November 2 – The Hunt for Truth, Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

” I take a wolf’s rib and whittle it sharp at both ends and freeze it in blubber and place it out on the fairway of the bears. And when it has vanished I move out on the bear tracks, roaming in circles for days.” Galway Kinnell

The way that Eskimo hunt bear for food is powerfully captured in Galway Kinnell’s poem “The Bear.” Yet just as Eskimo hunt food for survival, we often find ourselves searching for an inner food known as truth. For the authenticity of living is not just an interesting idea or an eloquent feeling. Authenticity, the experience of truth, is our richest food. Without it we will freeze to death.

Two lessons happen to Kinnell’s Eskimo that are difficult to take in. On the third day out, the hunter is starving as much as the hunted, and at nightfall he stoops as he knew he  would to gnash down a bear turd sopped in blood.

What this tells us is that no matter what we say we will or will not do, no matter the imperious standards by which we judge ourselves and the world, we humbly can’t know what we will do when starving for truth. And rightly so, for life on Earth often brings us to our knees so that something can take root. When dying of cancer,I, a proud Jew who vowed never to kneel, found myself on my knees before a Catholic healer who laid hands on the tumor on my brain. While feeding on truth can disrupt the ways we like to see ourselves, it can also deeply affirm that we as human beings are resilient beyond anything we can imagine.

A second imperative occurs when the Eskimo, seven days out, is half-frozen as the bear finally dies, and he is forced to enter the gutted cavity of the bear to survive the cold. For those of us who search for truth in cold modern streets, we are told here that arriving at the truth is not enough. We need to put it on, to inhabit it, to actually enter and wear the truth.

So where do we begin? Well, the Eskimo also teach us how to hunt for truth in the way they fashion their bait. Not by intellectual debate or esoteric study, but by risking something of ourselves, by placing something troublesome and sweet in the open. By offering something essential from our hunger and coating it with our vulnerability, we call the greater truth into the open with the smaller. Humbly and unavoidably, the need for truth will lead us into the unexpected living of our lives beyond all images of perfection.

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