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 —
For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea
-e. e. cummings
I’ve heard the first part, the strategy, quoted again and again–but almost everyone I’ve ever heard stops before Dickinson explains why we should “tell it slant.” And the why is the most powerful part.
If you had told me, during my first week in Oklahoma, that I would stay here six years, I would’ve said “No way.” I might have even become a little more resistant to the idea, because it would’ve felt so foreign. If you would have told me, the first time I talked to someone, that I would fall deeply, openly in love with her, in love like I hadn’t imagined–well, I wouldn’t have been able to imagine it. There weren’t roots, yet, to hold up the flowers and the leaves. In high school and college plenty of people did tell me that I’d be a good teacher, and I pushed back against every one. I’m not saying that teaching, or loving, or living in Oklahoma were the only path I could’ve walked. I don’t think they were. But I found those paths slowly, gradually, while my eyes adjusted.
Too often I’m in a hurry, and in hurrying, I hurry by. I hurry by the puddles and the petals, the questions and the bits of coral on the beach. Maybe finding ourselves is often a matter of losing our way, losing our yous and mes, until we’re spun around enough to start seeing what’s here. So I want to slow down. I don’t need answers now. I’ll try not to mind if the mountains don’t seem to be getting closer, no matter how long I walk. I’ll try to keep tottering along through slanted rooms, playing with the pieces I find, wondering at the changes larger than I yet understand. Day by day, all this is dazzling. It’s wonderful. And it’s helping me to see.