Wednesday, December 11, 2013

two true

I was reading a book of essays by Gish Jen for my customary, per book average of 18 minutes reading, total, and I fixated on a small story she told. It was about a colleague of hers, I believe one of Chinese descent, who said she decided to write novels because she didn't like to go out, and it seemed like something she could do at home. Gish Jen took this story to illustrate some point about cultural differences between east and west that was part of the greater discussion of her essays. And her point was no doubt true in its way, I mean, she seemed like she thought these things through carefully. But I was struck in a completely different way by the story. I found it to be a story of someone telling rough truth, casual truth. And I thought about it. And it made me think that, quite often, in any truth, there is the casual version, and the fancy version. Both may be true, or one at one moment, one at another. Or sometimes neither of them really get it, and underneath is the real truth.

Shall I illustrate?

We will use the question "Do you like working at the Library?"

Fancy Truth: "I love Libraries. They are one of the great wonders of our world. My job is often fun and interesting. I like the vast majority of the people I come across. If I have to work, and I'm pretty sure I do, this is, in many ways, a fantastic and honorable place to do it. I love helping to bring this place to life and I feel lucky to work here."

Casual Truth: "No."

Fancy truth is for Politicians, people getting along in the world, formal occasions, not offending, and looking at things in a conventional way. Sometimes it is a way to take care of oneself. Casual, or rough truth is good for comedians, cutting to the quick, and expressiveness. Either can be lied with, and not be true at all. Both can be true or whole or right, temporarily, for just a moment, or most of the time. But, yes, both can be, in their ways, a bit on the surface of things. And sometimes neither will quite do. Sometimes, not always, but sometimes, we must dive underneath to search for the real truth, the deep truth.

I will continue to illustrate.

"Do you like working at the Library?"

Deep Truth: Three hundred blog posts in, and I am still answering.


  1. I like this post. Sometimes when I'm at the market and the checker asks me how I'm doing, I say..."okay, I guess. I guess it depends how deeply I should answer." Sometimes the checker seems not to have heard, having asked the question hundreds of times; sometimes there's a bit of a sigh of irritation, and sometimes and flash in the eye, like gratitude, if that makes sense. But also a lot of the time I say "fine," which is okay too.

    1. Yes. I suppose to answer a question properly one must read both the questioner and oneself as well.


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