A Fable

A young man goes to a wise woman and says, ‘I am a seeker after truth. Show me what is true.’

So the woman takes him to a bell-foundry. She strikes the first bell, which gives out a beautiful clear note, as does the second; but the third is cracked, and gives a flat, dull sound.

‘The first two are true,’ she says, ‘but not the third.’
‘That is not the truth I mean,’ says the seeker.

So the woman takes him to a billiard table and rolls a ball which runs dead straight with no deviation; but another ball swings in a curve.

‘The table is true and the first ball,’ says the woman, ‘but not the other.’
‘That is not the truth I mean,’ says the seeker.

They watch some people next. A couple go about their daily round, in the course of which one succumbs to temptation but the other resists.

‘She was true to him, but he was not true to her,’ says the woman.
‘That is not the truth I mean,’ says the seeker.

The woman takes him to a bicycle shop where a girl is working on a wheel. She spins it and it wobbles; she adjusts the spokes and the wobble is reduced. Eventually the wheel spins without deviation.

‘She has made that wheel true now,’ says the woman.
‘That is not the truth I mean,’ says the seeker.

So the woman takes a book and reads, ‘She struck the first bell, which gave out a beautiful note, as did the second; but the third was cracked, and gave out a dull, flat sound.’

‘Yes, that is true,’ says the seeker excitedly, ‘every word of it! that is exactly as it happened!’
‘And yet,’ says the woman, ‘the book I read from was written a hundred years ago; it is a work of fiction – in what sense is that sentence true?’

And the seeker went away perplexed.

One thought on “A Fable

  1. This brings to mind one of the hexagrams of the I Ching: Sun below, Mountain above. In my interpretation of it, the Sun generally represents illumination, clarity, and the will; Mountain represents the material world, physical reality, and the past as foundation. Sun below, Mountain above means evaluation, attributes, embellishment, judgment, reputation. What is highlighted is not the thing (object or situation) itself, but a description of it with some amount of value judgment added. It’s difficult to see when we are adding our judgments and when we’re not. A light shined on something illuminates a part, and leaves another part in shadow. Clarity itself involves a kind of judgment on what is included and what is excluded.

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