Kingsley Amis and Disdain for the Truth

Been in something of a creative funk as of late, so I am not going […]

Matthew Stokes / 8.1.12

Been in something of a creative funk as of late, so I am not going to belabor the point here. Professor Jim Dixon offers these thoughts in Kingsley Amis’ great novel Lucky Jim, and they are so indicative of the human condition: Give me the straight juice, but only if it goes down smooth. Even more telling is the fact that Amis wrote this as a waning Stalinite on the verge of a breakup with the Soviet Union:

“Now, as Dixon had been half expecting all along, Welch produced his handkerchief. It was clear that he was about to blow his nose.  This was usually horrible, if only because it drew unwilling attention to Welch’s nose itself, a large, open-pored tetrahedron.  But when the familiar miraculously-sustained blares beat against the walls and windows, Dixon hardly minded at all; the noise had the effect of changing his mood.  Any statement that could be battered out of Welch was invariably trustworthy, so that Dixon was back where he started.  But how lovely to be back where he started, instead of out in front where he didn’t want to be. How wrong people always were when they said: ‘It’s better to know the worst than go on not knowing either way.’ No; they had it exactly the wrong way round. Tell me the truth, doctor, I’d sooner know. But only if the truth is what I want to hear.” 

Where does this fit with a theology of grace and mercy?  The word that comes to mind is control – and we must abandon it. Give up our desire to control our circumstance – I’m looking at you, Walter White – and for the believer, that means trust in a merciful, loving God.  What we say we want is never, ever what we really want.  Perhaps in rare moments of lucidity we want the unvarnished truth, but we are ever prone to hide ourselves in jargon and structures that are likely to insulate us from the harsh reality outside.  And that reality is that most days we have committed a serious infraction (or three!) and on our best days we’ve still left something undone.

Thanks be to God for his mercy and forgiveness.