Friday, March 30, 2012

Will the "Truth" Set You "Free"?

I just read a story by Isaac Bashevis Singer, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1978.  It was published in Playboy, April, 1988.  The story is called "The Bitter Truth."

Two men, Zeinvel and Shmerl, are close friends.  Zeinel frequents brothels; Shmerl does not.  Due to war the two men are separated.  After the war, they meet by chance and are joyfully reunited.  Zeinvel is a broken man, but Shmerl has prospered and has a wife and business in another town.  When Zeinvel meets Shmerl's wife, he recognizes her as a former prostitute.  He has a chance to stay with Shmerl and his family, find a wife, and live a happy and prosperous life; but he believes he is unable to keep his knowledge of Shmerl's wife a secret.  Also, he cannot bear to witness the deception into which his friend had fallen.  Before leaving, he asks Shmerl over and over again:

"Imagine that you were given a choice to know the truth and suffer or to remain deceived and be happy; which would you choose?"

Schmerl refuses to answer, saying it was a silly question and there is no point paying attention to gossip.

This question seems relevant today.  But today, the choice isn't so binary.  We are quite capable of "knowing" the truth and still remaining deceived and happy.

Kurasawa said, "To be an artist, one must not avert one's eyes."  Perhaps to continue to live with optimism, we have to be selective about what we are willing to see.  Or do we?

James Garfield, the 20th US president said, "The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable."

1 comment:

  1. someone I was talking to recently said that he did not care what his girlfriend had done in the past; it brought her to the good place where she is now.