What would it be like if everyone was completely honest? If we all told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, all the time? Some years ago, I told a boy that the only thing I would ask of him was that he be completely honest with me. All the time. If he screwed around on me, I wanted to hear it from him. He countered by saying that there was no such thing as the absolute truth. That we all make our own truth and shape it to be what we want it to be. I should have gotten out then. Chalk one up to stupidity, but even in that stupidity I learned a lot.
They say that once you’ve lived in Alaska for two years, you’re not fit to live anywhere else. I lived there for seven. And when I went ‘outside’ again, I found it hard to leave my brand of truth behind. You see, up there, you called it as you saw it. Does this make me look fat? Hell yeah! Do you think he’s having an affair on me? Why else would he be coming out of so and so’s apartment at 2 in the afternoon? You know, you think you’re so much better than everyone else! Me? No. I know I am. There was no limit to this straightforwardness – rows were plentiful but quietened down as soon as they rose up. Nothing was left to fester.
Coming back to the real world, it was hard to make the adjustment. What was that famous Jack Nicholson line? You can’t handle the truth. No one really wants to hear the truth. If we stop to think about it, most of the time we ask people questions with the expectation that they will tell us exactly what we want to hear – not what we need to hear. A few months ago, I toyed with the idea of applying for a creative writing MA in the UK. I asked a good friend to help me with my application. She pointed out that the writing samples I had chosen weren’t what the university would want. In fact, my writing style wasn’t that creative – it was more documentary. I was gutted. Then.
Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I realise that she was so right. I don’t have a novel in me – I don’t have that sort of style – I can observe, account, tell a story, but I was confusing creative writing with using English creatively – two completely different birds. Having someone who will tell you the truth – who will be honest with you – who will be direct to the point that it feel as if they’re cutting away a sliver of your soul – that’s a richness money can’t buy. And it’s those true friends to whom we turn when we need to hear the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
I was reminded of this recently, when the inimitable RN posted a link to Swedish designer Viktor Hertz and his project called HONEST LOGOs. Hertz re-appropriates well known logos and redoes them to show what he thinks is the actual content and truth behind the company. Worth checking out…