Friday, November 25, 2011

Truth is batty

The other day, when you were setting forth on an essay for this blog site, you broke one of your and its primary rules.  You stopped to think.  You did this rather than moving along the paths your whim guided you, opening your proposed flight of fancy to a rather rude remark from your internal editor.

Interior editors are never known for their tact and if you have had any past progress in shutting them down, they will speak up with a particular determination for survival.  They mean to be heard.  They want to be heard.  If they are not heard, they will not be heeded and how can they continue to serve their appointed position as interior editor if you pay them no heed, rather continue working despite their stratagems?

And what was this thought you stopped to think, this fatal trope that woke the sleeping interior editor from its drowse and into its curmudgeonly self?  You’d written “truth to tell,” a standard trope meant to signify the absolute veracity of the forthcoming confession.

“Whoa there, just a moment,” your internal editor bellowed, loud enough to catch your attention.  “Isn’t everything you write the truth?  And what is truth, anyway?”

Just like that, it got you.

Yes, of course you tell the truth.  Mostly.  And truth is the accurate depiction of events and facts as you recall experiencing them or as you have seen them.  Mostly.

You have a number of friends who are accomplished actors, their studies focusing on offshoots of the Stanislavski method as interpreted by the likes of Stella Adler, Sanford Meisner, Uta Hagen, and Jeff Corey.  Your great friend, Virginia Gilmore, herself a product of The Actor’s Studio, frequently spoke of the truth of a character’s persona, the authenticity of that being as she or he engaged the plot contrived by the author.

Truth is one of the words you put on your do-not-use list along with such others as “very,” “just,” “suddenly,” “almost,” “somewhat,” and other words that sound as though they mean something of exquisite exactitude but which, on closer investigation, turn out to mean no such exactness but rather a gray vagueness.  Truth is your version according to your memory and conscience, but it is equally someone else’s vision of what happened and what is.  Your truth, when watching two individuals discussing something in French is that they are having an argument.  Their truth is that they are discussing where to go for lunch.

“We need,” some character in a drama says, “to get at the truth here.”

We most certainly do.  Most effective drama is predicated on the eventual revelation of what really happened, what was felt, and how the events and feelings cohere, and—most importantly—by whom.

Truth is your version, set up against someone else’s version.  Truth is the dramatic effort expended in making several geometric figures congruent, or arguing that different geometric figures are in fact the same.

Truth is often sent to dine at the children’s table, while the adults, experienced from years of nuance, are left without need to answer the pestiferous questions of the young and literal.

Geometry provides a comfortable way of dealing with parallel lines, offering that they meet in infinity, but for the present are kept apart by a set of ninety-degree angles.  Perhaps drama can provide a comfortable way for dealing with truth, in particular those truths adjudged absolute.  How about, truth is validated only when two or more characters agree on a scenario of events and consequences?

Right, you believe that and I have some nuclear reactors in Japan I’d like you to look at.

To your internal editor’s dismay, your current take on truth is that it is the one constant guaranteed to keep story going, each character firm in the belief of the truth she or he senses.  



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