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Archive for the ‘Censorship’ Category


In Art, Censorship on February 5, 2015 at 9:27 pm

By Heila Rogers

Banned books week at the end of September got me thinking.

Do we get to say — to pronounce judgment on — what something we read, see, or hear means?

“It’s a matter of interpretation,” people say — which seems to mean that we get to decide.

For instance, someone could say that the classic children’s book Charlotte’s Web is about a selfish young girl who didn’t obey her parents. Someone could say that the story is about when she and some animals conspire to rob a farmer, who is in fact her own uncle. This band of “no-accounts” then proceed to undertake various deceitful methods to defraud the agriculturist of a pig.

But ~ is this what that book is actually about?! How do we tell?

Well reading the book for a start, is a good way to begin to examine what it means.

But even that doesn’t always work.

A reader can have such set-in-stone paradigm in their head the whole time that they’re examining words, that they won’t be able to see beyond that set perspective.


Photo by Mary Gregory

What about the author’s or artist’s intent?

Can we tell what something means, by examining that?

E.B. White, the author of Charlotte’s Web, was thought to have written the book in order to imagine something in fiction: that he’d saved a pig that he wasn’t able to save in real life. He wrote about this in Death of a Pig in 1948, before he wrote Charlotte’s Web four years later.

When asked what the book was about though, White said the following:

I haven’t told why I wrote the book, but I haven’t told you why I sneeze, either. A book is a sneeze.”


Photo by Rachel Elizabeth White

The truth is probably complicated.

Writing or creating are never straightforward endeavors. There’s something mysterious about the process, something unknown even to the author, or actor,

painter, sculptor,


gardener, baker (what will happen when I combine these ingredients?),

or relationship forger…

There isn’t really a “why” sometimes when creating, there’s just an “it” – the end result.

Yet there are certainly motivations, experiences, questions and such that drive us to explore answers by creating, and in the creation itself.

Which I would hazard to say is always beyond us in some way. The creation itself is separate from us.


Photo by Mary Gregory

Back to books.

So, we can examine and ask questions of the author to explore a book’s meaning.

We can read and look with an open heart, on our own.

We can also look to others – we can explore commentary, scholarly opinion, literary analysis, etc.

Asking, “What do they say it says?”

We can analyze. Using our brains, our experience and our observational skills, and what we know emotionally to ring true.

Along with using some of the aforementioned methods of literary analysis, we can actually look at the words, sentences, and relationships between characters and find truth.

Will this truth be the same for everyone? To some extent, yes. Because the nature of truth itself is that it is stable, unchanging.

There is also the concept of the blind men and the elephant. Each man felt different parts of the creature and thus described it as being very, very different. But it was truly an elephant – all the parts taken together.

Are honesty and truth important? I mean, really?

Lies warp and destroy. Even when we think they won’t; even when we think they’ll be good and helpful, they aren’t.

The fact is, readers, lookers and listeners will each gain something unique from a piece of art (or even a conversation).

Check out these quotes about truth by famous artists:

Nothing is less real than realism. Details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things. (Georgia O’Keeffe)

A lie would have no sense unless the truth were felt as dangerous. (Alfred Adler)

A truth that’s told with bad intent / Beats all the lies you can invent. (William Blake)

There is such a thing as intentionally manipulating others through deception, however.

We might feel justified in this; we might feel that it’s for a good reason. We might feel we’re right. But the fact is, seeking to control others is wrong. Why? Because we people are too limited for that kind of power.

We’re not good enough, smart enough, or big enough for it. It ends up hurting ourselves and others.

I believe we need to yield to the fact of this weakness and acknowledge it, while also remaining aware of our abilities, gifts and value.


Photo by Mary Gregory

“The truth will set you free.” But will it?

The truth is, truth can still be found. Even among lies.

But does the truth care if we don’t believe in it? Is it still the truth, regardless?

What is truth?

We can’t just pick something and say, “this or that is it;” so we instead have to search and examine and discard and keep, and keep looking, until things click or make sense; until they “feel right.”

We have to ask others if our thinking is off, if we’re missing something. Asking, “What about this?”

We have to be okay with not knowing everything. We have to be okay with being too small to pronounce for everyone else’s (or our own) life what to do, how to be, or what is right all the time. This is where God comes in.

We have to know that we are not… God.

Truth is worth it. It’s another name for Beauty.

It takes vulnerability and honesty to search for it.

So, three cheers for Charlotte, spinning her web for her babies, and trusting Wilbur to help her.

Here’s to courage and honesty and friendship. Different aspects of the truth.


Photo by Mary Gregory

Photo by Mary Gregory

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