Friday, July 04, 2008

we are all fish

I am in the middle of reading a book called Gould's Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish by Richard Flanagan. It's very weird in an 18th-century meets Fight Club meets Griffin and Sabine sort of way. At the moment, it feels very physical, very dense, very difficult but true. Here's a taste from the narrator and fish-painter:

They diminish me with their definitions, but I am William Buelow Gould, not a small or mean man. I am not contained between my toes & my turf but am infinite as sand.

Come closer, listen: I will tell you why I crawl close to the ground: because I choose to. Because I care not to live above it like they may fancy is the way to live, the place to be, so that they in their eyries & guard towers might look down on the earth & us & judge it all as wanting.

I care not to paint pretend pictures of long views which blur the particular & insult the living, those landscapes so beloved of the Pobjoys, those landscapes that trash the truth as they reach ever upwards into the sky, as though we only know somewhere or somebody from a distance--that's the lie of the land while the truth is never far away but up close in the dirt, in the vile details of slime & scale & filth along with the Devil, along with the angels, & all snared within the earth & us, all embodied in a single pulse of a heart--mine, yours, ours--& all my subject as I take aim & make of the fish flesh incarnate.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

truth vs. falsehood

Some people say that religion is just a collective delusion—that it’s all false and the hope we find isn’t real. Karl Marx is famously quoted as saying “Religion is the drug of the masses”—that is, religion lulls us into a false sense of security and joy. I suppose they could be right. I mean, we’re surrounded by false images. Ads for anything from make-up to beer are touched up to the point that they barely resemble their original subjects. And they tell us we can be prettier, smarter, and better-liked if we just buy a certain product.

But who tells us the truth? How do we know when something is really truly true?

I just watched Lars and the Real Girl [PG13]. It’s about this painfully introverted guy Lars who buys a life-sized doll and falls in love with her. Sounds weird, huh? Well, it is a bit, but it’s also really beautiful. It’s not really the story of his love for “Bianca” but about his small town’s love for him. He’s obviously delusional (thinking that “Bianca” talks to him and has a whole other life) but they go along with it. It’s very funny at times—the moment he introduces her to his family is priceless, mostly because you’re cringing the whole time. It’s dark humor about how even a lie can bring joy.

And that’s what I want to say to people who doubt what I put my faith in. Greater minds than mine have tried to prove the existence of God so I won’t try here. But I do want to say that the joy that “Bianca” brings to this small town and the community Lars experiences are so very real. Who’s to say that “Bianca” isn’t real, too?
Maybe truth comes in different and surprising packages. My experience of the world tells me that God is not a lie, that the comfort and challenge I find at church are not false but deeply true. Others may look into my life and say it’s all a delusion, but to me, the beauty and ugliness of the entire story are Truth.