Saturday, 26 April 2014

Bitter.

The truth is a bitter root, that must be hunted for. There are clues here and there as to where we may find it. We must use all our senses. Look for signs in the shapes of leaves, or how thickly they grow. Listen to the sounds of birds that tell us something is here. Or the sounds of silence that tell us something is so fearful that few dare venture near it.

We can feel for it with our hands. It may be dry and crumble between our fingers. It may stick stubbornly, or leave a mark that is hard to wipe off. Breathe it in, and see if it chokes us, or nourishes us. We must beware if it tastes too pleasant.

Because the truth is rarely pleasant. It is bitter, and indeed quite fearful. We may leave it where it is, for others to find. Or we may choose to make the terrifying effort of digging it up. If we do, we must not throw it away. Unpleasant as it may seem, we hold something infinitely valuable in our hands. But even if we do choose to throw it away, it will not matter. We can cast it aside, crush it underfoot, even burn it. But we will never kill it. The truth can be silenced, suffocated, ignored, executed, and voted out of our existence. It does not die. It remains what it is, and it will surface again and again, whether or not we acknowledge it.

If we nurture it and nourish it, it will do the same for us, and for all the generations to come. It will be bitter, and may cause us some pain. It will be worth it.

Do you have a truth? Has it come to you too easily? Without questions or doubts or investigations? Without pain or fear or bewilderment? There is no "your" or "my" truth. Wherever there is a truth, it can only be one. Have you found it? I am still looking.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Move over Huck and Tom, here comes Satan.

Like most people, I just thought Mark Twain wrote about Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. Just seeing those names now, in my mind’s eye I can still spy Huck wading through weeds and water, still watch Tom painting that fence. Can't you?

Mostly, I thought Mark Twain lived a charmed life, travelling around the world, or ruminating on steamers and thinking up funny things to say. More recently, I realised that not everything he thought up was funny, and that much of what he thought – and said – and then wrote – was serious. 

Perhaps even then, people had already labelled him the funny guy, or perhaps he was just being cautious, and wanted to ensure his continued survival in a tribe
where applauding sycophants can easily turn into hostile executioners when
they feel their idea of the world has been threatened.

From what I have come across so far, all of Mark Twain’s writing on deathly important
matters is cotton-wrapped in humour, tied with a pretty little bow of satire, knotted firmly
with sarcasm. In the past few months I have come across several.

His War Prayer wrenched my heart, and you can watch a short film made of it here.

But it was Twain’s Letters From The Earth that really wowed me. Setting aside
his writing or cleverness, what wowed me most is that until a week ago, I never knew
that Letters From The Earth existed, or that it was Twain's last piece of work.
It’s a very clever and funny piece of fiction. Why, when the world was introducing me
to Huck and Tom, did it leave this out?

That’s a rhetorical question. I fancy I already know the answer. The hero of this story
is Satan, and the story itself is told to his fellow angels Michael and Gabriel, through
a series of letters in which he describes what he sees on a visit to our planet. It’s a probably
painful dig at traditional beliefs of who we are and where we come from.

But isn’t pain a part of life, an important part that leads to growth or escape from danger?
And aren’t we encouraged in schools and universities to study, explore, think for ourselves,
question, search, learn, grow, challenge and be open to different perspectives?

Letters From The Earth is a good piece of writing that one may see as a pleasant fiction
or an awful challenge or even a blasphemous piece of shit. My point in writing here
about it, is that somewhere, somewhen, someone did us wrong by shoving it
on the topmost shelf of the furthest bookcase of the library of human writing. I share
the information that this piece of writing exists, so that more people may have
the opportunity to know that it was here all along, and perhaps read it themselves.
I feel fuller for having read it, and don’t I say that this blog is about the things
that save my life?


Samuel Lanhorne Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain) 
30 November 1885 - 21 April 1910