“I have a right to be confused about the current state of politics. I have a right to pursue all threads. That doesn’t make me anything but an intellectually curious and open minded person. I refuse to hate myself for having a seeking spirit. I didn’t realize how alienating curiosity is.”
I asked my Facebook friend Alexandra if I could post this prayer she posted on FB, at The Truth Barrier. She said yes. I call it a “prayer,” because it seeks an interior safety as violence approaches. I’ve never known a time when intellectual terror was as unleashed as it is now, including here. That’s why Alexandra’s prayer is so vital.
Sometimes I see words, things people have written, and they just appear luminous, right, simple and expressive of the interior voice that resists all “usage” by forces that wish to paint over it with the red angry paint of the propagandists.
This is what the American Transcendentalists–Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman, Alcott, et al–wrote about so passionately, as well as our “founding fathers.” Justice Learned Hand stated: “The spirit if liberty is the spirit that is never too sure that it is right.”
And this interior space is what Tomas Tranströmer so brilliantly called “The Truth Barrier,” hence the name of this website. Many poets “know” the truth, whereas Tranströmer wrote about the stormy voyage (which never ends) on which we are given a chance to watch ourselves trying to find truths. Are they subjective, objective, both? Do they “exist?”
The late, legendary Yale mathematician Serge Lang also devoted his life to this–the discipline to discern “..a fact from a hole in the ground.” To each freshman class he gave a test called “The Huntington Test,” which was a reading of an article about social unrest (or lack thereof) in apartheid era South Africa, which he famously fought with Samuel P. Huntington about. (Huntington measured lack of street protest as a sign of a “satisfied society” without taking into account that black South Africans had restrictions on when they could even be on the streets. Serge, a member of The National Academy Of Sciences, successfully had Huntington blocked from membership, which the left never forgave Lang for.)
It’s an eternal struggle that never ends. Am I seeing? Have I stopped seeing? Have I developed blind spots?
Here’s my own translation of a famous and utterly stunning passage in Tranströmer’s 1970 collection “Seeing In The Dark,” from the poem Preludes:
“Two truths approach one another. One comes from inside,
one comes from the outside
and where they meet one has a chance to see oneself.
He who notices what is happening hollers
in despair: “Stop!
anything, so long as I don’t have to know myself.”
Note: “The Swedish word “känna” means both “know” and “feel.”
Here is an article I wrote about Tranströmer in Lapham’s Quarterly, in 2012.