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Emily Dickinson - Tell All The Truth

After having written a jazz song based on the very famous hope, the “thing with feathers”, I always thought I’d someday find the time to read more of Emily Dickinson’s work (1830 –1886). She was a “Myth”, she lived as a recluse, who wrote in private and who only saw a fraction of her work published, sometimes altered significantly by editors who wanted it to sound more contemporary than it did. She was preoccupied with death, deeply religious, never married and started to wear only white at a certain point in her life. 

I was looking for something meaningful to say about lying. if possible put in an art context. Have you ever had to lie, for your own sake, AND someone else’s? The kind of lying you do to influence a situation, to make it easier when direct confrontation hasn’t led you anywhere up to this point. I didn’t think this was really an option, but in the context of work, it just might be, rarely, is what I found out. 

Google wasn’t helpful, it came up with rather elitist aphorisms - art is a lie that helps us discover the truth, which apparently Picasso said, and is now an essay subject for art history students all over the world. Or a strange story about an artist reinventing herself.

William Shakespeare was of no help, either, since the poems I found describe only the lying of a mistress about her lover’s age.

So somehow, I found myself looking up Emily Dickinson, and immediately I started mixing up her life and her words. She must have been a sincere woman, true to her own words. Even she says truth is best told a bit slanted, and must be revealed only gradually, for otherwise all men would be blind. Let me make her my pastor of today, and follow her words closely: if the first step was lying, the next step might be gradually letting the truth in, just a little. Thank you, lady in white, rest in peace.