pandemic aftermath
evening alone

overheard at the table near the door

2008, 825 words

"So anyway, the idea is that what you see in your head can never be fully translated to the canvas."


"Yes, and therefore, it can't even be called subjective truth, because it isn't actually truth at all, right?

"No, because what you're saying is that the only truth that is real is what exists in our heads. That can't be true, because everything we experience, all action, happens outside our heads. You might even argue that what is inside our minds is the exact opposite of truth, since it can't ever exist in its pure form outside our heads. What's in your head can therefore never be in my head, and if it were truth, we would never have the same truth, nor would we be able to perceive it from each other."

"But that's not possible, because there'd be no way for us to know truth unless it did in fact exist in our minds."

"Okay, I'm not really saying it doesn't exist in our minds. I'm saying that by committing to the idea that nothing you put on canvas is truth because it's different from how you visualized it, you commit to the idea that you cannot possess truth. And I don't think you get to have it both ways."

"Wait, I really think you left something out there. Let's go back to where you said we would never have the same truth. Who says that was ever possible in the first place? How do you define truth?"

"Beauty is truth, truth is beauty."

"Oh now, look right there at that ridiculous cliche. Beauty can be many things besides truth, and since sometimes what is ugly is beautiful, it therefore follows that truth must also, sometimes, be ugly."

"Now you're just talking in circles. Back to the point. Does truth even matter? If we can never translate the truth in our minds onto the canvas, then how is truth even relevant? All that is relevant is the canvas. And if I'm successful, then you glimpse the event that took place while I painted it, and maybe experience a little piece of it for yourself. Whether you decide to call it truth is up to you. But here's why it's not: Say you view my painting, experience something akin to what you believe I did while I was painting it, and then you go paint your own. Where is the truth in that? Not only is it not truth, it isn't even reality. Yet should I deny your right to recreate your view of my experience, by attempting to make it your own?"

"I might say that I believe truth is experience. What I experience in my mind is truth, and when I translate it into action it becomes a new truth, because I bring it into being. I am, virtually, a god to my creation, a god to the truth of existence, as it plays out in my mind, and manifests something new out here in the world. Further, my creation, my experience, becomes someone else's truth as they witness it and experience it for themselves."

"Then you believe truth is mutable, and even more, malleable.

"If it was malleable it wouldn't be truth. It has to be mutable, because the world is always changing."

"So, to get closer to your definition of truth, it can be changed by circumstances, but not by will."

"Something like that, but you made it sound cheesy. Of course no one thinks truth can be changed by will."

"Hitler did."

"We're done. Margaret, is there any more butterscotch pie?"

"What do you mean we're done? I'm not done."

"Yes you are. You said Hitler. That means we're done."

"This isn't the internet; this is real life."

"Wait. That's another thing. People are always saying "in real life," when they're talking on the internet. Why isn't the internet real life?"

"Because you can't touch it."

"So something is only real if you can touch it? Does that include truth?"

"Wait a minute, have we switched sides? I thought you were the one who said the truth in our heads can't actually be truth because we can't put it down on the canvas. If that's true, then the internet is in the same category."

"Now you are saying the internet is not truth, because--"

"No, I'm saying that's what you're saying."

"The internet is a bloated yet infertile wasteland, a minefield of banality, chaos borne of ignorance, and it's filled with self-serving liars. It may not be truth, but it's definitely reality."

"Here's your pie, honey. Have you worked out the meaning of life today?" Margaret smiled as she spoke, sort of the way you smile at someone you indulge without fully taking seriously. She winked, and moved swiftly away, for fear of being drawn into the daily argument.

Yesterday, the argument had been over whether you should, indeed, choose an author the way you choose a friend.