Friday, July 16, 2010

singing the truth together

I recently I discovered a very early book, After Long Silence, by my favorite science fiction writer Sheri Tepper. In the story, humans have settled on a world they view as devoid of sentience, but which is inhabited by at least two sentient races--one huge crystalline entities, and the other small, furry, mammalian creatures called "viggy" by the humans. Through the viggy, Tepper critiques certain aspects of humanity by posing a more attractive alternative. Here is an extended quote, that I think says something extraordinarily valuable about communication and truth, and the error of human ways:
"Memory is a strange thing. A viggy would experience a thing and remember it. Another viggy would experience the same happening and remember it as well. And yet the two memories would not be the same. On a night of shadow and wind, one viggy might sing that he had seen the spirit of his own giligee [nanny], beckoning from beside a Jubal tree. Another viggy might sing he had seen only the wind, moving a veil of dried fronds. What had they seen, a ghost or the fronds? Where was the truth in memory? Somewhere between the spirit and the wind...

When the troupe traveled down a tortuous slope, one would remember pain, another joy. After a mating, one would remember giving, another would remember loss. No one view would tell the truth of what occurred, for truth always lay at the center of many possibilities.

Many views yield the truth...This was the first commandment of the Prime Song. Only when a happening had been sung by the troupe, sung in all its various forms and perceptions, could the truth be arrived at. Then dichotomy could be harmonized, opposition softened, varying views brought into alignment with one another so that all aspects of truth were sung."
One of the benefits of blogging (and Facebook) for me has been not just singing my song of my life, but having others who were present sing their song back to me, and I come to see how limited my own perspective was then and continues to be. Often just the fact of writing things down, has opened my eyes to not just the possibility of other perspectives, but of the great likelihood that my perspective was seriously flawed, limited and self-absorbed. Having high school and college friends respond with their own memories has enriched my understanding in ways I never anticipated.

I don't think that this search for truth together means that all perspectives are equally valid. For example, there are always those students who insist "I don't care what the statistics say, divorce HAS to be increasing." [It's not by the way, it has been declining since 1981, and is lower today than it was in 1967]. But it is worth us trying to discover together what it is about their life experience that makes them feel as if the divorce rate were increasing.

We appear to be at a juncture in our social and political history, when the lessons of the viggy might be good ones to remember.


Will said...

Wow. Yes. Like Rashomon. What a beautiful idea, a culture that recognizes that the perceptions of an individual are only fragments of the truth.

SandyCarlson said...

I share the same rewards of blogging and Facebooking. It's a positive thing all the way around. Amazing how the same things are very different to each of us.

joy said...

You are so inspiring and insightful. I love reading what you write.