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Facing our difficult truths

True meaning of the season

Yielding to a higher self

Not seeing the forest or the trees

Coping with a computer crisis

Going under cover in Monaco

My miracle on Larvotto beach

If I can help somebody as I pass along

Taste of village life in Monaco

The Water's Edge: A fishy tale

Why I choose to be involved
"...I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up."
--Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Like Thoreau, I love the simple life. But while he  left a bustling city to move to the woods, I have taken the opposite route. I have given up life in a tiny town on the edge of the Canadian boreal forest for work that takes me to luxury-loving Monaco, the most densely populated nation in the world. Thoreau spent two years, two months and two days at Walden. I'm giving myself at least three years for this experiment.
--Celia Sankar

Facing our difficult truths

In the gilded banquet hall of the Hotel de Paris a few months ago, author and Holocaust chronicler Ellie Weisel donned the mantle of storyteller.

Before an audience of media and tech types, he related the fable of a young man who had grown up hearing from all around him that Truth was an incredibly beautiful young lady who had long, golden hair and sparkling eyes. Fascinated and driven by desire, the lad proclaimed to his mother and sisters that he would set out to find this elusive enchantress.

After a long and arduous search, Weisel said, the fellow came across the lady he had been seeking. To his astonishment and horror, however, he discovered Truth was actually an unkempt, wrinkled hag. After getting over this shock, the lad prepared to return to his mother and sisters. Thinking of how disappointed his family would be, he asked the hideous creature how he should deal with their inquiries. “Tell them a lie,” she advised.

Chuckles rippled throughout the hall, and Weisel continued on with his discourse about the role of the media, for which the parable was an engrossing introduction. The tale, however, has stayed with me.

Simple yet profound, it draws you into rumination, which can take you down several paths.

My own immediate reaction to this fable was capitulation to the notion that it accurately reflects the nature of life. Truth – reality – is almost always less glamorous than we believe – or are led to believe. While not all fairytales are actually nightmares, there is often some disparity between how glowing and wonderful we imagine a person, thing or situation to be and the reality.

Evidence of this is all around. You see it in the acres of newsprint devoted to agony aunt colums, in the buckets of tears shed on television talkshows, and in the pained expressions of those in your own circle who come to you in moments of crisis. The cries of shock and disappointment span the gamut of human experiences: “I can't believe this is the man/woman I married!” or “We bought our dream house but the basement leaks and the neighbours are obnoxious” or “I worked so hard to get this promotion and now my job takes up so much time I don't have a life!”

At first glance, it may seem that to accept this idea – that reality is usually less attractive than we perceive – is to take on a depressing view of the world. You may argue that if we start thinking nothing is as good as it seems then there is little reason to get excited about anything. And that takes all the fun out of living.

But such an interpretation puts the focus in the wrong place.

If my experiences thus far have taught me anything, it is this: the beauty in life is in what we become as we confront, accept and learn from unpleasant realities.

We become stronger for having survived the disappointment of discovering the truth; we become more mature as we accept reality for what it is; we become more compassionate as we embrace a truth even though it is less polished than we had originally believed.

I can see this clearly in my view of myself. It's not that I had thought of myself as perfect, but that for most of my life I had not taken any time to truly examine myself. Perhaps that was out of fear of what I would find. And when a difficult period in my life forced me to take stock, it was quite shocking to discover my many faults and failings. Having done so, however, I can be more at ease with myself because I've come to see that although Celia is less than perfect, there's much about her to love.

As with the young man in Ellie Weisel's story, life also confronts us with a dilemma when we come to know the less than perfect reality. Do we hide this knowledge from those who still believe the fantasy?

There is a great deal of disparaging of the so-called talkshow culture, with some people writing off as irrational or degrading the decision by celebrities and ordinary folk to bare their wounds in public. I, too, believe a confession that has no purpose other than to shock or draw attention to the teller is unworthy for all involved.

But when time has made a person ready to share a painful truth, and where it is cathartic for the teller and didactic for the listener, then even the ugliest truth becomes a thing of beauty, capable of stirring all touched by it to a higher level of being.

Such was the case with Mike Wallace's revelation that he went through depression, back when the word itself was hardly ever uttered. (I can say that during the period when I felt as if life had brought me to my knees, I drew strength from Wallace's story, among others. Realizing I was not the only person to have faced that challenge helped me tremendously in getting back on my feet again.)

Such was the case when Oprah spoke of the childhood sexual abuse she endured. The admission, she avowed, freed her from a prison of shame, as letting the story out also meant letting it go. Given the talkshow hostess' popularity, and given US statistics which say one in every four girls and one in every six boys face similar painful experiences, it would be safe to assume the revelation of this ugly truth had a powerful and widspread impact for good.

And lest we think this a modern phenomenon, such has also been the case since Aurelius Augustinus dared to reveal to the world the weak, lustful creature he had been before finding his way to faith, in The Confessions of St. Augustine – over 1,600 years ago.

Seems some wise folk have long known the best way to respond to the advice of the hag in Weisel's tale.

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Celia Sankar

by Celia Sankar

Beaches Resorts - Jamaica-Turks & Caicos.