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All content © 2002-2005 Anne Zook

May 04, 2004
Truth

I can't actually recommend that you read this post.

I'm just saying. Don't blame me if you decide it's stupid and pointless. This is a Personal Responsibility Zone and if you read something after I've said I don't recommend it, then any subsequent problems you have are your own to deal with.

Anyhow. On with the festivities.

I've been contemplating the vast divide between the horrible news coming out of Iraq and the Bush Administration's insistence on what fabulous progress is being made.

All ideas, all beliefs possess validity. Those ideas that you possess work as the filters through which you arrive at your interpretation of reality. Your ideas, even if they contradict mine, possess the same validity for you as mine do for me.

Not all beliefs, regardless of their validity in the world-view of one or more people, partake equally of truth.

That may sound like an unnecessarily arcane way of expressing a simple thought - some things are true and others are less so or not so - but the emphasis our society puts on political correctness of speech (and, by inference, of thought) tends to interfere with one's ability to express simple thoughts.

The fact that you possess a belief does not make that belief true. Validity, in this context, does not determine truth.

The extent to which your belief is untrue, and to which it interferes with your ability to co-exist with the rest of reality, is likely to produce in you a lesser or greater degree of mental instability. The scope or magnitude of the untrue belief is less important than the extent to which it interferes with your ability to interact with others.

You may believe that space is full of vacuum-loving aliens who want nothing more than to suck your brains out through your nostrils and play cricket with your empty skull, but as long as this belief contains within it the corollary (is that the right word?) that requires that the aliens can only exist in their native vacuum, this belief will not necessarily interfere with your ability to function in the world.

As long as you're not an astronaut, you're okay.

I'd suggest not discussing this particular belief with potential employers or on first dates, but it's your choice.

If you believe that solar rays are dangerous, even potentially fatal, to the unprotected human form, that's a belief that actually has a basis in fact (if you add qualifiers about time of year, length of exposure, etc.), but when your belief incorporates the idea that it's necessary to wear a hollowed-out rock on your head for protection, even though you live in Seattle where the sun is already filtered by masses of near-continuous clouds, then you've reached a point where this smaller untruth interferes with your ability to function normally in society.

Another problem appears with how your untrue beliefs intersect with reality, or truth in the eyes of others. If you talk about the brain-sucking aliens, people will laugh at you. If you believe in the dangerous solar rays, they'll lock you up.

From time to time, the rock will inevitably fall off your head and onto your foot, proving that your fixation makes you dangerous to yourself.

Occasionally it will fall onto the foot of a passer-by, proving that you're dangerous to others and laying you open to a massive lawsuit which you will be entirely unable to fight since you have no money.

No one wants to hire a rock-hatted lunatic.

The degree to which the untruths you believe are demonstrably untrue dictates society's reaction to them. The space alien fantasy is manifestly absurd, but not provably untrue. (The likelihood of aliens playing cricket with a soggy brain is slight, but maybe they've adjusted the rules to allow for the ball disintegrating.)

(I never claimed this was a serious post.)

On the other hand, the distorted perception of the danger of solar rays contradicts logic and science - it's demonstrably untrue. Your persistence in believing this untruth in the face of facts that illustrate your error leads others to believe you're capable of seeing the truth if they can only find the right path to lead you to it.

On the way home from one work evening, back when Dean lost the Democratic nomination, I heard radio commentators discussing Dean's "yell" at his speech in Iowa on Tuesday in terms of his Id. This over-reliance on Freud's theoretical framework for interpreting the unfathomable miasma of human emotional response is really starting to bore me, okay?

For the record, that last paragraph had nothing to do with the ones that went before it. I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

Anyhow. I've decided that the Bush Administration's stubborn determination to believe, in the face of evidence to the contrary, that they can win their "war on terror" using the tools they've selected is akin to believing in solar rays and now I'm wondering how soon they're going to realize that the rest of us are absolutely refusing to put rocks on our heads and play along?

I really shouldn't over-indulge in chocolate after having abstained for so long. I think I've proven to my own satisfaction that an excess of refined sugar really does kill brain cells.

In any case, I've been far too serious lately.

Tune in tomorrow when I'll be defending porn and making myself unpopular in Certain Academic Circles.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:27 PM


Comments

I'll look forward to that defense, Anne; in the meantime, a splendid and entertaining rant -- thanks.

Posted by: Hugo at May 5, 2004 09:38 AM

Ah, but there are lots and lots of us with rocks on our heads (I really hope this metaphor catches on, by the way) doing things which make sense to us but which are fundamentally irrational and ultimately self-defeating. Styrofoam, in most circumstances.... buying SUV's because we feel more secure in them.... not voting because "there's no real difference".....

Posted by: Jonathan Dresner at May 5, 2004 02:48 PM

Perhaps we'll know our species is finally beginning to mature when the rock-hatted, ray-fearing citizen worries us less than the person whose boulder-bowler is made of the serene belief that 4-wheel drive does, in fact, let you go from 60 to 0 when you're driving on solid ice?

We all have rocks. Some of us just have them a bit better balanced. Heh.

Posted by: Anne at May 5, 2004 05:00 PM