The sage was never at a loss for favorite sayings. One of them during those years was the truth is like a lion; set it free and it can defend itself.
It is quite true that there is something primal about truth that makes it fearsome. There really is no other explanation for the many guises we can often place it in, or the endless ways we seek to frame it and spin it and coerce it into implications and innuendo. It might also be said that the truth is like a hammer; it is impactful, has no moving parts, makes no apologies, and is utterly reliable. But there is one other thing about truth that stirs fear back to the Dawn of Humankind reaches of our most primitive brain. The lion of truth roars down the well of our soul and brings light to its darkest places, not caring what may live there. Said another way, truth frightens us for the fact that it’s the truth.
Navigating the roiling ocean of a human life, we often can let our fears and our fragile egos steer us away from the truth. We can see it as relatively easy and risk-free to put a padlock firmly on the lion’s cage door, to say what is convenient or most face-saving or exciting, and let it be the truth du jour. The story will do, since no one cares, really, so just say what you want, we may tell ourselves. Most often, all this happens out of sight of our conscious mind, so we don’t know we’re lying, but we are and we do. And if we do this over a long enough period of time, we see a strange thing begin to happen: To our eye, the lion grows larger in its cage – it becomes harder for us to tell the truth as the prospect of releasing the lion becomes more terrifying. As more time passes, we see the lion begin to look hungrily at our stories, and we realize with a feeling of dread that if we open that cage door and let it out, the lion might actually eat our world as we understand it, and us along with it.
As a lion pads the earth, so it is true that truth happens on the ground. It is right there at the moment our feet press into the dirt; truth is the sand at the ocean’s side and the waves crashing upon it. It is as elemental as the air that surrounds us; truth permeates everything and has no limit to its sublime authority. A man standing on that shoreline looking up into the cloudless noontime sky and proclaiming the sky is purple is enjoying a story he is weaving for his own pleasure, but he is not telling the truth. One might not go so far as to categorize his proclamation as a Lie, with a capital L, but nonetheless it is not the truth. Untruths, fibs, or lies – whatever we want to call them, statements on the scale of the sky is purple can and often do fill the days of a human life. A cascade of such statements can surround us on all sides – even issued by us, if that is how we choose to live, if we choose not to keep our feet solidly on the ground, where truth happens. This avalanche of fanciful untruth crowds in around us, shouting for our attention and demanding we respect it. And with the certainty of light vanquishing darkness, there is one way to silence this mewling cacophony, to reclaim our clarity of vision over this unreal tapestry: We must set the lion free.
Truth: When we make the truth our standard, we walk with the lion as our ally, because not only does the truth defend itself, it defends us. Over time, the truth comes to be known as our steady companion. We don the lion’s skin and feel its living blood coursing in our veins, as its fierceness becomes our own. By speaking truth, we free ourselves with the knowledge that the world as it really is is on our side. We have a right to the noble comfort of connection to all worthy persons who have walked the paths of their lives under the banner of truth. By living our own lives according to that standard, we ally ourselves with them, becoming part of a timeless association with these worthies, simply by overcoming our fears, seeing things as they really are, and speaking the truth. And when we do, we commit to using truth, primal and untethered, to communicate and to connect with the world around us, just as simply as our feet press into a sandy shore, beneath a crystal-blue sky.