(and 2 things you might not know about how the devil builds bridges)
I present to you the Rakotzbrucke bridge in Saxony, Germany.
It’s name translates as The Devil’s Bridge. This particular one was built in 1860, though there are many other examples in Europe from medieval times — there are said to be over 50 just in France.
This concept behind this bridge was specifically to form a circle when it is reflected in the waters beneath it.
Pretty spectacular, I’m sure you’ll agree. Something from a fairytale.
But why is it called a devil’s bridge, you may ask.
Well, think back to medieval times. In those days, and let’s be honest — even today — these bridge designs were so fine, so challenging and mind-boggling to build, that the builder was said to have made a deal with the devil in order to complete it.
And in exchange, the devil would take the soul of the first human who crossed it.
Each particular bridge has its own folklore around it.
Good, fun trivia, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Is there any truth in it?
Honestly, I don’t know… Who are we to judge? Maybe you’re into devils and soul exchanges, maybe you’re not.
Selling your soul, folklore and fairytales aside though, truth is something I find very interesting.
Truth is the subject of many a heated argument in my household.
There are so many layers to it, so many facets, that it can be quite difficult to know what’s true and what’s not.
And — just to warn you, I’m in one of those moods. This might get a bit Matrix-esque.
The red pill and the blue pill.
Your perception of truth really depends on what version of reality you can see, and which you choose to operate in.
We might talk of being asleep, or awake — or, god forbid, woke.
I had a dream that I was awake and I woke up to find myself asleep.
— Stan Laurel.
But what even is truth?
As a noun, one definition is: that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.
Tracing it back, it comes from the Old English word, trēowth, meaning faithfulness.
…Now I don’t feel so crazy talking about truth, faith, and the devil building bridges…
But going back to truth — it is subjective. Our truth depends on or our perception of our reality.
This is mind bending. That’s why I love this discussion.
I also love words, and etymology, as you might have guessed. But while a word might be a label for the truth (or misstruth) — it is not truth.
Language is just how we communicate, or describe truth.
This a question of philosophy and semantics.
Just because I call a cardboard box a box and that might be true for me, it doesn’t make it true for my cat. My cat loves cardboard boxes, but it doesn’t give a shit what I call them.
For all I know, my cat thinks of them as straight-up Heaven.
When I was a bit younger and I actually was into daytime TV, I loved a show called Call My Bluff. It was a gameshow — contestants were given an obscure word and three definitions, only one of which was true, and they had to figure out which one that was.
It was great.
All this lying and deception on daytime TV.
I loved it. And myself, I was terrible at it. T-e-r-r-i-b-l-e.
But it didn’t matter – it was just a game after all.
Can I tell when someone is lying? Not in this instance — and actually, hardly ever.
But even though I’m a stickler for ‘honesty’, it really doesn’t matter to me when someone lies.
And that’s the thing about truth.
1. There are different of levels of truth.
I am just going to state that as a fact. That’s my number one take home on truth.
Your truth and my truth can differ. Our brains process things (reality) differently.
We know that as human beings, our memory is not reliable. It is a complex process that is integrally involved in all information processing steps (perception, comprehension, decision and action).
Our perception and comprehension of reality is going to differ — and how woke one is is one way of saying this that there are different versions.
Now, we are all brought up to tell the truth. (Hopefully).
We swear on oath that we will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth — but what truth are we telling?
How do we explain to children, or to those sworn in on the witness stand that there are a plethora of truths.
That how we perceive truth depends on our perception of reality. And so then, how can we possibly judge it?
It’s so subjective.
I mean, it’s pretty impossible to explain to children why some truths are acceptable and some truths must be concealed. Society kind of does that for us — but…. Yeah.
No. It’s simpler to just tell kids to always tell the truth — even when doing so, it is flagrant hypocrisy. We are very likely lying through our teeth giving that guidance – but we are duty-bound to give it.
2. Truth is our core
Here we go.
Do you want the red pill or blue pill?
We are driven to tell the truth because truth is who we are at our core.
Give me a moment to get my (cardboard) soap box out.
Except that I’m not.
I believe that God — as we think of it, or him or them — is some kind of truth, and it resides, comes from, or forms, our very core.
I believe all religions stem from this idea — or that their values and principles are formed around it.
I no longer doubt or question God. That in itself blows my mind — who even am I? It’s just something I can’t reconcile one way or the other any more.
Y’all. I was raised pretty damn atheist, but over the years of my own personal development, I’ve just come closer and closer to this idea, this belief, this faith, that it is truth that is at our core.
Ricky Gervais once postulated in an interview that if all science and religious books were erased off the face of the earth, if we lost all written records of our discoveries — that in 1000 years, if we were to later repopulate the earth, we would rediscover scientific principles, because they are real, or “true.”
And that we would not rewrite the religious texts.
… Presumably because they aren’t?
And I’m just not on board with that. I mean, sure, maybe the details. I’m not hot for taking the Biblical stories literally.
But something connects all of us, something lies deeper within is and talks to us — we’ve been paying attention to it for as long as we’ve been pursuing “real” science.
How long have we got?
This is what meditation and self-reflection and self-awareness and all of the practices enable us to do — to be able to connect to, to hear our inner voice and our inner truth more clearly.
We’ve been fascinated by this for thousands of years.
This is what guides us.
And we can choose to pay attention — to wake up to it, or we can ignore it, bury it, and stay asleep.
…Well. It’s simple.
3. The truth hurts
Ah… There’s the kicker.
Truth can be painful.
It can reveal things to us that we just don’t want to hear. Things that are inconvenient, unlikeable, unappealing.
Of course we want to avoid these things — it hurts. As human beings, we have a predilection for avoiding pain.
And that’s when things get messy.
Truth is what it is — whether it’s a trigger or a response. Whether we experience an emotion, a character trait, a behaviour. Whether we go to denial, suppression, avoidance….
However we cope with the truth, whatever coping mechanism we deploy – that’s the messy bit.
As Shakespeare says so eloquently, “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”
Truth is simply truth.
But the pain, the hurt — our response? We put that on ourselves, and we label it. The pain comes from the label.
As in the Buddhist parable of the “Second Arrow,” the first arrow is the one that inflicts the injury — but we give ourselves a second dose of harm when we label that injury and we obsess over it in our minds.
Society prescribes the standards that we are supposed to adhere to — and when we don’t meet them, ignoring them can be easier than dealing with them.
And so we make a deal with the devil so we don’t have to deal with it.
And not in the sense that we escape the second arrow.
More that the pain relief we take for the injury from first arrow spawns a whole host of other pain and suffering. The arrows just keep coming and we keep self medicating, avoiding, and running further from the truth.
That’s quite the hornet’s nest of issues — and a whole other essay, or course of therapy perhaps.
I found that working for someone else — I could avoid the truth to my heart’s content.
I could merrily skip through life and my job — and my comfortable little salary was what I got in exchange for keeping my eyes, ears and lips closed. For not having to confront my truth.
Until I accidentally started to poke that bear.
When I started to work for myself, I had to face up to some truths. And I still do — they’re still coming for me, thick and fast.
It’s hard. It’s painful.
But I’m not afraid of the pain of the truth.
While my fears may be innumerable, that isn’t one of them.
I made space for it.
I make self-care part of my daily routine so that I can nurture strength, resilience and courage.
These practices — my life — it all looks very different now working for myself compared to when I worked for someone else.
One of my mentors often said, Starting a business is the best course of personal development you’ll ever take.
So I guess I started to front up to truth — to challenge it, to redefine it, to find out what it means for myself.
I guess I reneged on my deal with the devil.
Maybe, I crossed the bridge, and I realized he wasn’t actually there waiting for his payment after all.
The point is — when it appears to you, you just have to cross that (metaphorical) bridge.*
Have no fear. Or do it scared.
Fear not the path of Truth for the lack of people walking on it.
— Robert F. Kennedy
Note to readers: Just please don’t cross the Rakotzbrücke bridge in Germany… that’s not actually permitted.