Truth and Imagination

“Everything to be imagined is an image of truth”

–          William Blake

Timor-Leste, to me, is a like a book. It’s filled with stories, just waiting to be told. But like a book, Timor should not be judged by its cover.

When I first started this blog, I decided that it would not have photos.

There would be no shots of Timor’s beautiful landscapes.

No pictures of the burned out ruins that are scattered throughout Dili as constant reminders of a violent past.

No snaps of the cheeky smiles of the kids in my street, my neighbourhood, or anywhere else in the tiny half-island nation.

Sure, I’ve posted some on Facebook. Who wouldn’t want to brag about eating pancakes on a stretch of white sand with clear blue water and palm trees in the background? But not here. 

I’ve been asked a couple of times in the last few days why there isn’t a single photo on the blog. And it’s because, for me, photos will never do the subject justice. They show only the surface, allowing for judgements and preconceptions. They can rarely capture the beauty, the pain, the joy, or the devastation.

Photos might be able to capture a moment of reality, but they don’t always capture the truth.

I’ve got countless photos from my time in Timor. And I’m sure that many of my photos are almost identical to the photos others have taken. But the moments were all different. Different people, different times.

Words, however, get a little closer. They allow for truth, but also – any maybe more importantly – they allow for imagination. They allow you to look beyond the scars of a nation that has suffered so much and see beneath the surface. They allow for the important details; the suffering that was and the hope that now is. You get the true stories, but the physical attributes of a person or a location can be left to the imagination.

The physical is not what’s important. I find that more often than not, my imagination conjures up images that are more beautiful than reality. And I believe that what my imagination conjures up is the truth. If my preconceived notions of beauty aren’t allowed to take flight, if I can imagine beauty, it exists.

My blog might not always be aesthetically pleasing. But neither is Timor. Looks aren’t what matters. Truth matters.

The contents of this blog are the truth, or at least my truth.

This blog, like Timor, are the contents of the story. The cover doesn’t matter.  

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