Marilynne Robinson is the author of Housekeeping, one of my favorite novels which was also made into a wonderful movie with the same title. In a recent interview with the New York Times she revealed the same elusive quest for “objectivity” that has always eluded me and will always do so:
Every period is trapped in its own assumptions, ours, too, so I am always trying, without much optimism, to put together a sort of composite of the record we have made that gives a larger sense of the constant at work in it all, that is, ourselves. The project is doomed from the outset, I know. Still.
Just as has been the case with myself, she has never allowed this quest to be debilitating. She learned as I have that we can never be “objective” but we can realize…and feel…that this objectivity eludes us and always will. And we can surrender to and be humbled by the awareness. Adrienne Rich once said, “We can never know ourselves until we are aware of the assumptions that tyrannize us.” When we gain awareness of one set of “basic assumptions” that tyrannize us, we will discover another! But that is merely the human predicament and if we realize it we can be more tolerant of others who are subject to a similar tyranny.