Wednesday, August 29, 2012

To Seek Out Prudent Truths

Dear Amavero,

Without pretending to really know what is best, I would at least offer hope that some good thing may be found, "by dint of trying", as St. Jean Vianney put it (in a translation read me by Utrecht).

It may well happen that some truth must needs remain hidden --- as when it must be that "hearing, they may not hear; and seeing, they may not see". Sometimes this is because the truth is too good to see, sometimes because it is to awful, sometimes because who wants to know seeks to know for no good cause.

Without countenancing the falsity of the premise1, there is a perfectly good thing any host of the Chosen People can say regarding his safe harbour: "there are none here but my own family". The trick --- yes, there is a trick --- is to make it true. Of course it was one of the National Socialist schemes to hack apart all loyalties that were not to the Vaterland (even to one's own Vater), and so this perfectly good thing to say is ultimately of limited practical appeal; nonetheless, it is, once you make it true, a true and completely unenlightening thing to say.

The core, the heart of this scheme --- not a deceptive plot, just an old greek σχημα --- jumped out on recent rereading that second chapter of the first volume, The Shadow of the Past, wherein the angel-bound-to-earth says
I will give you a travelling name now: when you go, go as Mr. Underhill.
It's that simple. The wandering exile whose old name it is not safe to bear in the Wild can indeed honestly say he is called Underhill, because he is called Underhill. It's also true, though mostly poetical, that he comes from Under Hill --- from under Buck Hill, to be very precise, though he had, since he was 19 (I think?) dwelt in the hill known only as The Hill.

However. All I mean to say is that speaking truthfully, the virtue of honesty, is a deeper and richer thing than reporting facts. A recent equaintance has written to suggest that that fiction is good which "convicts the reader of some important truth". I will amplify, and echo the editor of the Red Book so far as to say that that fiction is good which tells the truth of itself. That is, if the story runs false (and I don't mean "fantastically" --- there is truth in fantasy) then not only is it uncompelling as an argument for anything, but it hasn't even told you the story it should have done! If somehow one tells a story that seems perfectly sensible so far as it goes, but doesn't "convict", then clearly the teller has told us the wrong part of the story --- which is quite as dishonest as telling what doesn't belong to the story as if it did.

This does not, of course, suffice to excuse anyone who would perform live theatre as if it were not theatre --- or who would catch orcs with falsehoods. It perhaps suggests a truer way to discover truth, however; for I have sisters --- many sisters --- who are deemed "too young", but nonetheless by ill choices or ill chances find themselves jointly responsible for new life --- my cousins...


1) I find it increasingly hard to believe that a 3rd-Reich-loyal soldier would stop at the front door and ask for directions, if his squad wanted to rout out the hiding non-aryans.


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