Living in the country, one of the yearly jobs one has to do, which my city friends miss out on, is cleaning out a septic system filter. It involves removing a man-hole sized cover, which is fastened with 8 three-inch screws. Once open, you have to reach the length of your upper-body down into the ground, down into the tank, like the descent into the underworld, in order to remove a filter at the bottom, clean it, and then replace it, trying as hard as you can not to breath, touch, or splash anything in the process. It is not, for reasons I will leave to your imagination, my favourite job.
Today as I unscrewed the cover, I paused to read and reflect on what was written on its top: "Do Not Enter." I read a great deal of philosophy that tries to come to terms with truth and its availability through language. Can we say that a text is true? Can we hope to access truth in ways that are universally available? Do texts contain truth? Do we, or should we, privilege some texts over others for the truth they make available? These are a few of the questions we ask in such modes of thinking.
With the last screw removed, and it now being time to remove the cover, I pulled in a great breath of air and simultaneously reread the text before me, breathed it in, held it as long as I could in order to fully understand it, hung on to it in order to keep myself alive: "Do Not Enter." I worked quickly and yet carefully, and returned the cover for another year. As you sit at the top of a septic tank, with the terrible maw of hell opening below your feet, there is only one thing that can be said, only one thing that is true, more true than almost any truth I've ever encountered in any text: "Do Not Enter." It is a truth so true it need not be written in order to be perceived, understood, believed. It is veritas.