Let's be honest with each other, at least for a moment

Monday, March 21, 2011

We avoid landmines out here—so many of us (I'm guilty, too) do.  Don't say things that might be said, don't help guide a friend toward a new understanding, don't disagree, don't attempt to back another away from an exaggeration or a misappropriation, don't ask for a righting of the balance, because, well, the possibility of a ruckus is just too much to bear.  So that we are silent or we are passive; we let things slide.  This, in time, leads to dissonance and distance.  Another kind of fracture.

I was thinking about this while reading Geoffrey Wolff's remarkable The Duke of Deception, his memoir about his fraught relationship with his father.  I'll be writing more about this book in the days to come, but for now it's this page 10 moment that I share.  It's the honesty of Wolff's friend that caught my eye.  His willingness to state what he believed to be the truth.  More than that:  Wolff's willingness to listen.
Writing to a friend about this book, I said that I would not now for anything have had my father be other than what he was, except happier, and that most of the time he was happy enough, cheered on by imaginary successes.  He gave me a great deal, and not merely life, and I didn't want to bellyache; I wanted, I told my friend, to thumb my nose on his behalf at everyone who had limited him.  My friend was shrewd, though, and said that he didn't believe me, that I couldn't mean such a thing, that if I followed out its implications I would be led to a kind of ripe sentimentality, and to mere piety.  Perhaps, he wrote me, you would not have wished him to life to himself, to life about being a Jew.  Perhaps you would have him fool others but not so deeply trick himself.  "In writing about a father," my friend wrote me about our fathers, "one clambers up a slippery mountain, carrying the balls of another in a bloody sack, and whether to eat them or worship them or bury them decently is never clearly decided."

So I will try here to be exact....


Lilian Nattel said...

Honesty among friends is a gift, when it is neither avoidance of fuss nor bluntness for its own sake, but compassionate truth. One of the best things a friend ever said to me was "shit or get off the pot."

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