Nothing but the tooth
The truth excites me. Yet the more I thought and talked about it the more confused I became. I found that I knew nothing about truth. I could write pages on what truth isn’t.
It wasn’t so difficult for my youngest son Harry who was on his own quest for truth. He wanted to know if the tooth fairy was true and at the age of seven his truth was testable. He placed a tooth under his pillow without telling his parents. If the tooth was still there in the morning it meant the tooth fairy didn’t exist. This theory would have been more useful as a legitimate experiment if he hadn’t told his big sister. Once Harry was asleep she whispered his intentions to us and like countless parents on countless nights when their children are in the milk teeth phase we slipped a gold coin under his pillow and sleeping head.
It just wasn’t that easy for me- or was it? I applied the life litmus test, if I knew I was going to die tomorrow what truth would I follow? What would I want to say to the people in my life? What would I admit to myself?
It was disturbing what arose from this assumption of my artificial death, the truths I wanted to express, the conversations I wanted to have with people before I died. So why not have them, why hold back?
Truth is not straight forward, it has many strands and definitions. What is the difference between honesty and truth, personal truth and truth with a capital T? In my discussions with people one thing was clear- no one agreed on exactly what truth was. All said it was important, that it was one of the highest values a human being could uphold, that it was our destiny, the truth will set you free and all that.
I wanted to explore the philosopher’s point of view and study the ancient Greek ideas, what did the Gods say about truth?
But truth is subjective. Politicians espouse the truth on behalf of all Australians, journalists write the real truth about Iraq, Morgan Spurlock made a film about the truth behind McDonalds and Michael Moore films his version of the truth frame by frame in celloiud honesty. What are the motives for the truth these people purport to tell us?
Truth does not sit alone. Compassion, justice and humility surely are close by. And courage, where is truth without courage?
It came to a head for me when I was asked a difficult question. I lied. A bare-faced lie to protect my own interests. I pretended that I was doing it for the other person, to protect them but the truth (there it is again), was that I didn’t want to deal with the consequences of speaking the truth.
It took two days before I decided to rectify my dishonesty. I had a tight knot in my stomach and was visibly restless.
I arranged to see the receiver of this truth at a café in Byron.
I sat in the car for half an hour before the meeting writing down what I wanted to say. It looked so absurd, my truth in blue words on a scrap of paper.
‘What did you want to speak to me about?” he asked.
Even then I wanted to back out, make something up. But I confessed. I had lied. Here was the truth. It sat between us.
I felt lighter. The truth was out there, floating amongst the other truths. Owning it and speaking it was a release.
My words were received with respect; the person appreciated my honesty while not relishing the information. The outcome was different to what I expected. I felt closer to this person and was relieved not to carry the burden of the lie.
Why did the truth matter so much? Ghandi’s definitions make a lot of sense.
Truth is what the voice within tells you.
Truth is self-acting and possesses inherent strength.
I found that the value of truth is greatest for the person speaking it. A truth held internally isn’t much of a truth at all.
So while I am playing the deceptive role of tooth fairy I ponder on truth and think just how grand it is.
By Susanna Freymark