I believe the only truth in life is the hypocritical truth of life. Every time I have found one drop of universal wisdom it has evaporated at the logic’s touch. But the mist always stays with me.
During my undergraduate years at Elmira College I was sitting in an education class when I spoke up about a book of poetry entitled Something Permanent. I had no real issue with the substance of the works confided within its glossy white pages; actually I admired the artistry of the photographs that accompanied the prose. What bothered me was the title, Something Permanent. “What’s permanent? How could anyone argue something, anything, inanimate or not, would stay forever?” Suddenly a mundane elementary assignment had opened a door to a beautiful self-defeating truth: nothing is permanent. Whenever I say it or think it, I can’t help but smile over its playful contradiction: “nothing is permanent, meaning the absence of everything is permanency, which means that permanency has a state, so therefore the statement can’t be true–right?”
Besides the fountain of wisdom I had cranked up, the story surpassed the confines of my mind and illustrated the hypocrisy and contradictions that affect everyday life. The book Something Permanent revolved around people trapped by the Great Depression…so maybe all the questions I had brewing in my head had academic merit, maybe they deserved to pointed out so my peers could share in their complexity. Maybe the question showed the quandary of poverty or the paradoxical nature of the Great Depression. In any case, I was in a class of teachers; they, more than anyone, should love learning in action.
But alas, inspiring educators evidently could not have agreed less with my observation, my logic, or the merit of bringing any of it up. “You’re talking about the title; you’re missing the whole point of the book!” “You are being way too picky. I don’t think the author would agree with you.” “I just don’t agree with you, can we talk about something else?”
What’s made this memory stay afloat in the pool of my unconsciousness are the multitude of contradictions within the situation. The book was poetry yet my imaging of the title was wrong. I was asking a question, the Holy Grail in any classroom, yet teachers were telling me to be quiet. I had found priceless truth, others had found a worthless annoyance.
Since that class I have continuously mulled over this event and found it one of the defining moments of my intellectual career.
I am a hypocrite; I sit here and write “This I Believe” when I should be acting it: living my beliefs with loud shouts and flailing arms, instead of with subtle, clicking fingers. But that’s just fine, that’s me, my successes and my failures. I am not permanent, my words will alter their meanings, my actions will have different effects, and my world will change.
But I believe that something is permanent: the hypocritical truth of life.
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