Apples in a Basket: Is Absolute Truth Absolutely True?

Absolute truth: In response to posts on my blog in which I attempted to show that everything is fiction, my dad wrote, “There are countless absolute truths. Example: Two apples added to a basket containing two apples will make a total of four apples in the basket.” I agree absolutely. I believe in baskets and apples. I believe in reality. (What a ridiculous statement!)

Four apples in a basket on a wooden table

Subjective truth: Let me take out the “I believe–” and say, “Reality exists.” (Was I able to remove the “I believe–“? I wrote the statement “Reality exists,” so it must be what I believe. Strangely enough the existence of reality has been in question for quite some time, maybe even some of you readers doubt reality.)

Religious and Philosophical truth: Proponents of certain religions, like Buddhism and Hinduism, do not believe reality is real. Nor do certain philosophers accept reality, like Plato. But we all believe in reality when our finger is caught in the door. Then we are not thinking about the illusion of life, believe me!

Scientific truth: No matter that the door is not solid in the way we imagine it to be, it is solid enough. Doors and fingers, apples and basket are events, not solid things. Modern scientists say all matter is just energy moving around very, very quickly, which gives it the appearance of solidity. Nevermind that the whole system of four apples, basket, room and observer is constantly exchanging energy and atoms, the concept of basket and four apples does not change. (And who is that observer, the one with apples?)

Mathematical truth: Four apples, undoubtedly, because two plus two equals four, as any child (who has studied math) can tell you. Yet math is a constructed system as imaginary as Mother Goose. Studies of young children and various tribes {insert impressive examples here} show that even the most basic math concepts are not inherent, but are culturally formulated. Besides, one plus one can equal three in the case of a man and a woman (or in the case of my parents, it can equal twelve, or fifty or a thousand.) The apples in our basket contain seeds that have the potential of producing at least 50 if not a million apples.

Symbolic truth: For now, we are having enough trouble with four apples in a basket, so let’s stick with that. What do four apples in a basket mean? A snack? A picnic? A healthy diet? Vegetarianism? The student-teacher relationship? Original sin? An enjoyable night in the Castro?

Linguistic truth: Maybe I should clarify what I mean by “apple”? The thing itself or the concept or the word? Words are sound symbols or written symbols which point to a concept, like that of apples, not to the apples themselves. Post-structuralists say we can never talk directly about the things in the basket; we can only talk about the concept of apples, the word separating us from the reality. I agree, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t real apples out there in baskets.

Fictional truth: Actually, there were no real apples in front of my dad when he was writing and there haven’t been any apples in front of me. It was a story to make a point. Does that make it untrue? Well, as I have shown elsewhere (The Magic Trick: Fiction is Reality!) imagination is real and fiction happens in the same way that matter happens, with energy moving around quickly in my brain, my typing fingers, the letters on our screens, and in your brain. Somehow the apples happened!

Metafictional truth: A metafictional story would acknowledge that the story of the apple was not true in a literal sense. Literal. Hmm. Maybe that is exactly what I mean, that it is true in a literal sense, at the level of the letter. Metafiction is true because it can tell a story from various perspectives, making plain how the telling of the story determines the outcome. One version might go, “A man named Ronosaurus went into a room and added two apples to a basket (don’t ask me why). The basket already contained two apples, so he (and I have personally confirmed this with him) then had four apples in a basket, which he took to a guy named David Richardson as a gift for teaching him the truth.”

Universal truth: Even the simplest story, as we have seen here and in A Not Not-True Blog of a Short, Simple Morning, is highly complicated and problematic. None of these versions of truth capture the full truthiness of the apples in the basket. The truest story is not one of these stories, but all of them put together. My project here is not to invalidate Dad’s story, but to show that it is a story, that all truth must be expressed in the form of a fiction. Different fictions are true in different ways and to different degrees, but they are all true in some sense.

Truth is fiction. Fiction is truth.

And metafiction is the most honest lie.

5 thoughts on “Apples in a Basket: Is Absolute Truth Absolutely True?”

  1. I couldn’t work relative truth, relational truth, and socially-constructed truth into this story, but every story is incomplete. That is why we must keep telling them again and again.

    1. I also wanted to say, in response to my cousin Mike’s response: As you can read in my newest addition to my blog, I have revised my statements, which gave an impression that I think truth is all relative or subjective. That is only part of the story. I do think the truest truth is oneness with the universe, or god if you prefer, in a space that is beyond language. The Taoists say, “The Tao that can be spoken of is not the Tao.” In other words, the god that we can speak of is not god and any language we use to describe him (or her or it or them) falls short of the truth. This does not mean, however, that we shouldn’t try to talk about truth and my whole project is to show that trying to talk about truth, however flawed and fictional it may be, is still a conversation about truth.

  2. Truth is not “in” the apples, or “in” the observer, but in their living relationship with one another and with God, their source. The apples, alive or dead, eaten or whole, multiplying as a tree or dropping from a tree are always and forever in relation to each other and to God.

    “One,” by the way, used to mean “unity” or even “everything.” “Two,” then, was the first division of unity, “Three” the next division, etc. But “everything” can only be known in relation to “nothing” or in relation to its parts. “Whole” is only comprehended either in relation to “part” or to “hole” (nothing). Thus God (the “whole) can only be understood in relation to either “not God” or in relation to the Gods: the Father, who can only be understood in relation to the Son, etc. And of course Father is also understood in relation to Mother, who is understood in relation to Daughter, who in relation to Son reveals Brother and Sister etc.

    Family is Truth.

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