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On The Measurement Of Existential Truth

The story has, I fear, been much mangled in translation. But I will try.
First, Gepetto was a physicist, not a carpenter. I have noticed that your culture often attributes the job of "carpenter" to visionaries it does not understand.
My second point has to do with the nature of what we call "truth." Gepetto made him to be a truth meter, a living, infallible guide to the truth or falsehood of a spoken statement.
It was not about lying, you see. His nose didn't grow if he told a lie. His nose grew if he said something, anything, that wasn't true.
I trust the distinction is clear?
His career, I note, has been lost to the mists of time, which is a shame. He advised kings and musicians, artists and engineers. He was shuttled from palaces to universities to space stations; in offices and science departments he was given blueprints to read and then asked to speak the fatal words: "The calculations are correct."
After a year of banishing head engineers when the famous nose of truth throbbed visibly, the philosophers of the kingdom conferred and made some adjustments.
"The calculations are correct enough," he said, as the newest head engineer looked on nervously, and the nose moved not a whit. Success!
"It is a fair enough treaty," he pronounced later that day.
"The crops will be pretty good," he said happily. "String theory will eventually produce some results."
He himself had no idea what his famous feature was indicating about each statement, but the staff of the Nasometer General hovered over him with calipers and notebooks at each pronouncement, and each time he spoke mankind's knowledge was advanced one tiny, perfectly correct amount.
And every night he went home.
This is another thing the stories leave out. Invented tales of crickets and songs, and they leave out his wife. His wife! The love of his life, the shining beacon of his existence.
"My darling!" he would say every night, as he walked through the door of the modest brownstone in the nice but not too nice part of town. "My darling, I'm home!"
And every day she would greet him happily, and tell him how much she loved him.
But if he tried to reply she would quickly, deftly hold her finger to his lips.
"Not now," she would say to him softly. "Later."
And so all night they talked of inconsequential things, of his travels and of her work as a therapist, about how much he missed Gepetto and about how happy she was that her father finally had a good job, that her brother had been admitted to an excellent school, that her mother's cancer doctors were so skilled and so kind.
And finally at night, in bed, when the lights were off and the room was dark he was allowed to tell her how he felt.
"I love you," he would say as they lay next to each other in the dark. "I've always loved you, from the moment we met."
"I love you too, darling."
But never in the light.
"All men have doubts," she would say. "And I don't want to see them on your face. I don't want to wonder if this time I'll see it, or next time, or the next. I want to believe you."
And so they had a good life, a happy life, until finally the cancer that had taken her mother came for her as well, and the best efforts of the best doctors were for naught and she was gone.
At her bedside in her last days he cried, but the habit was so strong between them that he was never able to look into her eyes and say the words he had in his heart.
The kingdom mourned because they loved him, and there were days of parades and a state funeral and flags at half mast, and eventually that was done too and he was alone in the brownstone again.
He walked to the bathroom and looked into the mirror.
"She loved me," he said. "She loved me only for me, not for what my fame brought her. Not for the money, or the help it brought her family. When we met she fell in love, and she fell in love with me, myself, and not for any of the rest of it. Just me."
He said all that firmly, in a calm tone, and he believed it.
But before he said it he closed the door and turned out the light so he could stand in utter darkness while he spoke.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, March 10th, 2021
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