I start writing this blog in my dreams, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. As I showed in The Magic Trick: Fiction is Reality, dreams are real, they happen. Every statement is a fiction, as I demonstrated in It’s All Fiction: Another Attempt to Tell the Story, yet we keep looking for truthiness. Why not abandon such a Quixotic quest? Why do we keep looking for truth?
Truth is a process not a product, an attempt, not an achievement. Truth is relative; different kinds of writing are true in different ways. Some writings may be true because the facts are very close to “reality”. Others may be true because they more accurately convey the writer’s experience of the event, the feelings, the impressions, and the personal significance. Some writings express a truth metaphorically or artistically or religiously or scientifically. All truth is partial and biased, but it is still true. In fact, it is all true in a sense. It is all true because it all exists, in coded form in books, databases and synapses in the brain, true because writing takes place as real events, events which actually happen, when the writer is writing and the reader is reading.
Some statements contain partial truth. “At the moment, I am writing on the computer” is a true statement from my perspective at this moment, notwithstanding the fact that I pause as I write and the phrase “at this moment” is problematic as I move through an infinite number of moments as I write, and when you read this, if you do, I will not be writing this. Nevertheless, few people would argue that the statement is not true. Some truth may be biased, as in the statement, “I am writing about truth.” Truth is my undeniably my subject, but is what I am writing truly truth? I would say it is, but that is a biased statement with a particular agenda, yet is still somehow true.
A full recording of our life experience may be accurate in terms of factual details and such a recording may soon be possible, as the article Krzysztof offered points out, “Malthusian Information Famine.” Yet is the recording the same as the original event? If we experience a full virtual recreation of somebody’s day, it is apparently indistinguishable, since it takes place in the same way as the original experience: through energy moving through synapses in the brain. Yet if I experience a day in your life, it will be my experience of it, not yours. Even if you yourself reexperience a day of your life, it will be a different experience than the day you lived, because you will be a slightly different person, the same person plus the experience of that day. Reexperiencing the day will also have different meaning for you, you will notice different things, you will have a different emotional reaction. Nevertheless, few would argue that such a recording would be inaccurate.
Of course there is doubt whether a full recording of the events of a day is more truthful than a non-fiction account of the same day which would simplify but might give a more accurate impression of the subject’s experience. A deliberately fictional account of the day, which might include episodes of magical realism, might get even closer to the personal experience, the personal significance of the day. Picasso said, “Art is the lie that tells the truth.” In other words a perfect recording, a non-fiction account, and a fictional account of the same day may each have their own kind of truthfulness.
Friends responded variously to my post Where is Truth” I Ask You. Barb said, “Truth is where each beholder feels it is,” which makes truth a subjective experience arising from point of view (“beholder”), it’s truthfulness established through an emotional impression rather than intellectual reasoning. Jason said, “The truth lies within,” again suggesting that truth is subjective. Anne said, “something is ‘true’ when people agree about it. Truth lays in the consensus of our discourses or discussions,” which makes truth a shared subjective experience which exists in an objective space, a socially-constructed truth. I believe that truth is a subjective experience of an objective reality. Insisting on the reality of reality is important for me. Are any of these truths the whole truth? No, but if we add them all together we get closer to the whole truth. That is why I say, “Believe everything.”
I consider myself a pantheist, in that I believe in all gods, all branches of knowledge, all attempts to explain the universe, all fictions and all dreams. Every religion is fiction, of course, yet each is an attempt to understand the universe in terms of metaphor. The problem is when people take the metaphor more seriously than the “reality.” That means, then, that every religion is in some sense true. Religion is like the story of the nine blind Chinese men who feel an elephant. One says, “It’s like a tree.” Another, “A rope.” Another, “A wall.” It all depends on where you touch the elephant. If we add the various impressions together, we won’t get an elephant, but we will get a more accurate impression of the elephant. In other words, listening to all religions can give you a richer, fuller appreciation of reality.
This is also true with every human branch of human knowledge. Sociology and psychology, for example, may tell you very different stories of childhood development, but the two stories are not exclusive. Both can be true. In fact the sum of them both is truer than each separate.
The story of the big bang is just a theory, but a theory that explains observable facts. Yet it is a story. Picture the big bang for a moment. We cannot imagine it accurately, since we always begin watching from the moment before the big bang happens and we view it from outside or the event, yet there was no before and no outside. Time and space were created during the big bang; a more accurate picture of the big bang would be from inside the point, watching everything explode outwards from yourself. But that view of the big bang is equally problematic since the perspective is imaginary. Nothing existed, according to the theory, that could observe what was happening. The big bang is a fiction, because it is just a theory and because we picture it all wrong, but it is still a truish story.
Even the craziest, most paranoid fantasy of the maddest madman on the streets of San Francisco is true because the fantasy expresses the real experiences of that madman.
But enough of these introductory musings on truth and fiction. It is time to turn to the stories on our syllabus. (Although I am behind in my writing — I had a lot to say — I have kept up with the reading.) I won’t abandon what I have written here; I will come back to the ideas of fiction and truth, trying again and again to make them truer. Metafiction also repeats itself, telling its story from different perspectives and different forms, so I will be working within the conventions. In other words, nothing here is redundant, it is a metablog! Most importantly, keep in mind that it is all true.
One thought on “Believe Everything: It’s All True”
My Dad’s response. Sent by email and reprinted here with permission. Thanks Dad!
You surely have a gift for writing.
You know how I love a good discussion, but I don’t have time for as much discussion as I would like, so here are just a few brief thoughts:
(1) It would be harmful to literally believe everything. Example: Believing that it is right to exterminate all Jews because Hitler said it was right to do so.
(2) A better expression than “Believe everything” is the quote from the Bible: “Prove all things and hold fast to that which is good.” What is “good” is another discussion.
(3) The statement that everything is true can also be harmful. Example: The killing of all infidels, as defined and required by Muslim fundamentalists, will greatly advance art and science.
(4) There are countless absolute truths. Example: Two apples added to a basket containing two apples will make a total of four applies in the basket.
(5) Rather than believing in all gods, one should consider believing only in those “gods” which will lead to the greatest eternal happiness for the greatest number of people..
(6) If the God of the Bible exists, all religions are not fiction. Each religion has some truth, as you indicate, but the religion which comes closest to that described by the New Testament will most likely be the true religion of God with no fiction in its doctrine.
(7) It is true that “(e)ven the craziest, most paranoid fantasy of the maddest madman on the streets of San Francisco is true because the fantasy expresses the real experiences of that madman.” However, the fantasy itself may be totally false, i.e. total fiction. Example: The madman fantasizes that the earth is flat.
Like you, your closest cousin since childhood, Mike Richardson, has a gift for highly articulate, analytical writing. So I’m going to send him a copy and hope that he will respond also.