Last week I wrote a piece called The Art of the Lie. About how some people are really good at it and others not so much. So, this week I decided to write about the opposite, the truth. We desperately want to believe that the truth is simple, yes or no, one or zero but it is not. The truth is as malleable as wax on a hot sidewalk. Ask any police officer with three witnesses to a traffic accident, and you will find the truth of which I speak. There will be three absolute, honest truths about what happened. They all saw the exact same thing but from different perspectives. And our perspectives are coloured by our history, our experiences and our beliefs.
Using the traffic accident as an example. A car careens into a pole. Sounds simple enough. One person sees a drunk careening across the road into a pole. A friend was killed by a drunk driver many years earlier. Another sees a person asleep at the wheel when the car plows into the pole. He had a friend who fell asleep on the way home from work. The third sees someone trying to commit suicide. A memory from his past.
As a species we are storytellers. Some go so far as to make a career out of it but each one of us tends to editorialize or to embellish what we see. We are not automatons; we use words to paint pictures. But what was it that our witnesses did not see? They could not imagine that the individual behind the wheel of the car had a medical emergency. A blood clot broke loose and travelled to his brain causing a stroke. His body reacted to the stroke by going into a full spasm forcing his foot down on the accelerator, leading to the accident. We can’t know what lies behind the truth. We either accept it at face value or investigate to learn the real truth, the whole truth. But most of us don’t do that. Most of us fill in the blanks with what we have experienced in our past. But what does that do to the truth?
The colour is yellow. Or is it Lemon? Gold? Canary? We see the same colour but we interpret it differently. It is amazing to me that we can communicate at all. For the most part others understand what we mean when we use our words and yet some of our greatest humour comes from our misinterpretations. And also, some of our greatest tragedies. We don’t always understand each other’s truths. And it is open to interpretation.