“We live in an age of surfaces,” quoth Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. I taught that on Monday. “We live, as we dream, alone,” quoth Marlow in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. I taught that on Wednesday. Marlow’s loneliness stems, I think, from Lady Bracknell’s surfaces, from that fact that we only see the exteriors of people, only what they do; we don’t get to see, often, who they actually are.
Both stories, in very different ways, deal with the issue of truth. How do we know it? Can we know it? What is it, when it is known? I hadn’t expected them to fit together as well as they do, but they do.
Buzzwords in our culture are “authentic” and “real.” They are so much used that I shy away from them, feeling that their popularity has rendered them inauthentic and unreal. They’ve become a part of our culture’s surface, things everyone wants to be, but things defined externally: “authentic” people have to fit a certain mold, look a certain way. We get so fixated on letting people see the messy authenticity of our lives, that showing them a clean room can seem artificial somehow. Even though our versions of “messy” can often be just as artificial.
Truth comes, I think, not from trying to be real or authentic, but from being about something bigger than what you are, something bigger than you are. The most real people I’ve met aren’t too worried about being real; they’re worried about what is real. They love the Truth.
Truth is neither the ridiculous farce of Oscar Wilde’s play, nor the grim horror of Conrad’s story. It combines both. Wilde’s characters get better than they deserve. Conrad’s come against the truth of their own depravity. The truth — Truth — presents us with our depravity, and offers us wildly more than we deserve: life for our death, hope for our desperation, glory in place of our shame. Christ wears the horror of our iniquity and clothes us with the earnest that is His blood, a promise for a future in which we are His and like Him.
Those who dwell in this Truth, delight in this Truth, live in this world of dim reflections, of surfaces, but they have a foot in the Kingdom of face-to-face. They are known fully, and they shall fully know.
The truth is, I broke all the rules in composing this, but I did start with Lisa-Jo’s Five Minute Friday prompt: “truth.” If you’d like to join in, or read more posts on her prompt, use the button above.
©2013 by Stacy Nott