Forgive and forget? Forgive, write, and rewrite. Like James A. Michener said, ‘I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.
According to Democritus, truth lies at the bottom of a well, the water of which serves as a mirror in which objects may be reflected. I have heard, however, that some philosophers, in seeking for truth, to pay homage to her, have seen their own image and adored it instead. -Charles Francis Richter
I saw Jean Leone Jerome’s painting, ‘Truth coming out of her well’, on my Face book newsfeed. The painting was inspired by a 19th century legend about the Lie convincing the Truth to take a bath in a well. They both undress and swim in. Soon, the Lie emerges, and putting on the Truth’s clothes, runs off. The Truth was livid as she came out of the well and searched for the Lie to get her clothes back. The legend has it that, ‘The world, seeing the Truth naked, turned its gaze away, with contempt and rage. The poor Truth returned to the well and disappeared forever, hiding therein, its shame. Since then, the Lie travels around the world, dressed as the Truth, satisfying the needs of society, because, the world, in any case, habours no wish at all, to meet the naked Truth.
Jerome’s painting got me thinking about a personal experience. A while ago, I communicated a detailed business proposition to someone I know from my childhood. We reached a clear understanding on terms of agreement and I was confident enough about the deal to hire an extra hand. This was added cost for the project. However, I was foolish not to have had proper documentation of contract agreement before service execution. They say that childhood connections bring with them a sense of familiarity and security. Imagine taking a dip in the ocean having spotted a dolphin at a distance. Mid way in ocean, you discover it wasn’t a dolphin but a great barracuda. It rarely attacks humans but can cause lacerations and loss of tissues with a single bite.
Within an incredibly short time, my investment in irrecoverable time and effort on the project became at risk of being an investment in irrecoverable time and effort without return. Weeks went by after project delivery and the constant regurgitation of the same excuses over non-payment made me realise that ‘childhood friend’ had scripted the entire episode as a fool’s errand. At which point, I put a call across to ‘childhood friend’ who then suggested that we had agreed to a $100 dollar contract and not ridiculous sum they said I had made claims to. My flight tickets alone during project execution cost more than $100, so it was such an asinine assertion. My natural reaction was an outburst of laughter. ‘Childhood friend’, now turned B.S artist in my estimation abruptly cut the call and what followed was a barrage of text messages. I clearly stated via text that we might need a mediator.
I felt betrayed and emotionally clouded but my bluff about a mediator paid off. B.S artist paid up the sum of the actual contract agreement in installments and just about 8 minutes of mentioning a mediator. His claim of insolvency over payment delay proved a bizarre angle to what turned out like a poorly scripted low budget Nigerian movie.
Fund transfers were made to me through third party money lenders; the explanation given for the strange names behind the transfers. A well thought out move I later realised. There was no way the funds could be traced back to him in case of any other eventuality. A man of guile, this B.S artist!
The experience haunted me for months despite its resolution. The re-curing memories constantly delivered a low rating on my worldly wisdom and I’m someone with trust issues. I felt crappy about the paradox.
I came to the point of forgiveness, being able to forgive my naiveté with the greater challenge being how to forget my naiveté. Memories are like stars, you don’t think about them till you see them. It’s like one look at the sky on a clear cloudless night and… there you go!
I eventually determined that if I could not easily forget, I would story craft. Writing has been great escapism and a chance to humour myself about exorcising thoughts from my head unto pages where they shall forever remain, a memento of a B.S artist.
However, thoughts caused me to ruminate. What shapes who we are? Does growing up with all the privileges of money and comfort and having an easy life comparatively (this being a reference to our friend, the B.S artist), equate a lack of empathy, sensitivity and a predilection for manipulating systems and people? Does it take adversity to mold us into beings better acquainted with the finer side of our human nature. Does growing up poor and coming into money at a later stage as an instance, enable a better understanding of the purpose of wealth and the place of giving in a world where few hoard much and many have not? It is without doubt that leaving the world better than we met it demands an expression of humane-ness.
Our actions reflect character and circumstances reveal the depths of our soul but man is not necessarily a product of his environment. Who and what we become are personal choices irrespective of colour, creed and class. This I believe is the truth.
The truth beams across our souls and unveils us. We may not always like what we see about ourselves in the light of truth. So far as we strive to hold ourselves to higher standards, it is okay to be human and even more so to be one who writes about their memories.
As write, I also observe the realities of a pandemic world. Against the backdrop of how we treat one another, is the truth about how we treat nature. Our civilisation has pressured nature to the point of imminent climatic catastrophe- extreme temperatures, melting glaciers, and the resulting impact on global weather conditions.
As E.F Scumacher put it,
‘Modern man talks of a battle with nature, forgetting that, if he won the battle, he will find himself on the losing side’.
Pre-pandemic, shutting down London, New York, Tokyo and the global financial systems all at once was unimaginable. The unthinkable became inevitable and a global covid-19 lockdown proved that human life doesn’t near extinction when we are forced to move around less, limit our activities, and reduce co2 emissions. Major Indian cities like Delhi which regularly record some of the worst cases of air pollution in the world witnessed cleaner air and blue skies after India’s lockdown in March 2020. A post pandemic world demands a resolution on how best to co-exist with nature. Life will be watching and history will again record how much in touch we are or are not with our essence.
I pray that in these truly uncertain times, we learn to keep our gaze upon the naked truth. If she lies at the bottom of a well as Democritus said, then we must find her. She can lead us on the path of deep consideration where we truly treat one another and nature with decency and dignity.
Photo credit: Wiki