Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Wherein Lies the Truth?

Yesterday I started ruminating on TRUTH after reading Red Dirt Girl’s post. She asks if there is such a thing as “the absolute truth”. It’s not clearly as straightforward as I had once thought.

Some truths are completely obvious and verifiable. For example, if you look out the window and see puddles forming, you can truthfully say, “It’s raining.” It’s something you can say with certainty.

But then, what about “It rained every day last week.” This one depends on memory unless you go to the trouble of looking at historical rainfall. Two people are likely to disagree on this.

But what’s the truth about how rain makes you feel? Some people would say “Rain makes me sad and depressed.” Others might say “Rain makes me feel content because it is so nice to listen to.” This is the gray area about truth because it calls into play perception. A group of people can perceive something many different ways, thereby making it difficult to even determine the truth of the matter.

Then there’s a statement made after the person in question is long gone, like “Mom always loved you better than me.” This is the ultimate in perception. If Mom were around, she would probably deny it even if it were true. But as far as the speaker is concerned, it is the truth.

Here’s something that actually happened. I had the following conversation with someone I know and love yesterday:

Him: I have been angry with you for months because you said you would never hire me.
Me: When did I ever say that?
Him: When I was talking about possibly falsifying my resume to cover up the long break in employment.
Me: Given that I know you suffer from “scrupulosity” (a form of OCD), I knew that you would never falsify your resume and that you were just baiting me. I told you that I was sure as an interviewer that I could tell if someone had done that and yes, I said I would then be unwilling to hire that person.
Him: But you still said it and it really bothered me.
Me: Let me assure you that if I were in the position to hire you, I would do so based on your actual credentials with no need for embellishment or falsification.

So here we have an example of how very misleading and far from the actual truth a statement taken out of context can be.

Red Dirt Girl is in the midst of an ugly divorce. Divorce often brings out the worst in people, causing them to “bend the truth”. Does that mean “to lie”? Not necessarily. You can often do considerable damage just by remembering something just a little differently. If you try hard enough, you can actually replace what happened or what was said with what you would like to remember. It becomes the truth as far as you are concerned.

So how about using a lie detector test? Sadly there are ways to pass such a test even if you are guilty. So there is no real litmus test for truth.

The bottom line is that my truth and your truth may bear no resemblance. But does that make them any less the truth?

22 Comments:

Blogger Kristin said...

The post definitely makes me think. We so often believe what we want or what we can handle. Things that aren't quite accurate can so easily become the truth.

8:29 PM  
Blogger Pauline said...

My truth and your truth - it comes to that, doesn't it?

8:55 PM  
Blogger red dirt girl said...

ahhhh - i've been anticipating your comment and WOW !!!! it's a blog post! thank you for the kind reference .... the older i get, the more 'flexible' my stance on absolute truth has become ... but that is a comment meant for a blog post I think. Excellent piece, Barbara and very thought provoking.

I wish there were some way I could bind up all of the 'truth' comments and store them away in my psyche ...to fall back on when my truth comes into question.

xx
red

12:48 AM  
Blogger Ulysses said...

Raining? sometimes the sprinkler's on, or the kids are playing with the hose again.
All perception is creative; abstraction and interpretation. The only way to arrive at a shared truth (sometimes the only way to know your own truth) is to use the language.
I read three quotes recently that all seemed to imply that.

6:17 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kristin, Pauline -- Yes and Yes.

Red -- We simply must trust our truths.

Ulysses -- Yeah, I thought about the sprinkler thing. But you know what I mean. If you touched the stove and got burned, it was on -- that sort of evidence.

Ahhh, the bonus question answer. Sort of interesting that we were both thinking about truth.

7:56 AM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

Ulysses is so smart.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Reya -- That is a definite truth!

9:22 AM  
Blogger Ruth D~ said...

Truth: the shifting truth of memories.

I remember this. You say no, not that at all. It was this.

"They" say that by ruminating on memories we actually change them from what they were to something different. Truth? But yet, are our memories lies?

10:06 AM  
Blogger Molly said...

Have been lurking here, over from Rise. Didn't mean to comment but have been guilted into it by your lentils post! So much food for thought here--wanting a peaceful life, trying to define truth, awesome evenings with conservationists, yoga, which I've been wanting to do.....Truth. black and white? Nooooo! Very gray, depending on how you perceive what has happened.........

10:08 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

RuthD -- Reading your comment, an image came to mind of someone touching up an old painting. The restoration artist then decides to paint in a new figure and suddenly that becomes the truth of the painting. Just like "the shifting truth of memories".

Molly -- You are so welcome here anytime! My life is just a hodge-podge of events, nothing special. But it seems to yield something to write about most days. Feel free to throw in your 2 cents anytime.

10:19 AM  
Blogger steve said...

I used to think that the "Grey Area" was quite large...I don't think that way so much anymore...I think most things of significance are are either right or wrong.

Try telling a guy thats building a rocketship to Mars that there is a huge grey area to what he is doing...that the laws of Physics are open to interpretation and that whether a particular switch is open or not is a matter of perception...that electricity is subjective...
Having said that, I wish i could think things through and arrive at the absolute truth so that I can always be right...but lifes not that way , is it?

10:23 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Steve -- Laws of physics have nothing to do with emotions and memory. Those are the source of the gray area. I keep being drawn back to Ulysses' comment: The only way to arrive at a shared truth is to use the language. This is my new mantra as I plow through some difficult stuff on the home-front these days.

10:57 AM  
Blogger steve said...

Yes, Barb, I'm afraid that emotions and memory have less to do with the truth and more to do with trying to negate reality...

12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Ulysses is so smart" is definitely not an absolute truth. I've known him to be quite stupid at times...

1:14 PM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

No such thing as absolute truth in my universe, but his comment on this post was brilliant.

1:58 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

My StatCounter tells me that Anon is most likely Ulysses being his modest self and not some crank trying to stir up trouble! I'm happy to accept negative comments, but only when they are TRUE! :)

3:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonysses said...

Damn you Stat Counter! Foiled again!

4:02 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Anonysses -- Damn I'm good, as Velvet would say!

4:23 PM  
Blogger riseoutofme said...

To thine own self, be true ...

It takes a lot of effort to remain in the present and to be true to oneself ... and then the present becomes the past and we still try to remain in the present ... Its all about perception isn't it?

Thought provoking post, Barbara.

4:49 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Rise -- To thine own self... Good reminder.

5:49 AM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

From one's own vantage point, it seems black and white until we realise that everyone's black and white merge into a huge grey area. One's truth is only their their own percetion of "reality", giving rise to many realities. Very confusing. Perhaps only Our Creator knows.

(Sorry I've not been a regular visitor of late...having a hard time with getting back into it and with the weather still being so nice, my mind is still in holiday mode!)

3:57 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

MOI -- Wecome back from paradise to Blogdom. I've missed you!

4:49 PM  

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