Colouring and painting with the truth
My father-in-law died last week. Suddenly. In our garden, while clearing the dead leaves. It was a shock, and I am still feeling the tremors in its wake. But after the shock have also come reflection, the wish to understand. And the realisation that communication between two cultures will always be difficult.We paint with the splatters others spill on us.
My father-in-law was Russian. A full-blooded Russian. Invincible. Never to be lorded over. Indomitability personified. He stood fully behind his country's rulers and would rail fiercely whenever I suspected any kind of wrongdoing by his great leader. Of course, it was all due to the Americans. Yet we are stupid enough to believe all the propaganda put out by Obama. Why must you people always be so anti-Russian? Over the years I have learned that the truths expounded by East and West are often highly coloured. This is an intensely felt cultural heritage; two sides of a rusted curtain.
Truths seem not to exist, but convictions do. The words we use to voice arguments and counterarguments are nothing more than well-loaded paint brushes that we bandy about, applying our paint in thick layers. The truth suffocates under the primary colours of the conviction.
East or West, left or right, Black or White Peter helping St Nicholas, boss or employee: different truths are everywhere to be found. This is something I have often opposed. For a long time I believed that ultimately only one truth will outlast all others. Not the truth held by religion, but the truth of 'it is'. Things are as they as: true or untrue.
But no. By working in communication, you learn the importance of framing a message, of adding clever nuances of tone, applying various layers. You colour and you paint. With conviction, because you have something to say. You know you are playing creatively with truths. But this is okay, as long as you do it with respect for one another.
In recent days I have often found myself thinking of my father-in-law and the colourful exchanges of words we had every now and then. Increasingly, I am realising that we all paint our own paintings, our own faithful depictions of the truth, with the paint splatters that others spill on us. Knowingly or unknowingly. Afterwards, we put these paintings in respectable frames. Stand them on the mantelpiece, to look at every day. To cherish. And to parade, passionately. Whether appropriate or not.
My father-in-law's painting was exciting. Controversial. It had its own beauty. It was brightly coloured and had little subtlety. That too I cherish. Slowly but surely the colours will fade and flake off. That’s okay too. Old layers of paint make way for new thoughts and convictions. The experience of truth has the power to survive. Thank goodness. This promises a colourful future. A future, I hope, with more space for nuance, understanding and respect. In truth, more communicative.