The first thing I knew about truth was that it had many faces, was not exclusive of embellishment, and was invariably subjective and typically relative.
It was also cause for more battles as religion and politics. That's because, I think, the real battle---even when it comes to religion and politics---is over what is true.
For some, truth is solid, as hard as a diamond. To these people, truth is incontrovertible. It is a known thing, obvious. That four-legged, solid surface object in the kitchen is a table. This thing is true.
For others, truth is slightly more malleable, self-evident, soft. That stuffed object you sit on is maybe a sofa, maybe a couch, perhaps a love seat, or a settee...it depends upon what you know, what you think, how you experience it.
The first group is deeply offended by embellishment, unnecessary add-ons. They find this to be misleading, which is their softening how they feel, which is that you are lying. These people, whether they know it or not, subscribe to the correspondence theory. At least to a degree. ;)
The second group understands that embellishment is not simply reporting, but is also relating: here is what I believe to be true and here is my personal experience of that truth. In this, subjectivity is assumed on both sides. These people are more constructivist, in theory.
I think we all know which group I fall into.
The intriguing thing is that when someone is sharing a story---a personal story---to people who were not there, the listeners often prefer a story that relates personal experience. This usually means a more poetic and less prosaic retelling of events.
The other intriguing thing is how different the expectation is when one or more listener participated in the event. No two people saw or experienced the same thing, even if they reacted similarly or came away with similar conclusions---and yet, each individual is usually convinced that his or her version is the actual one. Thus, too much personalization or embellishment...well, it can prompt a negative reaction.
Why do some have such an attachment to their perceived "just the facts, ma'am" version of events and experience?
I don't know.
The bigger question is: why are we so convinced that our version is the truth?
My own personal truth(s) change with time, age, and place in life. I find myself now letting go of many things I have always believed to be true. I made decisions and acted based on these beliefs. I can't say I necessarily regret the choices, but I do regret the ideas behind them, in some cases.
Once upon a time I decided not to go to law school. I thought I wasn't good enough, couldn't get in, would not do well, and would compare unfavorably to my peers. I might have overcome that, except someone whose opinion really mattered to me told me, "Julie, you are way too idealistic for law, too philosophical. You'd never do." So I believed my insecurities to be true, and I let it go and moved on.
The truth---the truth?---is that law school at that time in life probably would have been a bad idea, but not because of ability or lack thereof, but for a variety of much less objective reasons: financing, burn out, other interests to wade through, etc.
However, in some ways, I wish I hadn't excluded it forever, cut it from my life plan. If I had considered that the timing was bad rather than me, I might have left room for it in my life, and might have, at the right time, given it a shot.
I have always carried a lodestone about how I view and feel about the truth. I find it complicated. Some others often find it simple; at times, they can be exclusive to their own point of view, their own truth. The person who told me that I was not meant for law was so certain: to him, it was simple, incontrovertible.
Thinking back, in his shoes, I would not have been so....point blank. I would have considered many angles, "You've got a keen interest in law and justice. You're bright. You could do it. But...is it the right time? Is this the right application of your passion and interest? Only you can know. Why don't you keep it in mind, but take some time to consider what it is about law careers that appeals to you, and see if you can figure out if law school is the best pursuit of that interest."
When people are involved in an interaction, I find that it's good to establish up front what concept of truth each is operating from. And keep in mind limitations and biases.
That is so much easier to know now, at this age and stage, than at 21, for example, when it seems everyone else is so much more grown up and so much wiser.
I keep falling back on Richard Russo and his thoughts about looking backward as we age, and seeing things through a different lens. It's so true. I have become extremely contemplative at this age and stage. Previously, I have always looked forward, but lately I've begun spending more time in the here and now, and reaching back into the past. In fact, I'm spending a lot of time reaching back into the past, taking out important moments and events, re-examining them, diamonds under a scope. I'm re-evaluating what was true then, and it affects what I find true, now.
I used to worry about a mid-life crisis. I hoped I never lost my mind and made radical changes to my life or went crazy and bought a sports car, or some other myth associate with this time.
Now...now I am grateful for mid-life and crises affiliated with it, and I hope everyone has one.
That is true.
What is your version of the truth?
Note: Today's post in honor of Kyla, who has insisted for an entire week that the table simply is, and is simply a table. To show my reverence for our friendship, I have not once asserted that we have simply decided to agree that the table is and is a table.
Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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