The 1950 Japanese film Rashomon is the story of a murder told from the perspective of four witnesses, each of whom tells a very different tale. As you watch the movie, you are caught up in each version, thinking “Oh, this is what really happened.” But then a new witness begins to speak, and you are thrown back into the anxiety and frustration of uncertainty.
This film was the origin for the term “Rashomon effect,” used to describe the subjective nature of perception. As Anais Nin said, “We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.” Most of us live our lives in the virtual reality of our thoughts, of the stories we tell ourselves – about ourselves and the world we live in and those who live in it with us.
When something happens, we immediately start telling ourselves a story about it. If what happened was confusing in some way, our stories seek to make sense of it so that we can find comfort in “knowing” what happened. The story often judges what happened as good or bad. Our stories generate feelings of desire or aversion, and are the basis of how we react to what happened. Our world becomes a closed loop of engaging with our own stories, stories that form our own “reality bubbles.”
Recently, some things have happened that have defied my attempts to explain and understand. Various stories swirl through my mind. Before one can really settle in, another one replaces it. I can’t seem to “catch” one and hold on to it. It’s like trying to control a room full of kittens on catnip. It has left me standing in the middle of the maelstrom as a befuddled witness, trying to pick out the “right” story.
Naturally, I prefer the stories that make me look good – the hero rather than the victim, the sage rather than the fool. I like the ones that make me feel transcendently serene rather than agitated and embarrassed. I reach for the ones that offer grand spiritual gifts rather than disappointment.
But here’s the thing – they are all just stories. What happens if I just let them all go?
Start with “I don’t know.” Why not just start where you’ll end up anyway? ~Adyashanti