The Varnished Truth


Despite that truth has many facets, in its raw and unpolished state it is often not pretty. People don’t want to see the unvarnished truth; we would rather gaze at shiny things which dazzle and delight us. We prefer our truth varnished.

Varnish is, according to the dictionary that I consulted, “a preparation consisting of resinous matter dissolved in oil, alcohol or other volatile liquid.  When applied to the surface of wood, metal, etc., it dries and leaves a hard, more or less glossy, usually transparent coating.”  It is used to improve the appearance of the object it covers.  In the case of truth, varnish not only provides a glossy sheen which makes the truth more attractive but also a protective coating against those who would impugn the message on its surface.

Varnish does not hide imperfections as it glosses over them. This makes it the perfect top-coat for truth, since there is no perfect truth. When viewed from various angles we can see that the truth is messy and unkempt, and deeply gouged by those who declaim it.  The unvarnished truth is defenseless—anyone can carve into its surface and later claim to have discovered it in its purest form. But we know better, as did Oscar Wilde, who once quipped, “The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

To grasp the tainted and complicated truth requires great strength.  Every layer must be stripped to reveal its essence hidden beneath the build-up that has accumulated over the years. Only then can we accept the many truths that others cherish.  So instead of striving for the unvarnished truth, I will continue to polish my truths until I am able to examine their smooth surfaces, carefully discerning and celebrating the imperfections beneath a perfect sheen of varnish.


Comments (4)

What a spectacular use of metaphor. I especially liked the idea that Varnish does not hide imperfections as it glosses over them. This makes it the perfect top-coat for truth, since there is no perfect truth.

All too often, we forget that truth is not an absolute. Your truth and my truth may, or may not, share much in common. Rarely will two people have identical truths.

Possibly due to the fact that we rarely take the time for polishing them.

Thanks, Frume Sarah! I agree that rarely (if ever) will two people have identical truths. The best we can do is to be sensitive to this “truth.” Sometimes we are so busy sharing our version of truth, we forget to listen to another person’s version. Maybe we spend too much time polishing our own….

Truth is also a perspective. It depends where you are standing, as to how shiny the varnish looks. Frame of mind, uphoria vs depression, may set the tone of what we believe as truth. A good solid foundation helps us through those rough times in life to realize the truth will be shiny again soon.

Jill, this is so true. It’s all about perspective; this is an important lesson that art students could teach rabbinical students, I think.

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