November 16, 2005

“Never Trust Revelations, They Are Always False”

It’s a great line, and it was written today by Natalie D’Arbeloff (Blaugustine) in her blog post "Seriously Considering Giving Up" (I can't find a permalink). My immediate reaction was, “Yes, that’s so true!” At least two of my unpublished, misconceived novels began as revelatory inspirations which so enthralled me that I felt compelled to follow them up through two or three hundred floundering pages. In one case it was a cryptic opening paragraph that enticed me to find out what it meant; in another, a suddenly imagined plot premise that turned out to be tawdry.

And how many of our decisions in life are prompted by great realizations that wake us up in the middle of the night, or by mirages of the one perfect person, or by anxiety attacks disguised as urgings to take immediate action?

Not to mention the public revelations – the intolerant beliefs, the crazes of prejudice, the mass paranoias – that lead to wars and pogroms and genocides.

Yet I needed to pause and calm down about this latest revelation, too. Those treacherous words “always” and “never”. I must have had some sudden realizations that have helped me, haven’t I? Finding out that I could do things I never thought I could, like jumping off a high dive or throwing someone bigger than me. Looking at an autumn tree and seeing something beyond language. Smaller revelations, perhaps, are the more trustworthy ones.

In the end I guess revelations turn out to be true or false at the same rate as our other judgments and intuitions and conclusions and decisions. Probably about fifty-fifty. But we get seduced by the emotional charge of the revelation, and follow it, and that’s where the trouble begins. Experience tells me that the emotional charge attached to a decision says nothing about its value.