Thursday, January 6, 2011

Anchored to a Sandbar; or, The Truth is Always Shifting

Plinky asked: "Is it always better to know the truth, even when it hurts?"

Not always. Sometimes (excuse the expression) you can't handle the truth. Are you going to tell a five-year-old that his mommy was raped and dismembered in Central Park? When Grandma has Alzheimer's in the nursing home and every day forgets that Grandpa died five years ago are you going to break her heart every day so she isn't misinformed? What about if you've just moved in with someone, and maybe life isn't that grand because you have to scrape for rent and food but you're happy, but if you tell your dad he'll sweep in and take you away and you'll spend the rest of your life being mollycoddled?

The easiest answer is "yes, the truth is always the best," but that seems very monochromatic to me. Shades of grey means that nothing's easy. Besides (and I promise I'll restrain from expanding on this) but what is the truth? Something you may see as absolute truth - for instance that it is time for you to move away from your family and start your own life - may not be absolute for someone else - like your little sister, who draws strength from your closeness and appreciates that you don't leave her to deal with mom and dad all alone.

The truth can limit a person, too. Sometimes, if you don't know the truth (for instance, your friend's truth that your artwork is dull and unoriginal) it turns out not to be the truth (when you end up having a show in a gallery in SoHo). Truth is inconstant, and as a species we give it way too much credit.

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