Friday, October 05, 2012

Truth? Fiction?

“Memories are their own descendents masquerading as the ancestors of the present.”

This is where reading David Mitchell novels will get you.

I've been haunted by a --realization?  suspicion? --that everything is fiction.   

Truth is ethereal; a thing that cannot be grasped, like rainbows or darkness or the square root of negative one.  And since it cannot be quantified, Truth becomes malleable.  It becomes an interpretation.  Truth is the fiction we create to make sense of existence.  It is the template we impose on the world.  (Read Keith Ridgway's brilliant New Yorker piece on the matter here.) 

We all have memories.  Emotional traumas, joyous occasions, poignant or significant conversations and events in our past  --together, these things compose the sum-total of our identities.

But try discussing a shared memory with someone else, with some other witness or participant to the event.  Perceptions diverge.  Sometimes the differences are subtle, sometimes radical.  But each perception is True to its creator.

As William Blake put it:  "What seems to be, is, to those to whom it seems to be." 

Divergent truths are the editorial revisions each of us create to order our individual Universes.  We alter our Truths to arrive at a Universe that comports with what we believe.  (Or, at least, what we want to believe.) 

Remember Pilate's rhetorical question to Christ, Quid est veritas? (What is Truth?) 

Don't you find it significant that Christ did not answer?

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