Sunday, August 05, 2007

Where The Autobiographer Lived

There lived a man whose idiosyncrasies and peculiar manner aroused the suspicion and curiosity of his fellows. In response to everything the man did people cynically asked: "Why does he do that? What is his motive?" The man's behavior, born of inner confusion, raised suspicions in others, which, in turn, compounded his confusion.

The man resolved to put his fellows' minds at ease, and his own mind, by writing the story of his life, thereby explaining himself to himself and explaining himself to those with whom he interacted. The man disseminated his story to his fellows.

Instead of allaying doubt, however, the story raised even more questions. Some suspected the man had committed a crime and sought through this means to conceal his great misdeed. Moreover, these people said the writing of the story was itself evidence of the man's mendacity and was therefore a criminal act irrespective of the severity of any past wrongful actions. Others said the man wanted to compensate, or overcompensate, for a poor self-image by creating a grandiloquent delineation of himself. Still others said he sought to satisfy the exigency of his longing for greatness by emulating the forms of the masters.

Troubled by his fellows' endless suspicions, the man decided to write a second story to explain why he had written the first story. But it occurred to him that a second story would raise more questions. People would likely ask: "Why a second story? Did he not tell us everything he needed to say in the first story?" Might not a second story simply serve to call attention to possible omissions in the first story, leading people to conclude that the man had intentionally omitted material facts in an attempt to deceive? Yet worse, if the second story should contradict some small detail in the first story people might interpret these inconsistent statements as deliberate lies.

Thus, the man would be compelled to write a third story to explain why he had written the second story. The third story would, in turn, call for a fourth story, he thought, and the fourth story, a fifth. The man could foresee no end to his need to explain himself. He then decided to transform his dilemma into a parable--a parable that would set forth the absurdity of his existence and thereby settle for all time the confusion in his mind and in the minds of his fellows. The man's parable read as follows:

"There lived a man whose idiosyncrasies and peculiar manner aroused the suspicion and curiosity of his fellows. . . . "

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