My father, who was customarily not very outspoken, at times seemed so overcome by a truth he felt everyone else was ignoring, he would blurt out his opinion. Fully expecting whoever was within earshot to disagree with him. 

A famous poem, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant — ” by Emily Dickinson sounds like the advice of someone who has earned more than a few battle scars in the “Truth Campaign.”

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant –
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind –

When Daddy passed away last year he was a couple of years shy of 100. His periodic inconvenient truths, whether about the child-rearing methods of his great grandchildren or my driving habits, had become a twinkle in his eye. More charming, perhaps, but I believe he’d stopped believing in the “Success in Circuit…”. His nature circumvented a thoughtful, slant approach.  To take a circuitous route might have caused us to open a little our closed minds. However, he would have feared insulting someone by appearing to treat them as infirm.

The poem, which doesn’t say which truth to regard as “Too bright for our infirm Delight”, speaks from experience of having failed at least once in an attempt to shed light on a situation. 

Feeling caught is not fun after telling the truth about a troubling circumstance of my life when a loved one runs for cover; the familiar, safe anonymity of ignorance too compelling. To learn from hard experience of trafficking in truth that “The Truth must dazzle gradually” involves self restraint and self respect. Intact belief in “The Truth’s superb..” qualities, when everyone else is not so sure, leads either to despair or willingness to bite one’s tongue. “As Lightening to the Children eased / With explanation kind” speaks of a decision about how to communicate.  

Is it satirical to say of one’s peers that we must “With explanation kind” avoid saying, “What are you?  Blind?!”

No! No, the poem advises, tolerance: “Or every man be blind —”.

Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes Your Way

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