The Impediment to Truth by Kirk Barbera

Updated: Sep 21, 2021



*special print edition NOW AVAILABLE! The following is the opening essay:


 

On March 1st, 1796 the romantic poet and literary critic, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, released the first of ten issues of a periodical he called The Watchman. This unintentionally short lived journal would include essays, book reviews, news stories, and poems. The purpose of the publication was to provide readers with Information, Knowledge and Wisdom so that they were better able to form independent opinions.


In his opening essay, Coleridge gives a brief history on the diffusion of truth, wherein he explains the ways in which the government of Britain interferes with the dissemination of truth and wisdom. These impediments included taxes on paper as well as the view that newspapers were a luxury item and thus should be regulated accordingly. This caused the average citizen to receive his information and the knowledge of the day from his perch on a barstool or pew. More often the former.


Coleridge used as his motto the following:


That all may know the truth;

And that the truth may make us free.


Like so many idealistic writers before and since, his plan was high on ambition but low on execution. Our hope is to rectify the mistakes of the great literary writers who came before us, while retaining their spirit.


In 2021, we do not have impediments to the free flow of information. The new and much maligned technologies of our day have solved this perennial problem. Lack of knowledge and wisdom remain, however. Where Coleridge had to deal with paper taxes and widespread illiteracy; we have to deal with an overflow of information and distraction. Worse, we are a nation of functional literates—only a very small portion of society learning to read beyond the most basic elementary level of our ABCs. Men unable to decipher the difficult text of our day, are unable to discern the good from the bad, the true from opinion.


It is my belief that to achieve a free society, individuals must not only be free from oppression, but also capable of self-government. Men capable of self-government desire only one thing from an external government—protection from outside forces, nefarious or bumbling. As Coleridge explains in issue NO 1 of The Watchman:


Man begins to be free when he begins to examine… Men always serve the cause of freedom by thinking, even though their first reflections may lead them to oppose it… The very act of dissenting from established opinions must generate habits precursive to the love of freedom.

The roadblocks to the land of freedom and liberty are within you. Tyranny is not caused by some big blue technology company. The cause is each of our inability to make sense of the world; this means an ability to carefully examine and consider—even when the ideas are those with which you agree.


In our era we look to flickering images for distraction; With Troubadour we ask that you enter the realm of literature for contemplation’s sake. Helping readers to discover the high pleasure of contemplation is a chief goal of Troubadour Magazine. Literacy is more than an ability to recite the ABCs or to read the most recent self-help book. Our writers aim to communicate something that can increase a reader’s understanding of themselves and the world. Making sense of good literature should not be an exercise in futility. Contemplation of a work of art should lead to somewhere. That is our goal.


Troubadour publishes literature both imaginative and expository. Imaginative literature is fiction with purposefulness and imagination. Expository literature conveys knowledge—knowledge about experiences that the writer has had or could have. Imaginative literature directly conveys experience. Imaginative literature pleases rather than teaches; expository points out or explains. Good literature demands that a reader engage their own imagination and reason in the process of reading. Interpretation is a reader’s job, not the authors. The author provides the material, the reader brings the mind; the author is like a pitcher on the mound, the reader is the catcher. While an author can choreograph his pitch slightly, it is up to the reader to catch the meaning. Interpretation is another term for ‘a search for truth and meaning.’


By truth I do not mean one handed down by God and interpreted by priests, nor do I mean handed down by “elites” and power-lusting bureaucrats; rather, truth, in the sense of an individual's ability to find it by investigating the world. Coleridge’s motto was that “the truth may make us free.” Learning to interpret the world is the path to being able to produce freedom in one's own self. The source is not a newspaper or the halls of power, nor figures robed in white or bejeweled with a rosary; the source is your own independent reasoning mind.


As author Ayn Rand defines “Reason is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses.” Even the most fantastical of stories should endeavor to ground itself in reason, that is human sensation, perception, and conceptualization. It is my hope that the effect will be pleasing, enlightening, elevating.


If by pleasing one thinks of stories that are simple, bright, fun and made of pure spectacle, then our first issue will come as a shock. Our selection for the Pandemic Issue comes primarily from pieces written under quarantine. This is not a “happy” light-hearted issue.


Despite the insanity of the lead up to 2020, I, and many like me, had been living in a sparkling world of possibility. I was a westerner who felt:


The world began when I was born
And the world is mine to win.

March 2020 brought not only a virus but also great waves of deadly stupidity and insanity. The oncoming media hype and fear-mongering led to mandates and regulations and quarantines that further destroyed the frontiers of freedom and liberty. That Westerner who shone so brightly in the Land of the Free was squeezed between falsehood and fear. He became a stranger:


And how am I to face the odds
Of man’s bedevilment and Gods? I, a stranger and afraid
In a world I never made?

The onslaught of media sensationalism and the spreading fear over the virus in 2020 brought to my mind the two pigs in Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron. The opening of this great work of imaginative literature is a description of the black death. This takes place


One thousand, three hundred and forty eight years… since the fruitful incarnation of The Son of God when the deadly plague arrives in the noble city of Florence, the most beautiful of any in Italy.

The Decameron is one hundred stories told over ten days by ten Florentines who have fled the black death of 1348. Prior to the telling of the stories, Boccaccio describes the societal breakdown that occurred as over one third of Europe was wiped out by the plague. Homes were considered everyone’s property, as no one was present to stop men and women from entering any house they desired. Laws ceased to function. Religious institutions failed. Few servants survived to assist their masters. The boundaries of sexual propriety broke down. Misinformation spread faster than the plague. To Boccaccio even the line between animals and humans were destroyed, as one of many examples he cites, there were many parents who refused to care for a plague-ridden child. His example of two pigs further illustrates the vision that all boundaries had been torn down, as these animals were catching a "human" disease:


One day… two pigs came upon the rags of a poor man that had been thrown into a public street after he had died of the disease, and as they usually do, the pigs first poked at them with their snouts, after which they picked them up between their teeth and shook them against their jowls. Thereupon, within a short time, after writhing about as if they had been poisoned, both of them fell down dead on the ground, splayed out upon the rags that had brought about their destruction.