25 January 2015

Of lie-sheets, lying eyes and other fascinating things

Ithaca, they say, is gorgeous!
There are times I feel that the entire world is an intricately and painstakingly embroidered sheet specifically designed to cheat the eye.  There are times I feel that after gazing on this lie-sheet for years and years the eye itself gets its mechanism reconfigured to add mischief to the already mischief-laden recipients of gaze.  That would be a double-lie then. 

I am not sure if this is a species ailment or else a defense mechanism of humankind but if there is some truth to what I am proposing, there is cause for lament as well as celebration.  ‘Celebration’ because we do go from moment to moment, day to day and through month, year and lifetime with a rough balance of joy and sorrow, loss and gain and so on, as individuals, collectives and as a species too.   ‘Lament’ because an existence made of monumental falsehood, deliberate distortion and willing or unwilling victimhood of lie-sheet is pretty depressing. 

I have wondered what lies under the lie-sheet and sometimes have been surprised by the lies that lie beneath as well.  Is life a collection of appearances?  Is that which we believe to be true in reality the product of a set of accomplished beauticians who with eye-liner and blush, powder puff and foundation give us a world that does not blind the innocent eye, perhaps with a subtle dash of blemish to obtain conviction? 

I remember a conversation that took place in a small caf√© called Stella’s in Ithaca, NY in the winter of 1999/2000.  My friend Ayca and I were arguing with our Iranian-American friend Kamran.  Kamran was insisting that there is such a thing called objective truth. 

‘This table exists!’ he declared.  ‘It is a chair not a table, if someone sat on it,’ I countered.  ‘It exists only within a particular context,’ Ayca pointed out, ‘It was a tree a few years ago and a few years from now it will be in pieces’. 

That’s just one kind of lie, one kind of lying and self-delusion.  There are less abstract lies which we embrace with passion.  Quite apart from the lie implied in the fact that the truth of anything is framed by time, space and perception, there are outright lies that confront us and we toss around for public consumption.  Now a certain school of sociology might offer that lie-sheet has a function.  In a context-bound sense, I would not disagree.  Indeed, there is very little that an individual can do to completely unravel lie-embroidery.  At best we can but caution ourselves about the truth-value of that which lies before our eyes.  What’s tough is to recognize the stitches we’ve added to the lie-tapestry and to do our little bit of desisting.   

How many of us are unafraid to be seen nude, metaphorically and literally? Is it modesty alone and some kind of misplaced benevolence about not wanting to hurt someone that makes us hide the truth about ourselves?  What do we become when we feed the mismatch between self and image of self portrayed to the world?  Doesn’t there come a time when our masks replace our faces forever, not just to the beholder but to ourselves?  And is that new mask-face real or less real than that which it replaced?  Is there some honesty in cultivating mask and then making so much face that the face it used to be seems to be illusion? 

Why is it so hard to admit love?  In my many moments of insanity I’ve noticed a terrorist called Fear of Convention prowling stealthily in the City of Forbidden Love.  I am convinced that in Licit City, hidden by familiarity, there are secret pathways to parallel realities of bliss and heartache.  But then again, I wonder at times whether my eyes have been so tainted by years and years of gazing on lie-sheet that I have been rendered incapable of distinguishing anything from anything else. 

I think there’s a good case for closing one’s eyes during non-sleeping hours.  Even then, I am aware, that memory is a skillful mischief-maker that can somehow creep and take up residence between eyeball and eyelid.   Reminds me of a beautiful line penned by Eduardo Galeano: ‘I can’t sleep, there’s a woman stuck between my eyelids; I would tell her to leave, but there’s a woman stuck in my throat.’ 

We can never ever sleep the slumber of bliss, I sometimes feel.  We are rendered speechless by the things we allow to inhabit our throats.  We are blinded therefore. We are without voice and we also starve.  It all makes one wish for congenital blindness as well as absence of other senses.  That’s still a wish, a cop-out of a kind.  We have to see, despite the woman who blocks vision. We have to speak despite the woman who inhabits throat.  We have to see with lie-flawed eye and seek truth in a lie-sheet and beyond. 

There’s a lot of clutter that inhibit us.  It is mostly self-made, I tend to think. 

Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer who can be reached at msenevira@gmail.com


Anonymous said...

'Abidhamma" ,what budunwahanse preached ,at 'Thawsia" gives a very clear answer. It is so delicate and best learning that anyone can understand .Our lives are swing on names (sammuthi dharma) all the time.Table ,when cut into pieces it become wood.Only one thing we can't detach ,which is called "sudhastakaya". Noble truth is the gem of truth.

Anonymous said...

* sorry misspelled .it is "Thawthisa".