Truth, the Truth, and Memory

Truth. A word that gets a lot of use, but, I think, is sorely misunderstood. I love lines from movies like, “You can’t handle the truth!” and “The truth doesn’t have versions.” Oh, if only the second one were true! But the fact is, for every viewpoint, there seems to be a “truth.” Note, I said, seems to be.

Let’s take Truth as an abstract. The great truths of the world are mysteries, because we know almost nothing about them. I think Truth has to do with what transpires behind what we see. The word Truth relates to words like Life, or Light, or Love.

What is Life? We know the word, but what it really is, is beyond our understanding. The truth of Life – that Truth is something contemplated, but not truly known. Scientists can observe what they see. For example, a group of cells in a body forming in a womb suddenly begins to move rhythmically to pump blood through that body. But what makes that happen? What tells the cells to do that? It’s actual cause is beyond us. We see it happen, but we do not know what lies behind what we witness. If, for a moment, we could see the Truth of what lies behind this happening, we might be opened to an enlightened moment. Knowing Truth would be enlightening.

And Light? We really don’t know what light actually is. We see it. Science describes its motion, its properties. But what light is, we really don’t know. The truth of it is a mystery.

Then there is another category of truth. When we say, “That’s not the truth,” what we are talking about has to do with facts, with what we think or believe occurred at a specific time and place. We often accept what the truth is without investigating to find out whether what we are told has actually happened. Anyone who has witnessed an accident can tell you that the different accounts of the occurrence are varied, and often completely disagree with another witness’s observation. So what’s the truth?

When we watch the news we are often presented with a selection of options, rather than the complete story of what happened. And we can never see that, because beneath all the activity are thoughts, motives and perceptions about which we have little understanding. If we were to see the entire story as it occurred, and then listen to the accounting of it, it could prove shockingly different from what we perceive.

This same thing happens when we judge a person we’ve met without actually knowing much at all beyond our own perception. Sometimes this is accompanied by the reputation the person has gained. Our perception can be colored with our own personal experiences, which can produce attraction and acceptance, or bias, suspicion and doubt. And a reputation is sometimes built on the same kind of flawed perceptions. We see what we want to see, or what we have been prepared to see, based on what we have been told.

So when we find out later that the same charming, intelligent and wealthy person we know has been embezzling money for years, we are shocked. And yet, we don’t even know if the person was ignorant of what happened, was set up, or actually did what accusation says. We don’t know his motives, which might mitigate our viewpoint of what occurred. In truth, we know very little. Yet we will judge by what we know, instead of just observing what we heard, and nothing more.

The fact is, the truth of facts can be as elusive as Truth. It is there to be found, but it is not always available at our fingertips. And when we hear about an event we are only going to get the viewpoint of the person relating the incident. Someone says something to me, and it makes me angry. I relate it to a friend, wanting agreement that what the person did was wrong. Then later I find out that I misunderstood something, and am no longer angry. Do I tell my friend, or do I forget, in which case she is still seeing the person through a slightly cloudy lens. And on it goes.

And now let’s take memory. Memory is almost always a lie, not because we wish to lie, but again, because what we remember from a time long gone, and what actually happened, are often two different things. We thought someone said something, but, no, they said something else and we misheard.

Many years ago I was with a friend at a party. We were upstairs by ourselves in a small room that was near a bathroom. We were both in a very giddy state, actually practically falling on the floor, hysterical over any little comment, being beyond goofy. And no, we had not been drinking. We finally realized that we might be drugged, and so we went downstairs to find the hostess, who frankly admitted that there was “grass” (marijuana) in the salad dressing, the pasta sauce, and the brownies.

Now, neither my friend nor I ever used drugs. That form of indulgence wasn’t part of our lives. So we were shocked at this whole thing, and upset that we hadn’t been warned.

Years later, when we were reminiscing about the insanely giddy time we had been having that night, I said, “Oh, yes, we were in that small room next to the bathroom.”

“No, no – we were upstairs outside in a sort of screened in porch,” my friend said.

I was about to protest, when I realized, in our separate memories, we were in different places. And there was no reason to argue, because we had different experiences of that night. So we just moved on. What difference did it make?

I am known for wanting to be right – but that night I really saw so clearly that we don’t know about what we remember, nor do we need to be right about it. We can let go of our own memory images, and just move on.

Even in simple circumstances – I can say something, someone misconstrues, and before you know it there is a rift between friends. It happens. You know it does. And the best way to heal that sort of thing is to discuss, but if one or the other person is closed, certain that the truth is as he/she heard it, then a breach in the friendship – even if they continue to speak – can go on for years, with slightly less trust between them. What the motives were, what the intentions were, get lost in judgment and personal injury.

So what this all boils down to is that knowing the facts is not to be dismissed, but getting into arguments over something that was said or done, often years ago, or even the day before, is a waste of time. Is it worth it to argue over what someone says someone said about something? Even writing that is funny!

We can argue and debate issues, but we must always remember that there are layers and layers of facts and opinions that may not add up to the truth. If we are willing to settle to having a good discussion, without having to declare, at the end of it, that one person really knows the truth, then fine. Go for it!

But remember that in the end, Love still is the biggest Truth, and no one can adequately explain even that tiny four letter word. So don’t let a bunch of words destroy the love you have for a friend. NOT worth it! And don’t let a bunch of words destroy your peace. NOT worth it!

Enjoy your day.

About Davina

I am a retired teacher, writer and artist. This web site was set up for several reasons. First is to give people a chance to see my art work, and decide if there is something they like enough to contact me. Second is to present my ideas on education and life in general - anything that gets my attention. Feel free to comment in an intelligent manner.
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