Sunday, February 07, 2010

All That Guff 2

2. The Daily Guff:

Then, there is all that old daily guff.  I am reminded of the words from T.S. Eliot's The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock (1917) which run: "There will be time, there will be time //To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet."  Because, such a hiding behind masks is the cause of much of the old guff which we both talk and hear.  When we look at the sun directly we are blinded.  In like manner, the ancients used say that "we cannot look upon the face of God and live."  No wonder, such a believe came about given that God was often compared to the Sun, even was the Sun in many cultures.  In like manner, I believe, that we probably would not survive by being our true selves all the time, that we would burn ourselves out.  Perhaps, living behind masks is far easier.  Perhaps?  However, it is worthwhile to question this hiding behind masks and our lack of authenticity.

And so we like to be consumed with everydayness, to hide behind our roles: I'm Dr Smith, or Bishop Quinn, or Professor Ryan or Principal O'Dwyer etc.  We even like dressing up for the parts we play in the drama of everyday life.  In this drama of everyday life we can give vent to all our old guff.  So many of us know the solutions to life's problems.  X or Y or Z or even I, yes I, in all my knowledge and education, yes, I know the solution to this or that problem in the job or profession to which I belong.  Likewise, we all know the solutions to life's woes.

However, problems emerge in all jobs and professions when people who are working together in the same job often have conflicts because X sees the situation this way and Y another.  Then conflicts are taken way out of proportion when one colleague or boss tries to control another, tries to impose their views on their subordinates or colleagues, and in so doing give vent to a lot of old guff.  The tragedy is that a lot of people start to believe their own guff, their own self-constructed view of the universe, their own self-constructed truth or reality and then try to inflict it on others.

Here, and most timely indeed, too, I am reminded of Irvin D. Yalom's quoting the following sentiments from Heidegger many times in his most recent book: Staring at the sun: overcoming the terror of death (Jossey Bass, 2009, see p. 261) that when we are consumed with everydayness, we turn away from deeper concerns and from incisive self-examination.  This is a truism through and through.  How many people do we know who are workaholics and there sheer addiction to work is in itself an avoidance of facing the real inner self.  The real inner self is often a sun that is very painful indeed to look at directly.  Unfortunately the real inner self can never be ignored indefinitely.  It will thrust its self upon our awareness through one means or another, through our sicknesses and illnesses, through the loss of friends and colleagues, through the break up of our relationships, through the sheer jagged edges of existence.  At base, Yalom would argue that this turning away from incisive self-examination is the denial of death, the very refusal to acknowledge its inevitability.  All the preoccupation with or obsession with our jobs is really a mask of our very terror of death.

And so, mere guff will not calm our souls or dim the blinding light ahead.  Guff is no effective sun glasses against the sun of self-knowledge - if you forgive the rather childlike metaphor here.  What's called upon is an authenticity, an integrity and a sheer honesty that throws off the mask, lets down the guard, and becomes real and true.  Of course, this is a very hard thing to do, and it is, in reality, our very life's task.  In pursuit of this task guff gives way to an authentic language which not alone speaks words, but also carries the truth of the speaker in their uttered sounds.

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