“This life’s dim windows of the soul / Distorts the heavens from pole to pole / And leads you to believe a lie / When you see with, not through, the eye.”William Blake, from The Everlasting Gospel
Before we put a hard stop on life to celebrate Thanksgiving with our loved ones, perhaps we should squeeze in an appointment with an optometrist. William Blake, a poet with a keen sense of vision, warned us of the need for regular eye examinations. He knew just how easily we distort reality when we only see from our own limited perspectives. So how do we cure our myopic vision? How do we distinguish the truth from the lies?
Truth is rarely flamboyant, pretentious, or demanding. Truth won’t whore itself around so everyone can see it. That’s deception’s modus operandi. And while many seek corrective lenses in the press, the so-called litmus tests of truth (fact checked!), I have to agree with C. S. Lewis in That Hideous Strength: “They have an engine called the Press whereby the people are deceived.” If you haven’t read the novel, may I suggest you add it to your Thanksgiving Break “to do” list. At the least, read chapter 16, though you’ll have missed so much meat and truth, it would probably be like skipping a whole seven course dinner just to eat the tea cakes. Bottom line: we are struggling with That Hideous Strength in our time, though that has always been the struggle, hasn’t it?
And so we must become more discerning to avoid falling for the illusion of truth, no matter how convincing it appears or how loudly it’s proclaimed. My student teacher closed her tenure with my students offering them an exercise in prose poetry based upon the work of J. Ruth Gendler. Each student chose a characteristic or personality trait or abstract concept, and through personification made that trait come alive. For me, it was a welcomed opportunity to explore deception. You may be familiar with him, too. If not, perhaps this will help.
Vincent H. Anastasi 2020
In the style of J. Ruth Gendler
Deception is a used car salesman. He offers a lollipop with every sale he makes (his signature). In fact, you’ll rarely find him without the white stick of a sucker dancing about his lips.
On the wall of his dimly lit office (he claims it’s for ambience) hangs a framed, fading photograph from high school: the notorious pitcher, famous for his curve. Those days are, sadly, long gone, but he’s found new hobbies: juggling and playing cards. Now he’s notorious for his poker face.
Should you wander onto his lot, you’ll find him handsomely dressed in imitation Armani suits and sporting a knock-off Rolex watch. But from a distance, the sham is still quite impressive and nearly imperceptible.
He’s not much of a conversationalist, tending to retell the same stories over and over again. His vocabulary is quite limited and he always speaks rapidly, like he’s afraid of being found out before he finishes his tale or if he stops to take a breath. He may ask you about your past, but only to find fault with it somehow. He’s up on the latest gossip and will swear to the veracity of his story, though he’ll question the credibility of anything you say.
In the end, you’ll leave him feeling more confused and anxious than when you arrived. Even if he doesn’t trick you into buying a vehicle, he’ll still offer a lollipop or lemon drop before he steps outside to feed the gathering pigeons.