24 February 2009

An expensive hand-shovel

Professor, what a surprise! I didn’t think you were the type to visit these ‘bobo’ haunts.

Only when I wish to be benignly scammed into paying three times the price for a deliberately distressed dresser.

Benignly scammed? They’re running a racket here in broad daylight. Fifty dollars for a ‘vintage’ hand-shovel! Why, did Mendel pot his pea-plants with it?

Perhaps it was the very shovel Eve used in Eden to cultivate her petunias. Listen, I’ve read your thesis. You’re quite eloquent. And such insight for someone of your age. I'm impressed.

My insight, as you call it, comes at a price.

Oh, and what’s that?

A feeling of utter aloneness, which springs from an acute sense of one’s impenetrable subjectivity.

Hah, that’s just a convoluted way of saying you’re a misanthrope.

Perhaps I am. Perhaps justifiably so.

Come on, you’re but a spring chicken! You’re not supposed to hate all of mankind until you’re at least past forty. Or married, whichever comes first.

And I’m the cynic? Besides, you’re wrong. History is replete with young minds cursed with a penetrative gaze that pierces illusions. There have always been young malcontents.

And even more young fools with pretensions of jaded misery. Come on, young bucks like you shouldn’t be wearing your woe like a medal. It’s unnatural. Time will wear you down in due course. No need to give her a head start.

Would that it were so easy to plug the scales back onto my eyes. I see now, and sometimes I wish I were blind. Or even just severely myopic.

Ignorance can be bliss. But it would be the bliss of beasts. And bogans. We were meant to see, to know. And it’s a precious gift, even if you doubt it.

I know, I know. Despite myself, I know you’re right. But it doesn’t change the fact that my interiority, or yours, or anyone’s, is our only true possession. All other realities outside of mine are contingent, and thus pale in comparison.

That may be the case, but even if everything else outside of yourself is somehow lesser in value – if you insist on seeing things that way – does it make them less worth having?

I suppose not.

And surely there’s a redemptive quality to illusions, perhaps not all illusions, but certain harmless ones?

Like those that give hope?

Exactly! Or those that encourage the best in us to surface, or inspire us to better our own lives or the lives of others.

But what of their inherent falsity? Can lies ever be a good thing, despite our best intentions?

Well, it depends on the context, doesn’t it? Would you tell the truth about the presence of a hunted family hiding in your house to those wrongfully persecuting them? Would you tell the truth to someone if your blunt honesty would hurt them deeply? We are not logical, truth-dispensing machines. We are human beings.

Yes, I get your point. But surely we can’t be complacent when it comes to deciding which truths to withhold and which truths to tell.

That’s where personal responsibility comes in. There is no manual, despite the certitude of some religions, instructing us on what counts as a ‘white lie’ and what doesn’t. There is no escaping one’s own culpability for wrong choices made.

So, we are morally invested in our engagement, or transaction, with illusions.

Indeed. Caveat emptor! It's no one else's fault if the illusion you bought into fails to assuage your anxieties, or results in your wrongdoing.

Or in you getting conned by emotionally exploitive marketing. Can you believe it? Fifty dollars for a hand-shovel!


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