Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Fuzzy truths

So what’s with the title? I suppose I should’ve made this the first blog but I didn’t. The quote is from a poem I wrote some time ago. It’s a line of thought I’ve been absorbed with for most of my life.

I was brought up to believe that one day I would get to know the truth and that knowledge would in some way free me (John 8:32) but the problem was I couldn’t tell. I was presented with things and told they were true but I pretty much only had people’s words for it. I didn’t feel freed. In the main, of course, it was the bigger issues, the existence of a personal god and the meaning of life. Their truths were not without proofs but, for the most part, what was needed was a leap of faith to believe the truth.

Beliefs are another thing completely. They don’t need to be true. In some cases it’s not even essential that the individual believe that they’re true. In those cases it’s a matter of going through the motions because doing something, feeling something is perceived as better than doing or believing nothing.

Which bring us to lying. I was brought up to believe that lying was wrong, even white lies to be honest. Much has to do with intent. But what makes something a lie? The intention of the one talking is not the only factor. One has to consider how the hearer chooses to interpret what he hears. And that choice may not be a conscious one either.

We continually redefine words throughout our lives and those definitions inevitably become more and more complex, meaning becomes harder and harder to ascertain. So, do we revert to some kind of convoluted lawyerese to make sure we’re understood or do we simply accept that nothing is certain? Or do we just go with our best guess? I just love the concept of fuzzy logic:

I love you >= my sister < (a wife or lover)

As a writer I have to deal constantly with the almost impossible task of communication. A long time ago I realised that I can only go so far down that road and that from that point on the words are in the hands of my readers who will make of them what they will. Some will take one look at them and leave well alone, others will hoist them up on their backs and head off into the distance. Either way what truths exit lie outwith my control.


Writers are all liars. We all are.
But at least they are honest liars.

They write down those necessary lies,
the kind that move men to leaps of faith
or excuse us when we fail to jump.

In the end it doesn't matter that
they let us down in the cruellest ways.

August 18, 1996


Gabriela Abalo said...

Nothing is completely true – what is true to me probably will not be what is true to you, but that doesn’t make any of us liars. We just look at things from a different perspective, values, ideals, etc.

“I never dreamed of being Shakespeare or Goethe, and I never expected to hold the great mirror of truth up before the world; I dreamed only of being a little pocket mirror, the sort that a woman can carry in her purse; one that reflects small blemishes, and some great beauties, when held close enough to the heart.” ~Peter Altenberg


Jim Murdoch said...

I’d read the Peter Altenberg quote before, Gabi, but thanks for reminding me of it. It’s a subject I keep coming back to. Like so many words it’s one where none of us can agree of a definition of what it is; the truth, like everything else, is open to interpretation. I wrote a couple of long comments on the subject only yesterday. Basically I’m coming round to the fact that we have to accept the fact that all we’re ever going to cope with is a simplified version of the truth. It’s like the colours on your computer. We can define 16,777,216 colours but if we only have a 16-bit machine it will only display 65,536 of them. Good enough for government work, as my wife is fond of saying, but not true.

Of course there are things that are completely true. 1+1+2 is an absolute truth and there are many mathematic and scientific truths. These are also simplified truths. A Granny Smith + a Golden Delicious does not give you two apples because there’s no such a thing as an apple; every one is unique but to keep things simple we say “two apples”.

Kass said...

Hope it's okay that I linked to this post in my latest post. Love the apple bit.

Jim Murdoch said...

Of course, Kass. Did you also read the long comment I made on Lis's site about truth? Yours came right on the tail of it.

Gabriela Abalo said...

Hi again,

Finding an absolute truth is kind of an impossible task, as you said.. there is no such thing as “an apple”.
That’s why I resonate with the following:

“Say not, "I have found the truth," but rather, "I have found a truth." Say not, "I have found the path of the soul." Say rather, "I have met the soul walking upon my path." For the soul walks upon all paths. The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed. The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.” ~Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet, 1923


Ping services