The Truth Board

A Blog by the Editors of
The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Can You Validate My Truth?

In the search for the truth, is it more common to look for answers or to confirm what we already know? I was at a symposium recently and one of the scholars made an interesting point. He was quoting someone else and I will paraphrase him. He said “be careful what questions you ask, because your questions have their own agenda”. In my words, that means that we tend to only ask questions based on the likely answer. This is not a search for truth, but rather a validation of existing knowledge.
The law is a great example of this type of truth. A good lawyer will only ask a question that he already knows the answer to. Note the OJ trial. What is one of the incidents that allowed the jury to find him not guilty? The glove. It didn’t quite fit. The late great lawyer for the defense, Johnnie Cochran, made the slogan 'If it doesn't fit, you must acquit' and acquit they did. The question wasn’t whether OJ was guilty, or had actually killed anyone. It was whether the glove fit. The prosecution is famous for bungling this piece of evidence because they broke the rule. They didn’t actually know if the glove would fit.
Because of this creed in the legal spheres, we get strange acquittals and shocking convictions. Sometimes the convictions are overturned years later, often because someone finally asks a question that was never asked before. There is an actual investigation about what happened. Not what the prosecution, or defense would like to have happened, but what actually happened. Scientists can be good at exhaustive searches for the truth because the verdict is never in. For all I know, one day someone will overturn the law of gravity. The scientific community is subject to peer review, which is why no one has successfully invented and patented a perpetual motion machine.
Television has been about fiction and fantasy and ideal situations like the Cosby’s and the Harriet’s. I like a show that’s not too deep and is going to wrap up nicely in about 55 minutes. I don’t need to see the truth because I live it every day. Or do I? Maybe I’m actually a bit deluded. Ignorantly so. Here’s another paraphrase: a man wakes up and tells everyone that he had a dream that he was now the leader of a million people. His friend tells him “come back when a million people have a dream that you’re their leader”. In other words, I can go through life, wrecking havoc on the environment and my fellow human passengers on this planet, all the time thinking that I can do no wrong. I can get a judge, jury and lawyer to agree. The truth however may not be so kind. If I look more closely, I may see that I can do better. People are suffering, sometimes because of me and things won’t get better until I get a little smarter and start looking for truth, rather than validation. I need a friend to say "Hey! You're dreaming."

Thank You
Ron Brown


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