Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Sad Truth Is

There are two kinds of truth, one is ordinary, the other is sad.

 You rarely hear discussions of ordinary truth, which is the closest thing to objectivity possible, a statement, for instance defining war as a disaster of a conflict in which there are bound to be extensive collateral injuries.  Someone hearing such a statement might disagree with the intensity and want it edited up to even greater specificity.  Some might take the matter in another direction by suggesting that war is a disaster of a conflict resulting from the contesting sides refusing a negotiated settlement.

A sad truth is in motion, away from objectivity, a signifier that the information of the truth is going to make someone--perhaps a great many someones--unhappy.  You'll hear such information freighted as:  "The sad truth is..." This sad truth will be wanting you to know about the attending collateral damage.  The sad truth may go so far as to state without equivocation that this particular truth is unavoidable.

So far as you're aware, there is no happy truth, although any number of individuals at all ages on the age spectrum are staunch in their belief that truth is a valuable commodity to be shared by members of the human species, although you might also hear some propaganda for the premise that w white lie--a slight stretching of the truth--is not only not a bad thing, it is in fact a good thing if used to keep someone from being hurt.

This last could be the philosophical equivalent of a fox in the chicken coop.  To let a white or minor lie slide in order to prevent person or persons from having their feelings hurt opens the door for loopholes of the sort we in America have come to associate with tax assessments, which themselves are the cause of no small amount of rancor among and also between political factions.

You could tell someone, I lie to you in order to not have to tell you X, which I judge to be hurtful to you, therefore my lie is countenanced because telling you the truth would make you feel bad.  There are responses to that trope.  If you feel bad enough about the information, which may have been presented to you as a sad truth, you might have the motivation to repair the negative effect of the information, thus what I tell you that may be hurtful but which may also be helpful, is in the long run life affirming.

True, dat, but at least one possible flaw in logic is the argument that what you consider life affirming will prove out to be life affirming to you and your belief system but not at all life affirming to the person you conveyed the sad truth to.

You also have to cope with the possibility that you are angry at the person you are telling one or more lies to.  Why should I have to lie to you or call this material to your attention when you should be able to see its effects for yourself?  This last trope adds yet another potential for logical mischief.  By your behavior, you're presenting me the option of telling you a lie or telling you a sad truth, either of which is painful for me.

At one time or another, you've found yourself taking the side of story as a means of dealing with the types of truth as you see them.  Story is not necessarily a lie but it is an invention, a conceit, a supposition that something invented did take place.  Unless an event in your story is an exact copy of something you saw take place, your version of it is a dramatic enhancement, which means it is in a sense a white lie.  You mention this because of a growing conventional belief that if you want the "true" information, you are better advised to find it in fiction than what passes for journalism or personal essay, both of which are supposed to be ordinary true.

Of the two options, sad truth interests you more than ordinary truth, although Jane Austen did set forth with the truth universally recognized in her opening sentence to Pride and Prejudice.  You prefer sad truth because sad truth is the closest thing you know to humor.  In fact, humor is a sad truth revealed, if not to the characters in the story, then to the readers of the story.  The readers see the sad truth and say in effect, that's funny.  The sad truth is often funny because the individuals who illustrate it don't see it or what's happening to them.

Sad truth often pushes those of us who care about deconstructing humor to see how a place of dread awaits, under the surface:  we readers are both fearful of the thing in the story producing humor and relieved that the thing in the story is not happening to us or, on possible reflection, they realize it has happened to them in the past.

The sad truth is, humor seems to be saying, to the characters and, in its way, to you, you're not going to get any better or smarter or younger or handsome.  You're not going to give lectures that attract the romantic attentions of coeds, nor are you going to write books that have ladies with romance in their eyes waiting for you after your book signings, so the sad truth is that you need better reasons to give lectures and write books and plan things to say about your books at book signings because, if you stop to think about it, if you were doing all these things to attract romantic attentions in the first place, you were pretty funny.

Even you can see that.

But the sad truth is, you may have waited a few minutes too long before you did see it, and so ha ha, because this is funny, too.  It is funny because you are always on safer ground making fun of yourself and your notions rather than making fun of someone else and that person's notions.

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