Every time I write a story a few more people unfriend me on Facebook.
This is my 40th Medium post. They’re all very different, but most of them get ignored. Even so, I’m always interested in the response I get and what kind of writing gets the most attention.
For example, my least popular post is a one minute description of a recurring nightmare I have about Johnny Cash dying in a car accident in the desert. My most popular post is a the text of a speech I wrote about the night I spent with a waitress I met at an IHOP.
All of them are important to me, but the ones that seem to get people’s attention are the ones about some juicy bit of gossip that the vultures can feed on. Those are the ones people seem to really like, but not enough to share them.
People don’t want to associate themselves with the kind of things I write. They just want to look at the car wreck from a distance, not drag out the bodies and start doing CPR. No one wants to get their hands dirty. Which I understand. I mean don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I’m just saying how things are.
But even if one of my posts does find a few hundred readers, for whatever reason, the response I get is always the same. I only ever get asked one question.
“Is that true? Is that what really happened?”
And again, I understand why this is people’s first reaction. It’s a perfectly natural response. They feel like they have me all figured out, like they know what I say, think, do, and feel at all times.
So if something I write doesn’t fit their view of me, they assume I’m a liar. And then they come to me and they ask me to confess and tell them the real story. What really happened.
As though my made up lies are good enough for everyone else, but I can tell them, and only them, what really happened.
And in these conversations, I always struggle with what to say and end up stammering like an idiot or giving some pretentious sounding answer.
And this has been a source of frustration for myself and others, so I thought it would be worthwhile to say a few words on the subject.
Fact vs Truth
First, “Is that true?” and “Is that what really happened?” are very different questions.
One seeks a truth, and the other seeks a fact.
A fact is simply an aspect of reality that cannot be logically disputed. For example, you may not believe in fire, but fire will burn you.
That is a fact.
However, Truth is something universal and self evident, but it is not factual because it must rest upon some form of propositional construct: An idea. A feeling. A concept.
Facts can have a ‘truthvalue’, and be ‘truth-conserving’, but they cannot be, in a philosophic sense, ‘True’ because they offer no uncertain proposition.
So a fact is a perception of reality, and a truth is a perception which appears to match reality.
Truth and Art
Applying this understanding of Truth and Fact to Art is very instructive.
Picasso said: ‘Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.’
But of course no single person knows all of The Truth, just as no single person knows all of The Facts.
This knowledge would effectively make its possessor a god.
Friedrich Nietzsche famously used Hegel’s phrase “God is dead,” not to promote atheism, but rather to illustrate the idea of Moral Perspectivism.
Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
But Nietzsche points out that we are not gods, and Jesus isn’t physically here anymore. So all we have is our own limited experience, perspective, and perceptions of reality. But we can’t fully trust our senses and perceptions because they are easily deceived.
So then how do we find the way, the truth, and the life?
Nietzsche said that by increasing the number of perspectives we have on something, one may increase one’s understanding of it and move closer to understanding The Truth of it.
The Truth, therefore, is never fully known, but part of it may be known. It’s not perfect, but it’s an approximation. So Art becomes an imperfect means of communicating your experience and your perception of The Truth as best you are able.
So then ‘honesty is more than just not lying, it’s telling the truth.’
And Truth in Art is not always synonymous with fact.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not honest. And that doesn’t mean it’s not true.
The best modern work of art that deals specifically with this subject of Truth and perspective, is Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 film Rashomon.
The film deals with a murder trial and four witnesses telling contradicting versions of the same event. All accounts are true, from their point of view, but do not capture the full truth of the event until they are all put together, and even then, the real Truth is not fully known.
The Lonely Voice of Youth
That’ll Be The Day
After a year writing on Medium, I’ve had mixed results, and some positive feedback, but I need to start doing a better job of this. I need to be getting something across with all of this button pushing.
If you want the facts, go to a journalist (if you can find one), but I’m not really interested in facts. The truth is what is important to me, and hopefully my writing will be better this year than it was last year, but please do me a favor. If you read something I write, you can ask me anything you want, but don’t expect me to tell you what REALLY happened.
And for God’s sake, please don’t ask me what’s True.
God knows, but I sure as all Hell don’t.