Saturday, February 20, 2010

Truth, Blogging and Stories

We have a world filled now with stories, opinions, agendas and myths and it is getting harder to get at true information or hard facts and hard news despite the plethora of new media venues. What is, is not what gets repeated or represented; and so an irate mentally unhinged man becomes a poster child for a political movement that some who have power and prestige despise; people who march for life are not covered or are proclaimed to be overwhelmingly old when the vast majority of those who attend are in fact quite young. Nuance has been abandoned for ideology in our modern story telling venues except when it makes an opponent more unpleasant. So we can never know if the story we hear is true True, or myth, revealing truth but being itself untrue; or just a fable, flat out piece of propaganda or absolute lie.

Today, the President's policies and positions are defined by negative space using the theory that if we could see the alternate universe where what he did was not done, we'd understand how good we have it now; and the New York Times posits that part of the reason for all the disbelief and disconnect with the intellectual elites is the greater transparency of the world these days. Sarah Palin becomes a saint to some on the right and the personification of the very worst of all possible worlds to some on the left. President Bush is portrayed as the ultimate village idiot and anyone who doesn't froth at the very mention of his name is deemed a dupe, a rube or too blinded by personal or political loyalty. The very same level of love slavishly lavished on the current commander in Chief is considered pure patriotism and the result of clear thinking about policy.

But Truth is always much more interesting and messy than any of the popular narratives or spins being put through today. All of these people, Sarah, George, Barrack, all of them are possibly greater individuals than their enemies believe, and more flawed than their press releases would reveal. The same is true of all of us. Because the mainstream and alternative medias all wear biases, some with more transparencies than others; we have no sources of pure truth, only story. We get the White House Spin, the Republican's Counter point, the MSM’s angle, the take by Rush Limbaugh, John Stewart, Keith Olberman, Rachel Maddow, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, Chris Matthews and George Stephanopoulos. We get the Times and the Post and the Standard and the Examiner and Newsweek and News busters, the Drudge Report, Politico and Real Clear Politics and twitters and bloggers. It's like we're the cop at the accident and we get all the eye witness accounts and even the television footage from the traffic camera and still, we cannot know what actually happened because none of them know or can tell or would tell the whole story. We know incompletely but we forget that we know incompletely because we have so much information. So do all the people who report the stories in their zeal to be the ones telling the stories.

We still are telling stories rather than facing the hard messy truth in the media and politics.  Part of our problem is we’ve decided we can’t know truth. Epistemologists posit that there are multiple ways of perceiving and understanding the world that are culture/time/gender/politically dependent. As such, no one is necessarily lying when they give their spin; it's their way of knowing. The problem remains, that some think truth exists but is unknowable and some think truth does not exist and some think truth is, and can be known and some think truth is, but we can only know partly. All camps claim to be correct despite the readily apparent irony of that sentence. Everyone claims to have a deeper understanding of the world, or that others have a deeper understanding of the world; Rush's "I'm always right." Keith Olberman's "Worst Person of the Week," are two versions of the very same problem.  Everyone thinks they know better, but very very few spend any time discerning anything but that which validates their own opinion.

Ultimately, these multiple arguments about truth, its relevance and its reality matter in politics and life because they determine what we think and how we will act. If all the ways of knowing together make up the composite sketch of the actual reality; then we must perpetually amass as much info as possible looking for patterns from which we can draw conclusions that reveal more truth than otherwise. If reality is ultimately unknowable because we can't understand that which extends beyond our own personal cultural template's standard deviations; if there is no actual truth, then we should only be able to recognize our own echoes; everything else is background chatter or white noise. If such is the case, we are doomed to a perpetual tower of Babel. If we believe that truth actually exists and is knowable in whole or in part; then it becomes our personal obligation to recognize when our own bias is coloring our judgment and when we are seeing things clearly.

How can we know truth? We can know only if we are awake and fully cognizant of why we write and read and think and say certain things. Truth is hard like a diamond. Life or death. Honesty or not. Yes or no. Truth has actions which echo it. "By their fruits you shall know them." A school that values excellence will show by the books in the library, the papers on the wall and the quality of instruction. A school that has lost heart is easy to spot. The same holds for an institution or an athlete or a book. You can see when there is blood in the bricks, sweat and grit on the face, heart in the words that is the art of the piece. The reasons why something happens or someone acts may be myriad, but the truth is still visible and can be seen if we seek.  Truth will out, it reveals dedication, intent, process and time.  Ultimately, if we hold that truth exists, we ought to pursue it ruthlessly as the rare edifying jewel that it is, even if it means we get a less instant gratification and happily ever after style gratification ending. 

Lives, all lives are messy even if they are lived simply; and thus we should be merciful to the foolish, the greedy, the poor spirited, the angry, the proud, the rich, the righteous and the self serving even as we discover them being foolish, greedy, poor spirited, angry, proud, hoarding, righteous and self serving.  All of us need that measure with which we measure to be larger than our lives, because all of us can see everyone else's splinters but none of our own planks. We need God to be unfair in our favor and so we should be with each other and with our hearts and words towards even those who anger or disappoint us.  We ought to recognize that God sees all our messy stories for the messy stories that they are, and still sees through them for the distilled truth that they reveal; how much or how little we believe; how much or how little we seek truth and pursue wisdom, and how much or how little we love.


MightyMom said...

"We need God to be unfair in our favor and so we should be with each other and with our hearts and words towards even those who anger or disappoint us. "


Mike Golch said...

Mighty Mom said you had a great posting,She is right.

Subvet said...

Now that is some heavy shit.

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!