Quote of the week

This one seems depressing at first. But I’ve been thinking about it for days, which suggests there are many interesting thoughts in here:

“I once thought that truth was eternal, that when you understood something it was with you forever. I know now that this isn’t so, that most truths are inherently unretainable, that we have to work hard all our lives to remember the most basic things. Society is no help; it tells us again and again that we can most be ourselves by looking like someone else, leaving our own face behind to turn into ghosts that will inevitably resent and haunt us.

It is no mistake that in movies and literature the dead sometimes only know they are dead only after they can no longer see themselves in the mirror; and as I sat there feeling the warmth of the cup against my palm, this small observation seemed like a great revelation to me. I wanted to tell the man I was with about it, but he was involved in his own topic and I did not want to interrupt him, so instead I looked with curiosity toward the window behind him, its night-darkened glass reflecting the whole café, to see if  I could, now, recognize myself.”

-Lucy Grealy , Mirrorings

The backstory to this quote is that Lucy Grealy was disfigured due to illness as a child, and explored issues of identity in many of her writings.

The idea from this quote I’ve been pondering is the nature of truth. I agree with her truth is fleeting, or the sense of truth, and can’t be held onto for long. But different truths have different half-lifes, some last longer than others. I do think there are universal truths, but they can be less interesting than the truths waiting to be discovered about our friends, families, moods, desires, passions and flaws. Everything around us in motion and it follows that truth in most moments is in motion too.

8 Responses to “Quote of the week”

  1. Sean Crawford

    One of the purposes of literature is to take the time needed to sneak on a concept that would otherwise be a less retainable sound bite and make it more retainable. I’m not depressed at my lack of memory, because, since a book’s concept is not perfectly retainable, I have the joy of returning to the classic again. (Besides, nature gives me denial for a reason) In contrast I return less often to a book where the appeal is only learning facts and the surprise of the plot.

    Scott, you said that you have never seen a tweet about finding good on-line fiction. I think fiction requires the right-brain; meanwhile people who surf by skimming and clicking a lot are using their left-brain. I remember you reading Moby Dick, so I’m not saying all we computer users are dumb. I just wonder if non-readers realize the opportunity cost of not having developed their attention span.

  2. Jack Dempsey

    Saying “wow, that’s pretty great” doesn’t seem right. Hopefully the lack of communicative ability at this point is just a result of my brain subconsciously mulling this over. I think I’ve had these thoughts before, but as she notes, we have to work hard to remember the most basic things. Kind of strange, isn’t it?

    I have a feeling I’ll be coming back to this many a time. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Riley Harrison

    Hi Scott,
    I’m not sure that I fully understand what’s implied or that I agree with what I do grasp. I know that I no longer trust the veracity of memory (according to neuroscience it changes every time it’s retrieved and restored). So I no longer stubbornly defend my version of what’s transpired. It’s seems to me that it’s the innate nature of man to quest for truth, as to what is attained is another matter.

  4. Scott Berkun


    I think what she meant dovetails nicely with what you are saying – that all permanence is an illusion, including our sense of the truth.

    My point was mostly that I found her point interesting. And partially that I think of it as a spectrum, some truths last longer than others, or some truths we understand better so they seem to last longer.

  5. chris mahan

    Truth is like money: something we invented to facilitate trade. Inthis case, trade of information: there’s a wolf near the sheep, there’s a waterhole at the bottom of this hill, there’s a fortune to be had buying GM at 30.

    But like money, truth doesn’t buy happiness. Relationships thrive when truth is restrained. People don’t need truth, they need compassion.

  6. Scott Berkun


    I think you’re right – and there should be a name for the element you’re describing. Some movies, or books, for some reason, urge us to come back and read again. And others don’t. Sometimes its books/movies that on first consumption don’t seem extraordinary, but over time they gnaw at us, or come back into our minds, and eventually we seek them out again.

    There are some books and films I have returned to many times and expect to in the future. And there are other books I enjoyed reading but know I will never read again.

  7. Betty

    “i may be bad, but im perfectly good at it.”



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