Enduring Love

November 18, 2010

This paragraph on pages 180-181 is at the core of Ian McEwan’s novel.

I felt a familiar disappointment. No one could agree on anything. We lived in a mist of half-shared, unreliable perception, and our sense data came warped by a prism of desire and belief, which tilted our memories too. We saw and remembered in our own favour and we persuaded ourselves along the way. Pitiless objectivity, especially about ourselves, was always a doomed social strategy. We’re descended from the indignant, passionate tellers of half-truths who in order to convince others, simultaneously convinced themselves. Over generations success had winnowed us out, and with success came our defect, carved deep in the genes like ruts in a cart track–when it didn’t suit us we couldn’t agree on what was in front of us. Believing is seeing. That’s why there are divorces, border disputes and wars, and why this statue of Virgin Mary weeps blood, and that one of Ganesh drinks milk. And that was why metaphysics and science were such courageous enterprises, such startling inventions, bigger than the wheel, bigger than agriculture, human artifacts set right against the grain of human nature. Disinterested truth. But it couldn’t save us from ourselves, the ruts were too deep. There could be no private redemption in objectivity.

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