In the Face of Truth
When I was a young lass of 21, I suddenly developed adult acne. Zit seemed too mild and too cute a word to describe this ghastly eruption of carbuncles, papules and pustules.
My mother wept when she saw what I had transformed into.
Strangers came up and circled around me shaking their heads pityingly.
Children stared and pointed with horrified fascination.
Hardly the reaction any girl just emerging into womanhood hopes to receive. Hardly the reception she had expected from her first foray into the great big world with a heart full of shining hopes and dreams. Hardly the likely heroine to be saved by any knight in shining armour. (somehow all those damsels in distress always still managed to have cream and peaches complexion in the most tragic of surroundings.)
Looking back today from the vantage point of safety, and the quiet assurance that comes with the mellowing of age, it dawned on me that in order to cope with this very sensitive predicament, my young self went into a self-denial mode. To protect myself. To salvage whatever pride that was left to face the world.
I didn’t want to talk about it. I flinched when anyone brought up the subject. I shunned the cosmetic section of the department stores. I even explained it away as a good opportunity to cultivate inner beauty.
I prefered to suffer the indignity of it than to seek help.
Because to think that I was responsible to clear up this diabolical mess was just too stark and too overwhelming for my young, inexperienced self. It was just easier to blame the hormones and the stress of law school.
Now, the thing about not facing up to the truth is that while we think we can keep a blind eye to ourselves, in reality, it is oftentimes glaringly obvious to others. It is literally right in our face and we can’t see it.
Just like the small child standing in full view in an open room playing hide and seek. He drapes a hand towel over his head and thinks that as long as he can’t see, he is safe.
And so it is with our character flaws and blemishes. The little sensitivities and irritations that flare up unbidden. Patterns of wrong-thinking. The games we play. The unconscious motivations behind what we say and do. And all the while we plod along, never once stopping to challenge our assumptions.
In the meantime, we just try hard to cope with the disfigurement by limping through life hoping that no one would notice. Preferring blame and welcoming forgetfulness.
I wrote this post because it dawned on me that this lesson of looking deep into the face of truth is one which needs to happen not once in a lifetime, not once a week, not even daily. But a moment by moment resolve.
The perfecting of character requires the highest commitment and discipline and most of all self-honesty. It is to sanctify our hearts and minds and eyes from the obscuring dust of vain imaginings and idle fancies. It is to carefully correct and rearrange the contents of our hearts. It demands us to see with the highest and purest form of vision. A vision that searches and probes beyond the boundaries of what is familiar.
It is the dying to self in every moment.
Each day that we draw a breath is another opportunity for the transformation of self. Our daily interactions with friends, family members, can all be that mirror to gently awaken us to take a look. I believe this is the real Carpe Diem and what seizing the day is.
Sometimes, I find myself being that young lass of 21 all over again. I’d rather not look. I’d rather not know. I’d rather not rock the boat of my own existence. I don’t want to grow up.
But I also realise that this fear which holds me back is a sure sign that I do not yet own the truth. For fear is the absence of truth. And darkness the absence of light.
And so I open my eyes. And step out from the shadows into the light.
* I took these street art photographs in Penang, Malaysia on my trip back in January 2013. Georgetown is a Unesco World Heritage Site.