TRUTH BE TOLD

When in doubt, tell the truth. –Mark Twain

Truth be told, I just found out that July 7 was TELL THE TRUTH DAY.  Better late than never?  That may or may not be true, but today I’m in the mood to post, and at this “late” juncture, truth is doubtless as good a thesis as any (if you believe Mark Twain).

Friends, I don’t claim to be in the same league as such legendary and current truth-tellers as Pinocchio and Donald Trump, but I am (almost) always in favor of telling the truth. In fact, one of my favorite TV quiz shows back in the day was TO TELL THE TRUTH. But before we go there, I need to set it up with a clip from a quiz show I featured in a previous post (I’VE GOT A SECRET)….the reason being that one of the panelists on the latter program (a humorist who is little-remembered today) plays a big part in the surprise ending of the TO TELL THE TRUTH clip, and it helps if you know he was once famous.

Assuming you can abide a bit more truth-telling, I will close with some quotes on the subject:

The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and simple. –Oscar Wilde

Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. –Aldous Huxley

If you are out to describe the truth, leave elegance to the tailor. –Albert Einstein

Beware of a half-truth: you may have gotten hold of the wrong half. –Evan Esar

A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. –Charles Spurgeon

All men are born truthful and die liars. –Luc de Clapiers

Doubt thou the stars are fire,
Doubt that the sun doth move.
Doubt truth to be a liar,
But never doubt I love.
–William Shakespeare

 

A SHORT REVIEW OF A SHORT HISTORY OF MYTH

Maybe this world is another planet’s Hell. -Aldous Huxley

Suppose you are among this world’s more comfortable creatures, living the good — even privileged — life. You may therefore think Aldous Huxley was a pessimist, at best. Maybe, from where you’re sitting, you don’t see his Brave New World as all gloom and doom. From “another planet,” however, maybe Huxley’s vision wouldn’t seem far-fetched. Maybe that vantage point would reveal how Earth’s other half lives. Two views vying for accepted wisdom; distance as metaphor for perception. What is myth? What is reality?

The above is the sort of rumination one might entertain as one reads Karen Armstrong’s A SHORT HISTORY OF MYTH, which opens with the sentence Human beings have always been mythmakers. Because “myth is about the unknown, we are meaning-seeking creatures [with] imagination, the faculty that produces religion and mythology. Neanderthal graves show that when these early people became conscious of their mortality, they created some sort of counter-narrative that enabled them to come to terms with it.”

According to Armstrong, “mythology speaks of another plane that exists alongside our own world. Belief in this invisible but more powerful reality, sometimes called the world of the gods, is a basic theme. Mythology was not about theology, in the modern sense, but about human experience. People thought that gods, humans, animals and nature were inextricably bound up together, subject to the same laws, and composed of the same divine substance.”

“Some of the very earliest myths were associated with the sky, which seems to have given people their first notion of the divine. When they gazed at the sky [which] towered above them, inconceivably immense, inaccessible and eternal, [they] had a religious experience.” The book goes on to trace mythical thinking and practice, which has helped “many to avoid despair,” down  through the ages up to the Enlightenment and the alienation of modern times.

Where I differ with Armstrong is her contention that “We must disabuse ourselves of the fallacy that myth is false or that it represents an inferior mode of thought.” Her reasoning is beyond the scope of a brief review such as this, and I do not wish to over-simplify it by trying to sum it up in a sentence or two (read her book, if interested). For my part, I grant that each of us must face the eternal questions with whatever coping resources we can muster, but I am not a “one size fits all” solver. To the contrary, history shows that “one size fits all” fits no one but tyrants, bigots and ideologues.

This is not to say that I believe myth “represents an inferior mode of thought” to those for whom, for whatever guileless reason (immaturity, honest ignorance, being brainwashed), myth is reality. For the un-guileless, purely rational thinking can be a brave but lonely place for someone without empathy for the myth believers. Perhaps Pope Francis (in another context) said it best: “Who am I to judge?”

 

 

 

TRUE BE OR NOT TRUE BE….

That is the question: “What is truth?”, as Pontius Pilate asked. In what sense did he ask it? It seems that Pilate did not wait for Jesus to answer, so a good guess is that he asked it rhetorically….and why not? Better men than Pilate have concluded that the truth of a thing is nothing more than what each of us believes it to be — religious beliefs being the supreme example, and killing/persecuting over religious differences being the supreme irony….as if it is necessarily so that belief equals truth to demand surrender to. Like Ira Gershwin, “I takes dat gospel whenever it’s pos’ple– but wid a grain of salt!”

Many wise things have been said concerning the concept of truth, but I believe we must look outside of religion for most of the wise men and women who have said those wise things, just as we look beyond politicians for the deeper concepts that govern us. Here are some of these “outsiders” and their sayings that ring true to me:

Between truth and the search for truth, I choose the second. -Bernard Berenson

Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the Gods. -Albert Einstein

Truth exists; only lies are invented. -Georges Braque

There is no such source of error as the pursuit of absolute truth. – Samuel Butler

Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. -Aldous Huxley

Cynicism is an unpleasant way of saying the truth. -Lillian Hellman

The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who haven’t got it. -George Bernard Shaw

It is always the best policy to speak the truth, unless, of course, you are an exceptionally good liar. -Jerome K. Jerome

We occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of us pick ourselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened. -Winston Churchill

All things are subject to interpretation; whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth. -Friedrich Nietzsche

An error does not become truth by means of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it. -Mahatma Gandhi

Would you believe that this treatise was brought to you by the same libertine who brought you yesterday’s less high-minded, but perhaps more uplifting, post MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE RAUNCH…. what can I say?

NO BRAINERS

February 27 is NO BRAINER DAY, the one day in the year which provides all the excuse I need to do a post requiring no intelligent writing on my part (as opposed to all those posts for which I had no excuse). This will be, in other words, a post of others’ words. I will, however, endeavor to be clever as ever by never resorting to quotes irrelevant to the subject of the day.

The world is more like it is now than it has ever been before. -Dwight Eisenhower

Those who survived the San Francisco earthquake said, “Thank God, I’m still alive.” But of course, those who died, their lives will never be the same again. –Calif. Senator Barbara Boxer

If you take out the killings, Washington actually has a very low crime rate. -former Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Berry

More and more of our imports are coming from overseas. –George W. Bush

A low voter turnout is an indication of fewer voters going to the polls. -Dan Quayle

If it weren’t for electricity, we’d all be watching TV by candlelight. -George Gobel

Ignorance has its virtues: without it, there would be mighty little conversation. -Evan Esar

There is nothing so stupid as the educated man, if you get off the thing he was educated in. -Will Rogers

The word ‘genius’ isn’t applicable in football. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein. -Joe Theisman

Sometimes they write what I say and not what I mean. -Pedro Guerrero

I’ve never had major knee surgery on any other part of my body. –Winston Bennet

Most ignorance is vincible ignorance: we don’t know because we don’t want to know. -Aldous Huxley