VACLAV HAVEL AND LIVING THE TRUTH
Vaclav Havel, poet, philosopher, playwright and now President of the Czech Republic, was imprisoned for four years by the Communist Government. He was allowed to write one letter a week to his wife, Olga. On 7 January 1980 he wrote about a Prague greengrocer who ran a small shop. In the shop window he placed a sign saying 'Workers of the World Unite'. No-one looking at the shop window took any notice of the sign, for they had similar signs in their shops and offices, which were delivered every week. Certainly the people looking at the shop window noticed if there were any tomatoes or other fruit and whether they were fresh, but the sign was ignored. What, then, was the function of the sign? It was put there by the greengrocer to say, 'I will be a loyal citizen. I will conform to the system, I will not rock the boat.' The reward for the greengrocer was his job, a small flat, being allowed to send his son to college, and a week's holiday each year in Bulgaria. One day, however, something in the greengrocer snaps. He decides to take down the sign and to stand for what he believes. He decides to 'live in the Truth' (as Havel put it). For Havel, living in the Truth is not to live by one's own truth, but to be responsible to something ultimate, beyond one's psyche, one's community or society. Havel never actually identified this Unknown with God, but his position is very similar to Kierkegaard who also described God as the
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Publication information: Book title: What Is Truth?. Contributors: Peter Vardy - Author. Publisher: University of New South Wales Press. Place of publication: Sydney, N.S.W.. Publication year: 1999. Page number: 156.
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