Shawn Maxam wonders why we ask certain questions when we really don’t want to know the answers.
What you perceive, your observations, feelings, interpretations, are all your truth. Your truth is important. Yet it is not The Truth.
The above statement is what I like to describe as subjective fact. It is a truism that exist within various context but is only understood via hindsight and lived experience. An objective fact doesn’t need you to valid it: The earth revolves around the sun regardless of your willingness or unwillingness to acknowledge it.
The interesting thing about subjective facts is that they are malleable. They change with the person, situation, environment and context. Take for example the statement “I don’t date Black women”. While it is true you do not date Black women now you may have done so in the past and you may do again in the future. Subjective facts rest within the realm of possibility. The certainty of what is said or believed is only temporal. Now temporality can be long or short depending upon the comparative factors. A teenager may look at the age 40 as being old whereas an a person in their 70s may reflect upon that age as being youthful.
Now that we have laid the groundwork let us move forward. The truth is usually just the most honest lie isn’t some observation borne out of pessimism or frustration. It is just me being aware of the complexities of human thought, desire and rational. The gradation on which things are said between and amongst people is very wide and diverse. I have never known anyone, anywhere, anytime who is completely honest because that would assume that said individual is completely tapped into all of the emotions, thoughts, memories and beliefs they have ever had or experienced.
If I ask my mother if she was happy to have me. She can not recall the utter shock and fear she probably felt when as 19-year-old immigrant she realized she was pregnant with her second child. Beyond wanting to just protect my feelings she will describe a different experience. The story will change to reflect the person she wishes she was then and who she hopes is today. There will be bits of truth but never will everything regarding that question ever be shared. I don’t really expect it too.
The most honest lie is what we want the truth to look like. It is the intersection where reality, fantasy, desire and memory meet. If my future son ask if I will always be there for him I will lie (maybe even to myself) and say yes even though if at 17 he becomes a heroin addict I may turn my back on him.
Honest lies generally involve ignoring negatively perceived words like ‘never’ and embracing a faithfulness to positive ones such as ’forever’. It is the immeasurable want to have our flaws ignored. To have our shortcomings and weakness seen as idiosyncracies. As cute character traits.
So the being truthful within the confines of this lens (that we are all taught to view the world through) allows words like collateral damage to replace civilian deaths. For a woman who is fat to call herself curvy. For liberal whites and educated Blacks to justify their roles in gentrification with an array of rationalizations. It is less about withholding vital information and more so an unspoken implicit manipulation of that same information. We use fun-house mirrors to view ourselves and the outside world.
You lied to me is common refrain when the truth and truisms we have delivered start to collapse amidst the temporal structures of our collective constructed reality. “You said you loved me. Yes I loved in that moment but it has passed. When I said it to you it was true but it no longer is.” In that exchange the word moment could signify months or decades. Such an exchange is painful. But no matter how often it occurs doesn’t make it hurt any less.
Subjective facts have that effect. Subjective facts are conditional. Again a rather pronounced difference between the subjective fact and objective facts. Once you learn that earth revolves around the sun the certainty of this objective fact has two effects 1) It exists outside of your daily reality so the need to question its truth is rarely necessary 2) The likely hood of this objective fact changing would be best described as impossible/implausible and its a change that would be so profound it would alter the reality of all living beings.
Subjective facts usually only affect you or a small group you’re connected to (friends, family etc.). The problem with only you and/or your group being affected is that the rest of the world moves on. There is no acknowledgement of your pain and suffering. Or of your joy and happiness. It isn’t that no one cares. Everyone is just exhausted from caring about themselves. 9-11 changed the whole world. Your loved one dying in the towers only really changed your world.
The older we become we can either accept that the truth is usually just the most honest lie or we can not. That acceptance/non-acceptance can cause serious cognitive dissonance which can lead to either bitterness or relief. The choice is ours.
Please share this with friends, enemies and temporary allies alike.
Thanks for reading, sharing and commenting!
Flickr image via tjblackwell