As we begin to exit the pandemic, many of us talk about how we enter a period of “new normal.” Those of you who know me well know I am careful about the use of idioms. To me, “new normal” is an idiom, and I believe idioms represent lazy languaging—they tend to be vague and open to interpretation. Don Miguel Ruiz teaches me to be “impeccable with my word,” so I strive to do so. New normal, and even any “normal,” does not fall within my range of impeccability.
Throughout the pandemic, I wrote, edited, and recently published a new metaphysical fiction novel. We were stuck in the house, so why not? The book is entitled Braided: A Not Not True Story. My editors thought the subtitle to be a typo, and tried to correct it. It drives editing software crazy, but that is the subtitle: A Not Not True Story.
You might point out that the subtitle, “A Not Not True Story,” is vague and open to interpretation, and therefore idiomatic, and I would agree with you. So in my quest to remain impeccable with my words, I chose to write a mystical and metaphysical manuscript of over 60 thousand words on 246 pages over two years to bring the meaning of Not Not True to life. I invite you to read the book to understand what I mean by “Not Not True.” I think you will find it entertaining and provocative. But for now, I’d like to say more about how the pandemic brought me to a place of “not not true.”
When I think about how the pandemic affected me, I don’t feel I’ve entered a “new normal” period in my life. New normal seems like an oxymoron to me—how can something be new and ordinary at the same time. Nothing seems “normal” to me anymore.
The pandemic changed me in ways I’ve never experienced before and don’t fully understand. I feel I’ve entered an utterly unique terrain without a roadmap or compass as if I’ve been blindfolded and dropped on a distant planet. New normal just doesn’t fit, so I believe we need a new idiom; one that describes that we must define our new state as we go through it. Therefore, it is neither true nor not true—it is Not Not True.
As I sit here in a favorite coffee shop writing these words, I remind myself of certain empirical truths. One is that we are all on a speck of cosmic dust circling a burning sun along with our brother and sister planets, blasting through the universe at 490,000 miles per hour. I pause to look over at my cup of coffee sitting on the table next to my computer and notice the liquid in the cup remains perfectly still—not even a shimmer of vibration. My physical and observational cues of careening through space at 490,000 miles per hour are not present. So is that true, or not true? Professor Google said it, and I read it, so I must be experiencing it, right? But is it really “true?” I no longer treat this fact as normal, or old normal, or new normal. I am putting this information in the part of my experience of not not true. It resides together with my understanding of the existence of God—a great mystery.
It seems we humans have become agitated with the existence of great mysteries. We seem to be obsessed with explaining the unexplainable. There is an excellent marketplace for interpreting the unknown—what I call the land of the not not true. There are churches, synagogues, mosques, and spiritual communities on every corner, each with a different explanation of what is not not true. We must have great patience to live with mystery. A favorite philosopher of mine puts forward a unique antidote.
Years ago, we studied Carl Jung’s concept of active imagination. One of my teachers warned me that I should not read Jung from cover to cover but to study and meditate on his quotes. Jung said, “Normality is a fine ideal for those who have no imagination.” Jung was not one to mince words.
He also said, “Active imagination requires a state of reverie, halfway between sleep and waking. Without this playing with fantasy, no creative work has ever yet come to birth.
Living in the world on Not Not True is to live in a state of reverie between sleep and waking. So you might say, “Hey Rob, just get some good weed, or find some magic mushrooms and let your mind expand,” and I don’t judge these mechanisms of entering into active imagination—I did grow up in the ‘60s. Many people use micro-dosing of natural mind-altering substances to help them in their therapeutic processes and life journey. We participated in many sessions of pranayama breathwork, a very effective way to enter an altered state of consciousness, to facilitate our active imagination sessions. It is always best to use mind-altering techniques and active imagination sessions with an experienced facilitator until you feel proficient enough to practice sessions independently.
Ultimately, living in a world of the Not Not True is residing in your own world of active imagination without becoming unconscious of the world and the people around you. The pandemic and my active imagination bring me to a place of higher consciousness of how I wish to travel through my life and how I want to behave with the people and world around me. I imagine myself being the very best citizen and occupant of our planet as long as I walk upon it and our solar system as it makes its way through the galaxy and even beyond. I wish the very same for us all.
May we all teach peace, and live in peace.