A Propos of Appropriateness

In spite of it’s surprisingly non-objective qualities, truth has a certain allure. Especially where it is allowed to bubble to the surface within human society and culture, rife as those spaces are with subterfuge, role-playing, sycophancy and deceit in the service of survival instincts.

At around the time I met the Tao Te Ching /I Ching for the first time (around age 18) I came across a written explanation of something that trumped the pure unadulterated truth. It even had a name. It was was called “appropriateness”.

What I remember reading was that what is true, is not always what is appropriate. And it would seem that within the realm of human experience, appropriateness wins. I was rather intruiged by this concept of appropriateness – this thing that could, if wielded correctly, supplant the truth without even negating or erasing it.

And perhaps the neatest thing of all was that sometimes, that which was true and that which was appropriate could even coincide perfectly. In other words, this new concept of appropriateness could still account for my naive invocations of truth – such as I was already accustomed to.

It is one thing for me to dabble in Truth with my raw-blunt, written revelations about my own subjective truths. It is one thing to say the un-sayable and cleave away the fascia of politeness so that everyone can see the glistening things that writhe underneath. It is another thing entirely to practice appropriateness. Appropriateness is not the simple, un-encumbered, blinkered/binary thing which “the truth” can be. It is never hurtful, for one thing. It is never gross. It is never disgusting. It is never embarrassing. It is always convenient. It is always warm and comforting. In short, it trumps truthing.

Before I go on to completely belittle “truthing” as a way of being – and that’s just my term for un-embelleshingly and openly conveying what is known to be true to you, or at the very least true *of* you (I think this latter is closer to the mark) – I just want to put it out there that truthing itself is a non-trivial undertaking. If it didn’t take a certain admixture of guts/stupidity everybody would be truthing. However with truthing, there’s far too much discomfort smeared all round and if it can be avoided, as is most people’s wont, then that is generally agreed to be the better way forward. Truthing is struggle, and life is short – You do the math. About the only thing gained – ABSOLUTELY THE ONLY THING GAINED from Truthing – is that if you “truth”, noone else can hide their truths from you. It is simply universally, energetically impossible. All parties will come to know the same things. Any single act of “truthing” entangles the separate petty individual realities into one unified, Locally near-Objective Truth. Truthing is like… I dunno, like the encoding of a hologram. Like a holographic picture that noone else wants to be in, but which thanks to your invocation of the entanglement laws of truth they are now decidedly a part of, forever. (And just so you know, they won’t be thanking you for this).

Still. Whatever effort “truthing” entails, it pales into insignificance next to the elevated levels of mindfulness that appropriateness requires. To a Truther, appropriateness seems to require tremendous skill. It seems to require the combined acumen of 8 Zen-Jedi Warrior Monks in Bushido trenchcoats, hefting ground-to-air missiles against the things that encroach on people’s sensibilities; missiles that explode into blossoming lotuses on impact… to the sound of rain. And everyone thinking they look cool doing it. Slow mo’, ride-the-bullet, Matrix-style cool.

Of course, that’s just how it *seems* to a Truther. In reality perhaps its more likely that appropriateness just requires humdrum amounts of common sense (you know, that rare thing). And however much appropriateness befuddles and therefore irritates the eff out of us, we Truthers are nevertheless in awe of those who have mastered this art. We just wish they would use their awesome prowess in the service of our own lesser idols (truth and logic) instead of all this keep-the-peace, “common good” stuff.

Too True to be good
Let’s face it – sometimes we genuinely spurn that which is authentic, real or true. In visual arts, for example, sometimes the truest depiction of something simply doesn’t rub the pleasure nets the right way. Take a photorealistic painting for example: don’t they sometimes just feel a little cold and clinical, in spite of the obvious technical achievement? And yet a cartoon character drawn with a few curved strokes can induce feelings of connection and identification.

I remember talking to an East European who used to be a comic artist and who was now working as a security guard in toronto. He said something about how sometimes if you draw something correctly, with the right proportions, lighting and perspective, it looks wrong. Or even if it doesn’t look wrong, its truthful rendering utterly fails to convey the appropriate mood or message of that scene within the larger work. That statement always stuck with me… Unfortunately being the worst sort of literalist, I presumed that it’s implications lay only within the visual domain. Haha.

Similarly in life, proferring literal truths – especially if they are your own (and therefore definitely subjective) truths – generally leads to a face-plant. The outputs of Honest-To-a-Fault subroutines will be gladly fed back in to your irritant circuits, perchance to fry them, if at all possible.

Yet even after years of knowing that Appropriateness is by far the higher ideal, I’m wired to pursue “Truth”, whatever that is.
The pain of being kept from Truth outweighs the pain of the fallouts from Truth. The revelatory nature of Truth stacks higher in my value system than the comforting nature of Appropriateness. Why I don’t find Appropriateness comforting is a mystery to me – as far as I can tell, everyone else enjoys basking in its soft amber glow. And with regard to the “revelatory nature of truth”, I have to add that it matters NOT A JOT if the revealed thing is objectively true or not, or even false. That there has even been a revelation of any sort means that a social protocol somewhere was successfully hijacked.

I think this is my way of hacking the universe. Or less grandiosely, hacking the infinitesimally miniscule portion of it that constitutes my perceived reality.

It must just be the information buzz. The things that can be learned. It’s the kind of high that maybe an archeologist gets when they encounter a midden…

Update 2014:
Perhaps it’s a growing older thing, for now I find I aspire to appropriateness rather than Truth. But the transformation is definitely in it’s infancy… I still spew my truths at the darnedest of times…

And, perhaps, the whole matter is less binary than described: It’s probably more the case that, with mastery of appropriateness, the truth becomes part of a larger arsenal of tools for knowing/understanding/communicating. So that “truthing” still occurs, and appropriateness is simply its grand modifier – as in, to deploy the truth appropriately.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *