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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Contradiction of TRUTH.

In searching out the truth be ready for the unexpected, for it is difficult to find and puzzling when you find it. -- Heraclitus.

A few weeks ago, I presented my students with a dialectical problem. "Why is it," I asked provocatively, "that when we tell the truth, we get in more trouble than when we lie." To be sure, the entire question appears as a massive generalization, but, immediately after, I asked them how many of them thought they had more opportunity to get away from being grounded by their parents by telling a lie. The count was an overwhelming 27-3 in favor of lying. When presented with the following situation, most of them again chose to lie. Dilemma: They are three hours late past their curfew. Their parents are anxiously waiting for them. They haven't called, or answered the cell when their parents tried to reach them. The moment of (no pun intended) truth comes... Tell an elaborate lie about a flat tire and their cell phone falling inside a toilet and obviously out of order for good, or tell the truth about simply not caring to look at the watch, and, even if they did, caring very little to conform with rules they feel are past their interest in caring for? Again, the numbers were dismaying.

And this is the great contradiction of truth. Young people today feel that telling the truth is not "hip," that somehow the ability and elaborate techniques of fooling parents in general seem to be collected in a little black book that youngsters reach for in times of trouble. Tell the truth and be grounded. Tell a lie, and you might just be able to get away with it. The more elaborate the lie, the better. The significant details, they are quick to point out, are always the smallest and most perplexing stupid pieces of false information. For example, the cell falling in water and ruin forever. Most of my students also agreed that they would ruin their cell phone on purpose before they got home and were willing to go without a cell phone for a few weeks if it meant not being grounded. So we reach critical mass rather quickly with this little business of telling the truth vs. exploiting a falsity. Where is all of this convoluted apathy towards truth coming from? What is it that makes us so ready and willing to tell a lie?

I suspect that there is no answer to the aforementioned questions. I also know for a fact the price of telling the truth, and the stupefying events that follow the roots of truth and certainty. There's no way around this dilemma in a world turned relativist. The either/or propositions that have existed since the start of civilization are in peril of disappearing forever. I may be a little alarmist when referring to this, but it can be argued, quite sufficiently, that in a world turned mad with litigation and liabilities the important role of TRUTH has been diminished and watered down. The main culprit might just be convenience (as evident in the example of curfew and the students), or simply the fact that the truth is too heavy to carry, and too cumbersome to put in order when seen with the eyes of logic and reason. Whatever the reason, we might soon find ourselves paying the consequences of our turning a blind eye to truth, whether by choice or circumstance. I submit we run the peril by our own rational choice.

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