Posts Tagged ‘Shakespeare’

“A sad tale’s best for winter.”

Saturday, December 26th, 2020

Shakespeare’s late romance, The Winter’s Tale, is full of contrivances and plot holes, including perhaps the most famous stage direction in history, “Exit, pursued by a bear,” yet it remains among my favorites. The title itself is a mystery. The only plausible reference in the text is young Mamillius’s offhand comment, “A sad tale’s best for winter,” even though the play ends in an unexpected reconciliation. So it is that I associate the play with Christmas, as so much of the Christmas story, as in the stories of our lives, finds joy in sad and difficult terrain: long, hard journeys; no room at the inn; Herod’s jealous rage; the flight to Egypt.

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Caring for Words, X: Tell the Truth

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018


I once was in a group discussion on social justice (is there a justice that’s not social?) at which one the discussants, whom I’ll call Kevin, chose to lecture the rest of us on the nonexistence of truth. “When someone talks about ‘truth,’” he said, “what they mean is what’s true for them. Your truth isn’t necessarily my truth, but they’re both true. Yours is no better than mine. We should stop talking about the truth because there’s no such thing.”

Kevin continued in that postmodern vein for what seemed to me a very long time. I wriggled in my seat, ready to voice disagreement, but when he finally stopped explaining the way things really are, the group leader quickly steered the conversation in another direction. It was later that night (in what the Germans call a Treppenwitz, the perfect witty retort you only think of while heading upstairs to bed) that I arrived at the appropriate response: “But Kevin, is that true?”

No one this side of the grave can claim certain access to “The Truth” in its entirety. Not even “Science” (with a capital “S”) can pull that off. Yet if my truth has precisely the same validity as Adolf Hitler’s or Charlie Manson’s, what’s the point of discussing anything, social or otherwise, each of us forever stranded on the reef of solipsism?

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