Understand the Truth of the Situation

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A At any moment we are acting and living within some context or situation or another that we call our life. We may be at work, lying on a beach, stuck in a traffic jam—during the course of the day we move through many acts of a play. In each we have a broad range of emotional reactions. Some are juvenile, some irresponsible, some considered. We may love or hate work, put up with it or relish its challenges, long to be at the beach or out of this damn traffic jam. Quite naturally, we try to minimize the bad experiences and amplify the good. Consider for a moment the question:

What do you understand is the truth of your own situation at this very moment?

Put down the book and resist reading on until you have given yourself some minutes to contemplate your answer.

You will have likely considered some of the following features relating to the truth of the situation:

  • The immediate environment you are in.
  • Your age.
  • Your career.
  • Whether you have a family.
  • Where you live.
  • Your mood.
  • What happened today, maybe an argument or a good moment with a friend.
  • How you feel, whether or not you are happy, sad, fulfilled, unfulfilled.
  • Whether you have goals, purposes, targets, visions.
  • Whether you feel good about how well you are doing with regard to how you would want your life to be.

Of course, all of these are part of life but may seem like so many fragments without some unifying context. Many elements of the situation may conflict with others:

  • I still feel young even though I am close to 60
  • I want to do more but my commitments don’t allow me to
  • If I wasn’t surrounded by this team the whole project would be flying by now
  • If I didn’t have financial commitments I would have left.

The SQ way of thinking starts by exploring the larger context of life as primarily important, rather than finding meaning in arranging the details. It says that no matter what we are doing, there is at that moment a main theme underpinning all of our experience. Once we understand the truth of that theme, there can begin to be continuity and meaning to the whole of life as we live it. We cease to be subject to the emotional attachments to each small act; instead, we develop an inner freedom that opens up all kinds of opportunities to act and be intelligent in the present that otherwise would not be accessible.

I remember being in a traffic jam with the man to whom this book is dedicated, Leo Armin. I was clearly wound up, tense, utterly focused on getting to our destination, and frustrated at not being able to move a single meter forward, when he turned to me and said quietly: “This is still our time. This is still our life.” In that moment my awareness shifted from the frustrations of the traffic jam to the challenge to engage. The car, the other person, and I were all that was in the now—in that moment he nudged me toward the why that caused me to engage with what was present. I felt how immature it was of me to keep projecting my energies toward a place that I knew I would be frustrated in getting to.

No matter how hot I became, I was not going to change the fact that I was stuck. I call this greater context of life the truth of our situation. This book focuses on the intelligence that understands the truth within each and every situation. More than possessing a high IQ or a mature EQ, understanding the truth of our situation at any moment is the most intelligent and practical pursuit. When we understand why things are the way they are, we are able to engage wisely and maturely. SQ brings maturity to EQ and IQ.

The Three l=Levels of Truth

So, what is it to understand the truth of the situation? Our first insight might be that each situation is different and therefore the truth of each situation must be different. Truth exists at each level of the great chain of being. What we perceive as the truth of our situation is as much to do with what intelligence perceives it to be. To ask about the truth is one thing, to seek the truth another, but to knock on its door, to face the truth in ourselves, is something quite different. Sometimes we find that the door is right in front of us and is opened inwardly not by pushing harder but by trying less in the wrong way with the wrong intelligence.

Truth one: Temporary truth

Temporary truth is what we call truth today that proves itself not to be true tomorrow or in the next moment. Temporary truth is nothing more than the ephemeral way we color each changing moment or each changing moment colors us. We balance one material reality with another. When we are based in temporary truth we are mostly aware in an alarmist way, too personal, too changing and reactive, trying to center ourselves in a state that makes us feel good or provides (temporary) relief from stress or effectively avoids the greater truth of our situation.

Temporary truth is the domain of the fixed intelligent identity that imprisons our SQ core. To adhere rigidly to temporary truth is the identity of the lost, the avoider, the shallow, and the superficial. As long as we are in the grip of the temporary truth we will never see from the new intelligence at our core. I am driving my car along a country road one morning, telling myself that everyone on the road should drive slowly so they can take in the sights and sounds and sensations along the way. I mentally pass this as a law, a decree that everyone should obey, having seen the merit of it personally. It is safe, considerate, and makes perfect sense to me as I lightly touch the button that winds down the window and let the spring breeze gently waft through the car to the exact degree that is comfortable.

I am driving at 50 kph and enjoying the views and the sun and I don’t want to be pressed by anyone. Life is good with my new law that all drivers should drive slowly and considerately. I won’t have my world disturbed by those who do not adhere to the law of the road as I have passed it. I become aware of a car behind me that is contravening this new law. It wants to overtake. I am doing 50 kph in a 50 kph zone, so my law also conforms to the traffic regulations on this road. I am vindicated and proved right once again. I have a legal right to resent the person behind me exerting pressure on me to go faster (as it seems). My awareness is firmly shaped by the temporary truth I have adopted.

The potential for rage is lurking under the bonnet and I am ready to explode at those who might disturb the peace. However, I am suddenly jolted into another perception as I notice the time. I didn’t realize I had spent so long getting to this appointment. I haven’t got all day just to admire the view, I have work to do. Another temporary truth supplants the previous one, equally compelling and “right” as the previous one, and I put my foot down, 50, 60, 70 kph. No one drives within the speed limit, I tell myself. Limits are just indications to sensible people. A new philosophy emerges. Everyone should drive efficiently to get where they want. Driving is not something that should be sightseeing on wheels. If you want to enjoy the view, get out and walk, don’t hold everyone up. My temporary truth has shifted to another temporary truth. The slow driver in front of me, who a moment before I had seen as my buddy, suddenly becomes my mortal foe, holding me up and preventing me from getting to my appointment. As I overtake, my suspicions are confirmed—the driver even looks selfish and mean.

The more fixed and intolerant we are in ourselves, the fewer the range of choices we perceive. To put it in biological terms, the more we use ourselves up in altering the temporary truth, the more we diminish the resources of our immune system, the less we can tolerate any flux that allows real change. Good and strong immunity provides the basis for broad-based elective behavior.

Truth two: Semipermanent truth

Semipermanent truth encompasses the daily rules and parameters that life defines. The rules of a football match, social conventions, agreements to be on time, politeness, courtesy, decency, the rules of engagement between the collective of society and the individual— these are the domains of semipermanent truth, without which life would be disordered and intolerable. They are laws of convention, albeit ones that can be stretched this way and that. They are socially evolved from our history—they make sense even if they are at times interpreted to the advantage of the self-centered.

What would it be like to play a sport like golf, football, or baseball without any rules? The process of the game would be quite aggravating, meaningless, and without pleasure. We may try to get away with stretching the rules, but we don’t want to be seen as out-and-out cheats. It is precisely within the rules of engagement that the merit of the sport is discovered, just as it is within the rules of daily living that we derive notions of success. Even being good losers has its virtue (at least for the British!). The contest, the act of self-proving, the search for excellence, winning “fairly,” developing skills, extending the physical and mental limits—these would be lost if there were no rules by which to measure the effort taken.

Semipermanent truths enshrine our fight or flight ethic. We want to win and we want to ensure that we don’t lose, so we evolve rules that give parameters of behavior ensuring that the spoils of battle are as evenly divided as they can be regulated to be. If we are watching a football match and winning is everything for us, what is important will be perceived accordingly. Our awareness will not be of the whole match but more of the performance of our team in relation to scoring goals. It is the struggle not to lose, the drive to win, the competition itself that spur the team and the individual to try to excel. This is the fight and flight competitive edge.

My wife and I wanted to sell our house and went to a local real estate agent. He came to look at the house and suggest a price. He would sell the house more quickly if the price were low, but if he set too low a price he knew that we would go to another agent and he would make no commission. So the two considerations lean in different directions and define the convention. He would make the seller happiest if he sold the house at a high price and he would make the buyer want to buy the house if the price were kept low.

However, a “fair price” that a real estate agent comes to because he knows he can’t get away with cheating either the buyer or the seller is not the same “fair price” as that to which someone comes from the notion of fairness as a first principle, even though both processes may arrive at the same price. Semipermanent truth is the domain of character, what is decent and legitimate, what observes the “rules of engagement” that maintain fair standards and decency. It suggests an individual who has reached their own views and is reliable, trustworthy, and sincere. They make a profit but acknowledge that it is their hard work, their reliability that is being paid for. Character must always have recourse to a higher domain of self-questioning, otherwise it is nothing more than an outward act. This domain is the consideration of permanent truth.

Truth three: Permanent truth

Permanent truth is always the greater truth, the higher truth, the level of truth that we cannot escape, manipulate, cheat, or get away from. It is this truth that I call the truth of the situation. We can only acquiesce to permanent truth and understand its influence, we cannot manipulate it for our own ends. It is a law in the way that Cecil B. de Mille describes in the film The Ten Commandments: “It is impossible for us to break the law. We can only break ourselves against the law.” The laws or principles of permanent truth describe the “why” of the bigger picture. Plant a tree and watch it grow every day through the four seasons and you will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is intelligence in the growth of all things.

Nevertheless, a flower growing or a season passing represents the childhood expression of the law. They do not have a choice. What makes the human part in intelligence so compelling is that we can deliberately embrace whatever level of truth we choose. If we return to the three stages of intelligence, we can see how and why this principle governs the potential process of human growth. We are born with an SQ core that is fully engaged and in time that “season” passes. In place of the inner driving SQ core, we become aware of a space that invites us to step in, to choose, to become. This is a different kind of engagement than childhood. If we do not choose to engage in that opportunity, childhood will forever remain the high point of our life and all the rest will carry a sense of diminishment or failure. We will remain in adolescence for life.

Even the feelings of existential emptiness that we ascribe to depression, anxiety, or burnout are meaningful in that they bring to our awareness an increasing consciousness of the choice to live that we have not yet made. The SQ path is a life that examines the truth of the situation, that leaves nothing to chance, that wishes to join the truth of the situation at the highest level and is a level of self based in permanent truth. It is more than character: it is the core of meaning based on core principles. It cannot be approached as a secondary element—it is the first principle of every adult life.


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