Welcome to my blog. I tend to take the world seriously, probably a fault, but a personal habit nonetheless. This seriousness includes the presumption that what passes in public as truth probably isn’t, and that the glances and sniffs one gets walking around are signs of and on a trail toward truth. I grant myself the fancy that I’m searching for truth when I write. Maybe you do too.
At the same time, I distrust words, as would any alert reader of José Saramago‘s novels, as I enthusiastically try to be. Words, as he has often noted, have a tendency to run away from us, taking us hostage with them, on and on, one after the other, until the worlds thereby created collapse into absurdity. Then too, words are all the writer has, and as those novels also prove, profound truths sometimes—and in Saramago‘s case often—coalesce, brood, brew and distill into what reads as essential wisdom, or as at least an arresting folk saying. We may seek to be profound, but we are most likely to end up in absurdity. Truth might be thought of as the top of a summit or a boundary region that can be approached, neared, verged upon, and converged around, but arrived at and dwelt in only momentarily and with difficulty. Profundity and absurdity are the Janus-faced aspects of hope and risk in the search for truth. Here are a few Saramago quotes to illustrate his attention to the prospects of words:
Life is like that, full of words that are not worth saying or that were worth saying once but not any more, each word that we utter will take up the space of a more deserving word, not deserving in its own right, but because of the possible consequences of saying it. Saramago (2002) The Cave, Harcourt (p. 28)
Words are like that, they deceive, they pile up, it seems they do not know where to go, and, suddenly, because of two or three or four that suddenly come out, simple in themselves, a personal pronoun, an adverb, a verb, an adjective, we have the excitement of seeing them come irresistibly to the surface through the skin and the eyes and upsetting the composure of our feelings, sometimes the nerves that cannot bear it any longer, they put up with a good deal, they put up with everything. Saramago (1997) Blindness, Harcourt (p. 281)
It had proved a difficult dialogue, with traps and false doors swinging open at every step, the slightest slip could have dragged him into a full and complete confession if his mind had not been attentive to the multiple meanings of the words he carefully pronounced, especially those that appeared to have only one meaning, those are the ones you have to be most careful with. Contrary to what is generally believed, meaning and sense were never the same thing, meaning shows itself at once, direct, literal, explicit, enclosed in itself, univocal, if you like, while sense cannot stay still, it seethes with second, third and fourth senses, radiating out in different directions that divide and subdivide into branches and branchlets, until they disappear from view, the sense of every word is like a star hurling spring tides out into space, cosmic winds, magnetic perturbations, afflictions. Saramago (1999) All the Names, Harcourt, (p. 114)
It is easy to forgo, embellish, exceed, or forsake truth. Most people, my cynic self tells me, do that. There are two familiar ways to miss or dismiss truth. The first is to turn terror, fear and angst into a need for enduring certainty. One says: the following is true, that’s my belief, now leave me alone to wear these acquired habits, never ask about that subject again. There seem to be people who are so certain of everything that they have settled the problems of life forever. They live in deadening habits.
The other way to dismiss truth is to need and love power. One says, I’m in charge, I hold the power, I’m the authority, what I say is certain, what I say is true, it should be good enough for you, if you don’t like it, leave.
Maybe these two sources of untruth are really one. Would power be needed if a person weren’t afraid? This confusion of mine about whether there are one or two or more roads to self deception is itself an example of the tendency to go beyond truth, to excess, by bypassing the issue under immediate discussion for attention to a related but different one. I don’t know how many reasons there are for giving up truth, or of all the sources of self-deception and lies. Who says lying is the only way to forsake truth. To retain humility, or if not that, to avoid embarrassment, or perhaps to lower the bar, I tell myself that my blog entries will be mostly awkward stabs at truth. It is dangerous to think that truth will be hit directly or often by one’s words. In an age of dead certainty, my stabs are likely to conspire and consort with the words of a legion of other murderers of truth. You know who you are! All right, then, you know who they are! Who cares, it’s up to the reader to decide.
Another digression suggests itself. Is humor a friend of truth or its abandonment? Satire and parody presume that humor and truth are friends. Like any digression, this question, any question, a question asked, sparks thought and words, and moves on and along with every stab at truth. As Kurt Vonnegut had a character say, “And so it goes.”
Anyhow, Welcome. I expect to post every other week. I look forward to your comments. Guest contributors are welcome.
November 14, 2011©