Tuesday, June 11, 2013

To tell you the truth . . .

I always enjoy conversations with my friend Tom.  He provokes me with interesting questions.
"Tell me," he said the other day, "what is truth?"
I gave the question the consideration it merited.
"Life as I see it," I said at last.
"Precisely!" said Tom, "It's all relative."

It struck me afterwards that, whilst putting great value on the concept of truth, we too often use the word unthinkingly.
"To tell you the truth . . . "we say, as though bestowing a rare confidence . . . and only succeed in making our listener wonder just what it was that we were recounting in the first place!

By the same token, can the subject known in schools as 'history' be said to represent the truth?  Or, as a wise man once said, is it merely 'a fable agreed upon'?

All of which leads me to an apology.
I honestly don't know whether the story I'm about to tell you is truth or fiction, myth or history.
But, as it's a wonderful story, let's go along with the national newspaper who reported it last week and share the fascinating origins of the Highland Fling.

It used to be believed that, way back in the mists of time, the Highland Fling was devised as a means of Scottish celebration.
Such a virile display of vigorous dancing was thought to achieve two aims:  it reinforced the glories of victory and, at the same time, discouraged any potential opposition.

But what if this familiar story is merely a fable agreed upon?
Last week an alternative version came to light.
According to my paper, it was not battle-jubilation but midge-frustration that drove those early Scottish warriors to skip and dance with such frantic abandon.

Midges, as is well-known, are an annual hazard in the Scottish Highlands.  The inviting, plump, pink knees of a kilted Highland Chieftain would be their perfect feeding-ground.

And what of the Scottish warriors themselves?  Would a group of proud and upstanding Scotsmen want to reveal their vulnerability?
All-conquering in warfare, would they choose to be seen as victims of the small and scurrilous midge?

Not on your life!  Far better to counter this unprovoked attack with intentional jumping and leaping  . . .   with a swirling of kilts and a tossing of tam-o-shanters . . . preferably to the strains of the bagpipes whose strident frequencies are well known to discourage insect life!

So, what is the truth of the Highland Fling . . . ?
Only the midges know . . . and the midge who bit me yesterday isn't telling!