I went on a train trip recently that included multiple stops for no apparent reason. Several of the passengers, including me, were giving our various explanations for why a particular stop had happened. And one time, in the middle of sharing my own
particular perspective, I realized something significant and broke out laughing.
In a single instant I realized I had absolutely no idea why the train had stopped.
But here I was, observing myself confidently speaking
as if I knew, giving a convincing reason that made complete sense in my own mind, and holding several other passengers (relative strangers) in rapt attention and agreement as if my words were truth. I hadn't asked the train engineer why. I had just figured
it all out for myself. It all just struck me as incredibly funny.
In that moment, I had seen in a flash, all the various thousands of things about the train and the trip that I didn't know the answer to, but had created stories in my mind
to explain away the what's and whys. I saw how little my mind was satisfied with "not knowing" and was continually filling in plausible answers to the questions that appeared in my head... What is this strange little shelf in our cabin actually designed for?
Why do those passing trees look like feathers? Why are the hooks designed this way?... oh wait, I KNOW.
In that moment I shared my realization with the other passengers... "Oh my God, I am making all this stuff up. I have absolutely no
idea why we had that stop. I know NOTHING about trains. Yet here I am explaining away as if what I'm saying is truth. And I see myself doing it with such confidence and conviction, and I see all of you watching and listening and nodding and believing. Isn't
that hilarious? Oh my God, I... we... do this... all... the... time!"
For me this was just another reminder of many that I continue to get about a profound change in my understanding of life a few years ago... "Holy crap, every single
thought I've ever had in my entire life has been completely made up, I'm living in a complete illusion." That realization seemed incredibly funny then too.
After my amusing admission, we had a discussion about the convincing power and
illusory nature of thought that also seemed to hold their rapt attention and mine... except this time, relatively speaking, I think I was making a lot less stuff up. Although, who really knows? At the very least, it seemed like lots of fun and we had a few
good laughs and a few moments for connection and reflection. Perhaps that's enough.