Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Emporer's New Clothes

The Emperor's New Clothes; great story, right? I think it's safe to say that everyone knows this classic folktale by Hans Christian Anderson.

Here's a brief summary if you've forgotten the point: The Emperor, quite the natty dresser, hires tailors to make him a fantastic outfit. They say that they are making him clothing from invisible cloth. Well, the cloth is only invisible if you aren't suited to your position. The Emperor himself can't see the clothes, but pretends that he can because he doesn't want his position called into question. His pride forces him to lie to himself and he drags all those around him into his lie. He decks himself out in his non-existent finery and he parades through the town. Everyone in the town was not blind. They all knew that the Emperor wasn't dressed. But they all played along with his foolish plan and pretended that all was well with the Emperor strutting about in a socially unacceptable fashion. Finally, the ridiculousness of the situation was exposed (if you will) when a small child honestly cried out that the Emperor wasn't wearing any clothes at all.

I'm going to ignore the deeper meanings of this folktale, like pretentiousness, frippery, and the dangers of engaging servile advisers. Instead, I'd like to focus on the simple message: The collective denial of the obvious.

Ask yourself, who are you in this tale? Life would be undoubtedly easier to go with the flow and ignore the Emperor's embarrassing parade. However, if you have any integrity at all, you wouldn't be able to live with such an obvious lie.

Why would no one state the obvious to the Emperor? Sometimes it might mean my head, but I'm content to be the truthful young child instead of a disgusting sycophant. I can see those contemptible people in my mind right now, panting after the Emperor, currying favor. Could it be that they were less concerned with the truth and more interested in remaining in the Emperor's good graces? After all, being close to the Emperor means that there is a strong likelihood of benefiting financially. "A love of money is the root of all kinds of evil" and this is a perfect example of that truth.

Speaking the truth, even when it hurts, is preferable than being a no-good filthy liar. When one truly cares, they want the truth known.  Only those with questionable motives would be content to ignore the obvious and allow the Emperor to parade about in invisible clothes.

It's black and white.  You are either lying or you're telling the truth. You're either part of the problem or you're part of the solution. I like being part of the solution; how about you?

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