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Dr. Cara Barker Headshot

Fact Or Fiction? Michael Jackson, Sotomayor, And What To Do When You Don't Know What To Believe

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As I sit down to write you, my computer's 'mouse' is scampering about, seemingly with a mind of its own. First here, then there, the mercurial thing is going all over the place. Not unlike the twists and turns of stories in the news these days.

Last night, the sheriff in Florida described the murder mystery of the couple there as a 'humdinger,' "...the stuff movies are made of! We think we are heading down one street, only to find it leads completely somewhere else..." Just a few weeks ago, we watched and winced as Governor Sanford made his vivid confessional.

Last week, musical legend, Michael Jackson was 'laid to rest,' (well, maybe, location unknown). Meanwhile, in the backdrop, a horrifying cemetery story was breaking in Illinois about criminal graveyard activity. Today, both stories continue with all sorts of speculations.

On "the Hill," as my hometown, Washington, D.C. is known, Judge Sonia Sotomayor enters the lion's den, with its penchant for grilling and grandstanding, where Republicans and Democrats play their own version of the 'blame game.' Team 'A,' claims their pick is a heroine. Team 'B' claims indignation, and moral superiority.

What if this tiresome old pattern were really an unconscious attempt to avoid the one thing that's even scarier than determining who's right, who's wrong? What if what frightens us silly is facing the notion that we've actually got to learn how to work collaboratively together as the Unknown presents itself, before its too late? Until we gather sufficient courage to enter this Learning Curve, playing Dodgeball continues, and nothing much changes in Dodge.

How do you know what to believe? How do you know who to believe? I don't know about you, but the tossings, turnings, and churnings today seem to be more than familiar. The names of the lead story characters might differ, but the gerbil wheel dynamic is reminiscent of a place we humanoids end up so often running. Like my mouse's cursor, we may believe we are headed in one desired direction, only to discover we've gotten caught in the most annoying way in something else. Something sticky has hooked us. Our attention strays from what we consciously intended, and suddenly, we are shadow-boxing with ourselves, and what upsets. The worst part, however, is that after we're sufficiently worn down from the challenge we didn't want on our plates, we begin to question what's fact, what's fiction. No small wonder there's so much collective fascination with 'did he/didn't he?' does she/doesn't she?' At a much deeper level in any story, those who will admit it, (and this takes a mighty healthy sense of self,) suspect what's really being questioned is no only our questions about each other, but our notions about ourselves. Without which, it is impossible to heal, much less grow.

A brilliant example of this was portrayed in the film some years ago about John Nash. You may have seen it. "A Beautiful Mind" ushers us into the story of a brilliant mathematician. But, it doesn't stop there. Before you know it, unwittingly, we, as audience, have wandered into the psyche of schizophrenia, where the mind gets caught on the hooks of delusions. Without realizing, the distortions of a disturbed mind have become a shared, consensual reality. Blessedly, the storyteller and director guide us out through the labyrinth into the light of day, once more, where we are free to leave the theatre, breathe anew, and rejoin our lives as 'things really are.'

Or, are we? As long as we believe that our perspective is the only correct lens, and all others must be flawed, we continue going in circles on that old gerbil wheel. Perhaps this is what makes the politicians' blame game so disturbing, and mourning family feuds over the 'remains of the day,' so grim.

Such global, as well as deeply personal moments force us to confront what is the truth of a life? Is it the achievements, the awards, the resume? Or, is it best reflected in spontaneous, unguarded words, moments? Or, is the truth of a life demonstrated best in those dreams to which we give our hearts? Maybe all of the above.

From the events of late, we are challenged to address our own mortality, and the reminder that we can be called Home in the wink of an eye. We are shown our nature, as fellow human beings, to do better, to fail, to suffer our own failings, and to go on, and hopefully, grow if we are willing to live increasingly examined lives. The fact is that each new morning, if we are lucky enough to awaken, we get the gift of choice: to grab hold of our dream, and live it to the hilt, to become a better humanitarian than yesterday, and, in Jackson's words:
"...to make a better place for you and me,
And the entire human race..."

To do so, we must make an even bigger effort to see with that invisible eye that is our heart. As the great writer, Antoine de Saint-Exupery put it:

"...And, now here is my secret, a very simple secret. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly: what is essential is invisible to the eye."

Prescription for Relief. Here's the good news: when we cannot tell fact from fiction, what we can do is (1) acknowledge our confusion, (2) be kind and patient to ourselves, (3) imagine ourselves taking a break from the gerbil wheel, (4) take a break, (5) leave room for the possibility that there's a bigger perspective than A or B, (6) Offer up the question: 'If there were a bigger truth in this situation that might be very useful, what might it be for me?' (7) Relax. As one book said: "There is a time for every season...and a purpose unto heaven..." Give it time. (9) Notice something new today that's very small and share it with someone else. Pay particular attention to something in front of your nose you've been too preoccupied to enjoy lately!

As always, I look forward to hearing from you: your perspective, thoughts, feelings, references, and how you are. I'll do my best to get back to you in as timely a way as I can! Blessings, Cara

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