Posted by: okathleen | November 1, 2008

“The world, in truth, is a wedding.”

Streams of thought about Goffman and Giddens and the self. Goffman with his impression management and theatrical metaphors, and Giddens with the biography of the individual, a reflexivity that cannot only be an act. With agency, according to Giddens, choices are made by the individual, within certain constraints, the self is free to choose, therefore, a sense of self must come not from our identity via the other, but somewhere within. There must be a truth? Goffman describes the world as a wedding. Where individuals come together and form relationships. Layers of the self, secrets and lies, form the basis of such couplings. ‘My wife knows me better than I know myself’…. Can this be true. Can the other ever know the I better than the I knows itself?

Yesterday saw the anniversary of the birth of two of my superheroes. Keats on October 31st, 1795, and Vermeer on October 31st, 1632. Both masters of truth and light. Spectacular imagery..


A casement high and triple-arch’d there was,
All garlanded with carven imag’ries
Of fruits, and flowers, and bunches of knot-grass,
And diamonded with panes of quaint device,
Innumerable of stains and splendid dyes,
As are the tiger-moth’s deep-damask’d wings;
And in the midst, ‘mong thousand heraldries,
And twilight saints, and dim emblazonings,
A shielded scutcheon blush’d with blood of queens and kings.

Full on this casement shone the wintry moon,
And threw warm gules on Madeline’s fair breast,
As down she knelt for heaven’s grace and boon;
Rose-bloom fell on her hands, together prest,
And on her silver cross soft amethyst,
And on her hair a glory, like a saint:
She seem’d a splendid angel, newly drest,
Save wings, for heaven:-Porphyro grew faint:
She knelt, so pure a thing, so free from mortal taint.


Keats the romantic, oozing a stream of luxurious, luscious language. He conjours colours and shapes, textures and depth, transporting us to the shadowy chill of a winter’s night. And Vermeer, his girl reading a letter, lit by an open window. She could be Madeline, ethereal, saintly, quietly reading what might be a love letter, shrouded in the red damask of Keats’ poem.

 ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,-that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know –


Is truth beauty? I think truth could be pretty ugly. Our impression management stops us from or even saves us from truth. We know how to behave in certain situations, society, whatever that is, demands this of us. Otherwise life would be minefields of honesty, where honesty is sometimes not the best policy. Does the dentist hurt mum? Does my bum look big in this darling? Lying, or dishonesty plays a big part in impression management. Take the truth pill and we all behave like sufferers of Asperger’s, where emotional intelligence is lacking and social skills are off the menu. Say what you mean, mean what you say would probably see you arrested in hours. If beauty is truth, and truth beauty, what are the aesthetics of lies. Why do we have the capacity to lie? Why does the brain have the facility for irony and sarcasm? We are not to be taken literally, but why not? What would a planet of a billion Mother Theresas look like?

 Poets and Artists, searching for purity, truth, the light, in a world of greedy ugly liars. Perhaps that is the key. The escapism of poetry, the relief of art, read this, look at that and be transported to another place.


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