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Friday, August 23, 2013

Your Truth or Mine?

"Truth is, after all, a moving target.
Hairs to split,
And pieces that don't fit.
How can anybody be enlightened?
Truth is after all so poorly lit."

~Neil Peart, "Turn the Page"

The most difficult tasks a person faces is to first discover and then abide by his perception of truth. Just acquiring the necessary experience and knowledge to identify this equivocal quality requires untold years of living. Anyone dealing with reality and facts soon realizes inconsistencies in verity, and he finds the fabrics of absolutes and perfect ideals proposed by human minds riddled with niches of doubt and gashes of inaccuracies.

Humans employ language and word symbols as a means to convey to one another a determination and criterion of truth. Truth is basically a tool of discourse used to express agreement, to stress claims, or to form certain types of general assumptions. Philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas taught that people used this subjective communication to build judgments that are said to be true when they conform to the "external reality." This correspondence theory practically operates on the assumption that truth is a matter of accurately copying an "objective reality"  and then representing it in thoughts, words and other symbols

However, understanding truth is problematic for many reasons. For example, words of correspondence often fail to accurately capture their full meaning. In addition, some words add additional parameters to any predicate of absolute truth. Other "human" issues thwart the analysis of truth: interpersonal power struggles, community interactions, and personal biases. And, many people often merely refuse to take time to examine truth objectively with any logic, preferring to remain gullible and open to believing anything with a hint of factuality. 

A person seeking truth should beware of  many illusions associated with fidelity and constancy. After all, simple familiarity often breeds liking. As a person is exposed to one message again and again, he becomes so familiar with it that he deems his understanding "truthful." Psychologists call this "cognitive fluency." Why does this repetition work to produce truth? Humans are programmed to accept the "easy." Familiar things require less effort to process and that feeling of ease unconsciously signals truth to the human brain.

Every politician and advertiser knows there is not much difference between actual truth and the illusion of truth. Since illusions are often easier to produce, why bother with the truth?
The exact opposite is also true. If something is hard to comprehend, then people tend to believe it less. Naturally, this is very bad news for people trying to persuade others of complicated ideas in what is a very complicated world.

Studies have even tested how many times a message should be repeated for maximum effect. These suggest that people have the maximum confidence in an idea after it has been repeated between 3 and 5 times (Brinol et al., 2008). After that, repetition ceases to have the same effect and may even reverse

The same psychology is at work again: to the human mind there is little difference between appearances and truth. What appears to be true might as well actually be true, because people tend to process the illusion as though it were the truth.

(Jeremy Dean, "The Illusion of Truth, PsyBlog, December 8 2010)

Time Saving Truth From Falsehood and Envy

 The Nature of Truth: A Personal Perception

Humans seeking certainty, especially the naive, prefer to believe that truth is strong, ordained, simplistic and ideal. Yet, as people mature and find their "black and white" existences and strong belief systems filled with cloudy shades of "grey," they question credence as it pertains to reality and the essential foundations of veracity. They inevitably find constitutions and declarations open to interpretations; they discern myriad facts as half-truths and slanted opinions; and they realize trusted confidants betray pledges of honesty.

At this point in their lives, as they struggle with the absurdity of molding a practical model of genuineness for real-world application, some give up in their quest for truth  And, who can blame these noble seekers of truth for becoming pessimistic unbelievers? Yet, settling to live in what is perceived as a disgraceful sham is unproductive, offering little hope of finding personal satisfaction and joy.

So, as a determined person is nothing but a unique human construct who must find purpose in interacting with a society full of other unique human constructs, he eventually discovers that he must trust that his good and honest intentions have helped formed an acceptable, livable perception of an imperfect, impaired truth. This perception allows him to inhabit a planet fraught with people and things he simply cannot understand -- beings and actualities he considers dishonest and deceitful. And, as he lives amid a confusing menagerie of family, friends, and strangers, he believes his truth is essential to his own sanity and imperfect existence.

The truth a person perceives and accepts is neither good nor bad. This truth is neither right nor wrong. This truth is merely relative to the believer and eternally hopeful in its existence. It is a living thing that changes as a human adapts to his ever-changing position in the food chain. This truth involves sacrifices and inconsistencies that gnaw at the gut. It involves triumphs and failures that test the heart. And, above all, this truth constantly tests the vital understandings of the brain.

To me, a vision of truth as bright as the sun or as dark as the night is problematic. The humans I find "truthful" never stop learning to handle themselves and their imperfections. They do so in so many different ways. I find the most precious and beautiful occasionally washing their "dirty hands" with true regret.

Their common denominator is the ability to perceive the unique human gift in their honest approach to life. They have "learned" the parameters of their own veritable souls, and they have devised methods to walk in truth that allow them personal freedom within the binds and restraints of society. In hopes of better times, they continue to seek greater truths and adapt them to their unfinished lives.

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple."

                    --Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

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