Saturday, 14 July 2012


I was going to tell you about something that happened this afternoon, but unfortunately although this was this afternoon two weeks ago I haven’t got round to doing anything about it until now.


I was going to pretend that it had happened on the day I wrote it. No one would be any the wiser (especially as it relates to rain, which in 2012 seems to be happening most of the time).

But then it occurred to me that another principle that needs to run through this blog is one of honesty. Honesty with regard to what I believe, what I think, and how I behave, but also with regard to simple facts.

Actually, I think it’s impossible to be completely honest. Any human attempt at communication cannot avoid some distortion of the truth: it’s impossible to avoid putting some spin on what is said/written/expressed.

If you don’t believe me, try it (and be honest with yourself (insofar as that is possible…). Review the last thing you said. Even the most trivial.

‘The bathroom’s free’. OK, the core factual statement is true (unless you’re particularly perverse). But how do you say it? Do you put an explanation mark at the end, to try and show a friendly demeanour? Fair enough. But note the words ‘try’ and ‘show’. In a tiny way, you’re playing a part, attempting to project a facsimile of how you feel towards them. And it may be a very tiny way indeed. But it’s still there. Even the most spontaneous communication must involve some element of choice, of consideration. Without that it’s just a response, a reflex.

I said ‘human’ communication before: is that one reason why some of us like dogs? That their communications with us (appear) unconsidered? Is this true for all animals? Is part of what makes us human the inability to be completely truthful (‘I lie, therefore I am human’)? Or, to put it another way, is it inherent in language that truth cannot be communicated without some untruth as well?

There is here, perhaps, a parallel with the Sufi understanding of ‘veils’*. Put simply, this considers that all created things are veils that hide the Divine, but that, because all things are from the Divine, they also show what it is like: they simultaneously obscure and reveal. Maybe, for us, our language consists of the veils we wrap around ourselves, both revealing and obscuring our identity: crucially, even the way our communications distort the message tells the hearer a lot about us.

Of course, the kind of dishonesty I’m talking about here isn’t blameworthy. It’s unavoidable. For us (presumably not God) there is a spectrum, with necessary distortion at one end and blatant lies at the other.


I need to aim to remove unnecessary dishonesty from what I say, leaving behind only that which tells you more about me than what I’m actually trying to say does.
I’ll talk about what I meant to talk about when I started in my next post…

*See, for example, ‘Sufism: A Short Introduction’, W C Chittick, Oneworld, ISBN 1-85168-211-2