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The Whole Truth

Posted 10-04-2017 at 12:03 AM by Ludlum'sDaughter14
Most people who are familiar with pop culture know the classic courtroom line: "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?" In most other contexts, the phrase would seem needlessly repetitive, but it makes an important distinction in the court of law, where one word could be a life or death sentence for the accused. It also brings up the a characteristic of truth we tend to forget in everyday life: it is entirely possible to tell the truth without telling the whole truth or exclusively the truth.

Adding non-truth to truth is, obviously, lying. The concept presents a clear and undeniable dichotomy. However, what does it mean not to tell the "whole" truth? Can you speak only things that are true and yet fail to speak the truth?

This semester, I'm taking a class that discusses, essentially, the philosophy of science. Tonight, part of our homework assignment involved visiting a website dedicated to informing people of the dangerous, yet pervasive chemical "dihydrogen monoxide." The site lists multiple ways DHMO can cause injury or death, the many common household items it can be found in, and the failure of the government to ban it or otherwise recognize it as a legitimate hazard. The joke is that "dihydrogen monoxide" is a chemical name for H2O, or water. Once you understand this, if you are not disgruntled by being made to feel gullible, you may appreciate the wake-up call the site issues. Although a highly sophisticated joke, it demonstrates how information that is true can be carefully presented in such a way as to support a faulty conclusion. Even research and statistics can be manipulated to mean almost anything (or nothing, if so desired).

With all the hype about "fake news" lately, people are beginning to recognize what the DHMO joke proved twenty years ago: you can't take everything you hear at face value. No matter what network you get your news from or what newspaper you read or follow online, all facts are selected and presented according to the organization's bias. In fact, it is impossible to relate information without bias, whether you are a news anchor or a scientist. Facts have no meaning in themselves; they gain meaning when someone interprets them, but a person can only interpret them according to that person's preconceived ideas, experiences, and beliefs. Two people can look at the same set of facts and reach entirely opposite conclusions.

The facts that seem to divide people most drastically are the ones regarding tragedies. Events like the Las Vegas massacre have no ready explanation. The violence was unprovoked, seemingly random, and devastating. The event was described by the president as "pure evil," and indeed, there is no other way to describe arbitrarily murdering 50 people and injuring 200 more in such a manner.

When you consider that inexplicable acts of violence, unintentional deaths and severe injuries, and countless other tragedies occur regularly all over the world, sometimes as a result of human error or even without explanation, the world begins to look more and more dismal. It's no wonder that in recent times many people have subscribed to absurdism, nihilism, relativism, and other isms that argue there is no real meaning to life. These people have examined the facts and come to a conclusion based on their own reasoning.

However, nihilism comes from a faulty interpretation of reality based on an incomplete knowledge of/acknowledgement of the truth. There is good in this world and ultimately in the spiritual realm beyond. Denying the brokenness of the world will lead to disillusionment and disappointment, but denying the existence of ultimate good and truth (in the midst of and unaffected by the tragedy) leads to an equally unproductive hopelessness.

Tonight, I was taking a much-needed walk. It was late and I had the road to myself, so as I speed-walked and listened to music, I became lost in my thoughts. I thought about some of the wonderful relationships I have with people. I thought about my Dirkette friends and our adventures, including what happens when the one designated driver decides to follow the non-designated driver back home. I thought about two classmates here at school who I've gotten to know in multiple classes this semester and become good friends with. I thought about my dad and how we have so many shared experiences and facets of personality that we've co-programmed ourselves to come up with the same jokes and movie references at the same time.

And as I was thinking about all of this, I had a realization: I really have a good life. There are so many things I have every day that I take for granted. I tend to focus on all the things I don't like. I think if I could only have something (friends, money, my own car and apartment, a job in a different state...), my life would be so much more enjoyable. But I overlook the positive aspects that make up at least 50% (probably more) of my life. I get annoyed with the ways my dad is not like me instead of appreciating how much more he understands me than the average person (speaking as a person who seems to understand almost everyone and be understood by almost no one). I get depressed because of what I can't do instead of getting excited about what I can.

There are physical components that affect emotional stability, but those effects can be limited or even reversed with disciplined, correct thinking. Maybe I tend toward depression and cynicism in part because I don't acknowledge all the good things that exist in my life. I focus my thinking on the negative at the expense of the positive.

Pretending life is "all good" or "all bad" seems juvenile, but it's where we often end up living in practice. We bounce back and forth between denial and despair, all because we will not accept the whole truth. Life is hard. Life is good. Joy and pain coexist. Until we learn to accept the pain as a means to the joy, we will waste our lives striving to capture a pain-free life that does not exist except beyond death, the final earthly pain that for some provides the gateway to joy without boundary and without end.

This is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
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