October 13, 2010

The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Christine O’Donnell

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—
Success in Circuit lies

Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise 

As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind—
Emily Dickinson

The Quakers believe very strongly in telling the truth…kinda like yogis and Buddhists, in that way. In the early days they called themselves “Friends of Truth,” which eventually morphed into “the Society of Friends.”

Then, they’re also quite justifiably proud of the role they played in the Underground Railroad, which wouldn’t have worked so well if they’d told slave catchers “I cannot tell a lie. They’re hiding in the root cellar.”

The moral of this story is: there’s a time and a place for everything, even those things that don’t happen to be true.

She had nothing left to say, so she said she loved me.
And I stood there grateful for the lie…
Doug Hopkins

A somewhat similar issue arose when noted fundamentalist Christian/one-time experimenter with witchcraft and Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell brought up her own ideas on the sanctity of the truth on Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect:

To sum up: O’Donnell wouldn’t want to lie to save Jews from being murdered because that would be disrespectful to Hitler. That’s what I call sticking to your principles…or complete idiocy…or something.

John Keats wrote beauty is truth, truth beauty…and yet it’d be difficult to think of anything more beautiful than the heroism of people risking their own lives to save those running from slave-catchers or Nazi storm-troopers…and that includes their necessary lies.

Top image: Rene Magritte, This is Not a Pipe

*adapted from a much shorter piece at Yoga for Cynics*

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