The search for Truth
We set out together to find it:
I, scaled the hill and slid
down the mountain;
You, soared over the lake and
stalked through the trees.
“I found it!” We both said,
Grasping at the shimmering stone
that had clung to the earth,
wiping it clean with a sleeve.
We rushed back to where we parted:
You marched through the trees and
swept over the lake;
I leapt up the mountain and
sailed down the hill.
In your hand was a dull grey rock –
Nothing that glistened like mine;
“I see nothing” you said
“but a sad grey stone –
nothing that glitters like mine.”
We have our own idea of what truth means. We can believe it is objective, immutable and transparent. We can believe it is subjective, transient, and opaque. Or any version in between. Whether you agree with me will be based on what you believe, what is core to your values, who you are and what information you have chosen to hold close or discard as you navigate your life.
We live in a world now where phrases are quoted as if just as an objective truth as 1+1 =2: fake news, alternative facts, truth not facts, facts not truth. Evidence that is reported through scientific methods and reasoning is immediately challenged as biased, deep-state, ideological, just as much as evidence based on scattered anecdotes and assumptive extrapolation. Arguments are full of straw-men, ad hominem and my favourite, reductio ad absurdum. (eg I identify as a penguin) None of these arguments are helpful or aimed at engaging in intelligent debate and critical thinking. They are however aimed at something considered just as important. Winning. To do that, they have to make sure they can sell the story.
And we, the buyers, are motivated.
Emotions motivate us into action, not evidence. We share a social media post not because of the evidence cited but because we have had an emotional response to it – fear, anger, pleasure, pain, joy, hope and we want that to be validated in a shared experience. Trump tweets something unpleasant – it makes me angry- I share it- it makes some others angry- my anger is validated. Or more essentially, I am validated. A friend posts a meme about everyone loving each other – it makes me hopeful and joyful – I share it – it makes some others feel hopeful and joyful – my hope and joy is validated. And so on. Validation of our emotions by others, and the more validation that we can get, brings us closer to our version of the truth. (A little thing called Brexit taught us that) No doubt I have simplified a very complex process but as this piece is about my truth, feel free to disagree.
Which brings me on to my poem. Is it a truth or is it a story? Poems are a form of storytelling and I am, indeed, selling a story. I am selling a story where one person sees a brilliant truth that is denied by the other. Can one not see it because they choose not to or can they not see it because the other has been deceived? What happens after they see that the other does not agree with them? In an earlier version of the poem I wrote of my stone that“I threw it at them” I decided to take it out though and leave the reader to draw their own conclusion.
That conclusion will be based on that which you hold to be true.