Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Truth and Ignorance

Initially, I feel that truth is a generality, a distortable concept. When one is given the choice to explain a situation, or victimized of being explained to, then that situation is susceptible of being given different "truths". This is still true when an individual is the only factor in a situation, since they can deduce the situation, usually, for themselves. Any lie, fact, or misinterpreted fact can alter one's life. The "truth" that one puts their faith into becomes their reality, or their boundaries on a certain aspect of reality.

"The Liar" by Tobias Wolff presents this idea elegantly, yet bluntly. James, being the representative executor of the idea, has a natural tendency to create "truth". Other individuals would normally, reluctantly, use previous knowledge to realize or share truth. Obviously James lies repeatedly and without hesitation. Yet, because of this, he "distorts" others' realities and creates a falsity in their lives. For example, James prominently fibs at the end of the text about helping out Tibetan families in San Francisco, and even goes on to say he speaks Tibetan. Everyone, supposedly, believes him wholeheartedly and gives in to blind faith. This "reality" that has been created and distributed to everyone on the bus, is what I feel drives James to "create" more. Not exactly the specific situation, but the idea of controlling others' realities. What I think drives James even more to lie is the reactions of his victims. An instance is when the man sitting in front of James adds on to the lie; he basically says that it seems there were plenty of other places that the Tibetans could go to after coming across the border. Although the man seemed quizzical about the situation, he reluctantly gave into the lie. After this reluctance, the woman next to James asked him to speak Tibetan, again. James asks her what to say, and she tells him to say, "The cow jumped over the moon". And by some divine intervention, everyone listened joyfully to him sing in Tibetan. That example is what I mainly think to be Jame's drive, their acceptance. They believed it first, then they questioned it, and then they accepted it. He does continue his "quest for creating truth" because it gives him a sense of power, but that power cannot be expanded unless the victims accept his "truth".

Conclusively, James lies throughout the text a myriad of times, but they all lead to the same idea of power and control. His created "truths" throughout the story have sculpted his solipsistic mind to what it is now. Whether it be from him saying that his mother was "coughing up blood" in the letter, midway through the text, or the irking feeling I am getting because I can't help but think this entire text may be a lie or a "truth" in itself. James being the narrator, and being a compulsive liar, I feel I cannot fully trust what I have read. I am not saying that it is not true, I am just saying that it is not fact. Yet, the truth is always there, whether or not I want to believe in his "truths" or not is up to myself. This being said, I can say that the truth of this narrative is that James isn't trustworthy, and I feel the author was trying to point that out. Because James lies, because James creates his false truths, and because he is the narrator is what I feel to make James the typical narrator. This idea just leads to an expansive question, "How can you trust the narrator?" Ultimately, I do not believe you can, but that you do anyway. This is what truth is, belief to one's reality.

On another tangent, I really enjoyed this text, and I loved the philosophical ideas I drew from it. I just hope I can experience something similar or even better in the future.

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