Thursday, September 24, 2009

Random Musings on Truth

What is truth and what is not? Truth is relative. It is relative to the person who tells it. It is relative to the person who lives it. It is relative to the person who hears it. It is relative to the person who observes it. Yet we spend our lives in search of the truth. The truth about life or any other subject.

Two people can watch the same event and their recollection of the event two minutes later can be completely different. It is true in almost any facet of life one chooses to consider. Politics, sports, a simple walk down the street - all can result in a different interpretation of events. The interpretation is not provided by the event itself but by the history and personality of the persons involved. Experience itself provides context which, in turn, provides new context for the next event. So it seems reasonable to wonder if the very shape of our lives is determined from the very first experience we have. Thus, from the very first experience, the next experience and the remaining ones that follow all contribute to a certain world-view that is the summation of our experience. And the sum of each person's existence then creates the world as a whole. A world that is then broken back down to determine each event from the perspective of each individual contributing to it.

To get an idea on how context is provided to determine where the truth lies, consider the events of September 11, 2001 - a world-changing event to which most people can relate. To the great majority of Americans, regardless of political, racial or cultural affiliation, it was considered a terrible tragedy easily comparable to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Their context was one of shock and surprise combined with the sadness, loss and anger that followed at the attacks. Indeed, it could be argued that a great many people throughout the world shared those same feelings and interpreted that day in much the same way. Yet, there were obviously a number of others who viewed the attacks as justified for actions undertaken by the American government. Their reactions were more similar to a sense of justice and humbling of a great nation and its citizens. There may have been a sense of revenge for those who felt wronged by America and the sense of retribution. Either way, the same event was observed and interpreted in different ways by different people with different experiences that offered a different context through which to view it.

It is important to note here that the sense of right and wrong or good and bad are very loose terms when it comes to truth. Truth is a series of facts presented subjectively to an audience whose interpretation of that same presentation will often be different than what is intended.

To say that truth wears many faces is a cliche. But cliches, often like stereotypes, obtain that status because there is a basis in truth. Funny, isn't it?

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