Been seeing and hearing lots of talk about truth lately, and I wanted to reflect.
It’s a funny thing this “truth.” A quick google search suggests the definition of “true” as being “in accordance with fact or reality.”
If we’re speaking of the world around us, it seems truth is inseparable from memory. The present flickers by so quickly, that to assess it in any way other than direct passive experience, is to remember, to focus on details. Memory is fickle. Eyewitness testimony is the least likely to hold up in court. Have a discussion about what your professor or teacher was wearing in class with a few friends later, see how many different colors of shirt you come up with, and how many people are adamant that they’re correct.
I just watched a documentary movie, My Amityville Horror, which directly deals with these issues. Truth in memory. Truth in reality. I can barely remember being five years old. My memories come in flickers. Small moments and images; the crown I made in school for my fifth birthday, finding it in the basement after the party, too late to wear it. Scribbles on cardboard boxes before I knew how to write but wanted to put my signature on everything. Shoving my brother on the ground before realizing his knee was bleeding, him only hollering after I pointed it out. A bee stinging my hand between my thumb and palm when I felt an odd tickle in my hair. My twin brother saying, “what’d I do?” as I went shouting into the house. Going out to the garage one morning to ride my bike, picking up my brother’s instead because he’d already lost his training wheels, getting on, and just pedaling away. My parents remember that it was actually me who had lost my training wheels first.
We remember our traumas, but in trauma, our brain tends to shut down. We look away from the screen during the scary parts of the movie.
But we gather truth from these memories. From our chosen experiences. We can learn more about people by what they choose to remember, rather than a collection of their life as a whole. (Or what they chose to forget). We find meaning and truths in the fictions of our own lives. Despite living them ourselves, our memories are as much true or false as any book we’d pick up from a library shelf, fiction or otherwise. Yet still we find depth.
I wrote a novel that deals with memory, of the importance of finding fact, of transcending these facts.
I read an article a year ago, during the revolutions in Egypt and the middle east, about a blog that had been written by a young woman in the middle of the turmoil, fighting for women’s rights and reflecting on the circumstance of the riots and the raids. It was only after she became an international icon that she was exposed as a fraud. A creative writing masters student in America, if my memory serves correct. But we were still moved, weren’t we? We still saw something true, despite the outrage.
I wrote a blog myself for three months two summers ago from the perspective of a girl named Katie, that I’m now expanding into an experimental epistolary novel. Many readers thought she was real, many told her to rest in peace after she died. With six billion people in the world and infinite possibility, who is to say that these voices on the internet are not as real as the person who may or may not live next door?
A few weeks ago, I read the story of Dave on Wheels over at theChive.com. I cried when he died.
I read yesterday that Dave on Wheels was a strange hoax that a few years of work went into. The perpetrator said she didn’t want fame or recognition. I’m not sure why she told this story, or what she hoped to achieve, or if it was some kind of strange outlet. But the inspiration that Dave brought was real. And the tears brought after he died were real too. And Dave wasn’t, but I’m inclined to wonder if that really matters now? If it looks like a person, moves like a person, speaks like a person, and shares wisdom like a person, at the end of the day, what’s so different?
The only difference between the reality and the truth is in the knowledge of whether it is real or a fiction. We take comfort opening a horror novel, or a romance, or a mystery thriller, and we feel secure knowing that it is not real. But we lose that security when that fiction breaks into our own world, when our emotions are heightened, when we for a moment believe. And the truths that those fictions present take on a new and more immediate meaning.
Where should these lines be drawn?
We’re in a crazy world. We have lies in politics. We have skewed statistics and everyone has a different version of the truth.
We have post-modernism and a shrinking internet-driven world, where there are as many versions of truth as there are users. Morals and ethics and cross-cultural beliefs blur, the floodgates open for discussion and realization. The world we’re living in is not so simple as we once thought.
A life is a life at conception. A life is a life at birth. People who kill other people should be killed. People who kill other people should be fixed.
Morality and decision isn’t easy. Absolute truths are dictated, but harder still to discover.
I’m in the paranormal world. Where entertainment collides with the advancement of a new science. Entertainment straddles a thin line between truth and fiction. If one has an experience of something that exists, but that experience is not true, what is the difference? Perhaps only in the reception of it, and the implications it makes for the truth as a whole.
A strange irony then, that one lie, uncovering a larger truth, can shatter that truth altogether.
A paradox of fiction, I suppose.
Defending lies and considering the value of “truth” is a good way to get people upset. Especially if you stop trusting in absolutes. If you have thoughts, sound off in the comments.