Keith had a family emergency. He has a two year old so we all hoped it was nothing serious. Julie, our professor, asked me if I could cover his portion of the group presentation. Could I explain the Rational Model? Sure. I told her I could. I didn’t know whether or not I was lying.
The truth seems like it should be a solid, immutable thing. Even the word “truth” sounds steady, strong, like a rock, like a thing with an absolute existence. As part of the Dharma, I have studied the dichotomy of relative truth and ultimate truth. I knew this statement, quick to reassure my fretting professor, belonged to the realm of the relative. But that wouldn’t make it any less a lie.
If someone hold up a playing card, back facing you, and asks you to tell them the suit, is your answer a lie? A guess? Maybe so. But what if that person expects you to know for certain? What if that person relies on your answer? Then is it a lie? Do you wear your confidence like a cloak?
I read the one page explanation of the Rational Model. Five minutes later I stood up and made my introductions and moved through the half a dozen slides as if I had known all along what they had said - as if I wasn’t just paraphrasing the words, making them sound extemporaneous, as I read them – as if I knew what the Rational Model was – as if I had known we had used the Rational Model for our group project (which we did, but only by stumbling into it). I felt vaguely like a fraud, but also like a success for so smoothly fulfilling all their expectations.
As I handed off the presentation to the next team member and found a seat with my group at the back of the room, Julie whispered in my ear that I had done a fantastic job. I whispered by my standard line about having become quite competent at faking confidence.
“Fake it ‘til you make it, I always say!” Julie whispered back.
I guess. On the one hand, I’ve been living that line for half of my life. On the other hand, I feel like I’ve spend half of my life living a lie. I’ve spend my life pretending confidence, knowledge, expertise, caring, conformity, happiness, equanimity, and courage.
What if I’m not confident? What if I’m unsure, ignorant, inexperienced, indifferent, antisocial, depressed, tempest tossed and full of fear?
Let’s not be melodramatic here. I’m not that either. It is a fascinating thing that as human beings we can be so vital with contradiction. We can walk the Middle Way between all these extremes. We can live within the beauty of irony, sarcasm, satire, hyperbole, and fantasy. We can come to know all the joys and sorrow of samsara – never limited to only one or the other.
We can judge, reason, and discern. We can choose the truth and in so doing, bring it into being. I made a judgment and I certainly didn’t bother choosing rationally. I chose intuitively, based at least as much on what I wanted to be so as what I felt was actually possible. Maybe that is the greatest form of delusion, but I stood up and made myself into an honest woman. I did what I told Julie I could do. In so doing, I took another step towards actually being that confident person we all fake so well.
In the absense of a "true self," maybe we can live a lie.