“...sometimes, when something is such an integral part of your life, it's hard to see where the raw material ends, and the inspiration begins.”
Sarah Viren, author of To Name the Bigger Lie, tackles big questions such as the location of truth, the value/curse of doubt, the pliability of personal narratives, and the allure of conspiracy theories. I first read about her story “The Accusations Were Lies, But Could We Prove it?” in the New York Times magazine here. It was a thriller.
I have been longing for a collective truth. Something that I feel like in the past 15 years or so has been slowly disappearing. Perhaps it never existed? To work together, to understand each other, to love, we need to agree on something called a fact and truth, right? I want to have things like, we both saw the same news, or read the same books, or listened to the same random country song on the radio because there was nothing else but commercials on. I miss feeling grounded in facts.
For Sarah, there are events in her life that make her question, I mean really question reality. In high school, her idol, a teacher named Dr. Whiles turns out to be a holocaust denier. What happens when you love and trust someone, someone who has helped you shape your personhood, but then no longer shares your reality? The second story that the book focuses on is that of a series of lies that a fellow academic says about her partner sexually harassing their students.
Sarah has been trained in the classics, with the idea of doubt playing out in her own life in ways that start to dismantle her reality. Is her partner not the person she knows? Is there life to a lie?
Lies, active lies, and big lies create distance between people. We can use truth to come together, to understand and to relate, to heal and repair together. Lies also create a space to be creative, to test out different realities, and to solve problems. Is lying inherently wrong? I don’t think so. I think delusions can be useful and informative. I am not saying that we should lie. On the contrary, I think the ability to tell the truth, is a luxury of comfort and acceptance that I have the privilege of. I don’t need to lie to be loved. I don’t need to be something other than what I am to have worth.
These are the facts: life is messy. There are no easy narratives. We are all complex creatures in a dark moment. How can we hold each other with love, understanding, and tenderness as we are stuck in this waiting room? I hope you enjoy this conversation.
Something else beautiful and complex for you – Ocean Voung’s A Letter to My Mother That She Will Never Read.
Bad At Keeping Secrets, the podcast is Stephanie Tsou and Carissa Potter. Audio by Officially Quigley. Sound editing by Mark McDonald. Mark is helping people start their podcasts, if you have been thinking about starting one, I would highly recommend him. Sign up for a free meeting with him here
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