble children at play, who discover the world for the first time, unburdened by what came before (hence the “forgetting”). The child is curious and filled with wonder. The child is not weighed down by rules and values, the child discovers for themselves the meaning in things.

Having uttered the “sacred No” to reject everything that came before, the child shouts the “sacred Yes” that affirms life.

We can create our own values, to take the risks to find what we want from life. The sacred Yes, Nietzsche tells us, is the for the game of creation. The spirit becomes its own will, it wins its own world.

After writing Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche further alienated himself from friends and family. The suffocating weight of Victorian values exacerbated Nietzsche’s increasingly declining mental health.

Despite his problems he went on to write more extraordinarily prescient books that foreshadowed the struggles of individuals and nations in the twentieth century. Nietzsche became an intellectual titan whose work foreshadowed psychology, existentialism, structuralism, and postmodernism.

While wandering a street in Turin, Nietzsche was finally broken by the sight of a coachman flogging a horse. Nietzsche threw his arms around the horse’s neck to protect it and fell to the ground. Nietzsche never recovered from an abyss of mental illness from the age of 44. After two strokes and contracting pneumonia, Nietzsche died in the summer of 1900 aged 55.


We all know that within us we have a higher self, and Nietzsche’s allegorical metamorphoses are just a guide to help get through the suffering that would necessarily come with the pursuit for true freedom and creative self-mastery.

Nietzsche wrote in Human, All Too Human:

“They fear their higher self, because when it speaks, it speaks demandingly.”

Nietzsche compels us to find the courage to listen. If we can find the strength to find a “why” to live, we can bear almost any “how”.

Thank you for reading. I hope you learned something new. Click the link below to read part two of this article, which covers Nietzsche’s unique idea of redemption:

TRANSLATION ADVENTURE – 11/18/18

Translators: Alex Gambeau, Zoe Robinson, Bo Lebo, Sara Walker, Heather Williams<

SENSE TESTIMONY: Persons can be displaced and be without refuge

5th Step Conclusions:

  1. One Infinite Self is HOME Here and Now.
  2. Hence that which is so is Complete, Enduring, Ever-present Consciousness
  3. The system of immigration is the Oneness of Truth being indivisible harmoniousness, expressing omnipresently omniciently through people as an expression of all there is.
  4. All Creation is a system of a principle of law and order of harmony.
  5. To come