There's a teaching tale, that speaks of two characters, one known as Truth, the other alternately known as Story or Parable.
The events unfurl somewhere along the journey of Truth, who, upon arrival in every town, village, farm, city square, is reviled, run out of the borders, pelted with garbage...
Upon yet another day of being rebuffed, Truth sits down on the side of the road, and begins to weep.
Along wanders Story (or Parable - the difference is usually based on what source is being used as the page or lineage) and asks Truth, "Why so glum?"
Truth, seemingly oblivious to the problem, blubbers some ambiguous filler about being too old, and thus the people are not willing to listen.
Parable (or Story - because we're beginning to get to the lesson) says, "Oh no no no..." and begins to explain that the problem with Truth's approach, is...
...and this is where the schism shakes the ground beneath feet.
In one hand, there's a conclusion that talks how Story finds a set of fancy clothes and has them tailored to the size of Truth (getting all technicolor dreamcoat on the world) after which, all gussied up and fancy, the people are willing to listen.
In our other hand (and don't worry, this won't become some alien endeavor with a third hand to boot) Truth is shuffled off to a home, a palace, a locker room, a spa...and cleaned up so as to be more palatable to the people. Shave and a haircut. Two bits. Or rather, two-bit actors.
For that is what we are bombarded with now-a-days. All sorts of icons pretending to be iconography, portending some inevitable fall, preying upon anybody willing to listen through the braying and the cacophony that follows one million talking heads all trying to catch a wave the micro-second before the other, without regard as to the end result, long-term effect, or potential aftershock of their thoughts, voices, expectorants, expectations, or impossibly lacking-in-depth examinations of the moment at hand.
(Would it make a difference if we reminded ourselves that every broadcast travels on into infinity, out into space, above and beyond, like Voyager come back as V-ger and speaking back to us all of the times, the hundreds of googles of times, we've pressed play without regard for when stop should have immediately followed?)
The good question, then, is when did speed belie accuracy, and become more important than truth?
In this way, it is difficult for this column to function within the confines of current events - looking to find immediate solutions for long-distance dreams (and lasting battlements for high-tension nightmares).
What comes forth in perspective of these fingers is weighed upon heavily by other tragedies which first showed the clouded light of immediacy being overrun by emotion, rather than a distinct knowledge of truth. If we go back and re-watch much of the news media in the hours and first days following the bombing of the Federal building in Oklahoma City, we see how it was nearly universal the snap decision (decisive? divisive!) that the act was carried out by Muslim terrorists. Of course, the real culprit turned out to be a Caucasian former US Army soldier. Did anybody on air that day even care about the truth? Did anybody ever apologize for being wrong?
Yet over the past two writings it has been difficult to not have all of the thoughts funneling laden with heavy heart and word for what happened in Sandy Hook - and therein is a perfect example. Beyond the inaccuracy of the initial reports, the wrong person as the killer, a mysterious van chase, where is the decency that simply says for the sake of those who are going to be despondent, could we be respectful to their finding out that their world turned upside down, before the pontificating pundits preached us all into prostrations and protestations to leave the town?
But this is an easy path to take, and one that was, thankfully, tread heavily in those first few days. For, finally, a growing chorus stood up and asked for respect. Will there be change? May we never find out for there should never be another tragedy to test the mettle of the motto.
The better question, then, is when did the story (Story?) become more believable than the truth (Truth)?
Inevitably then, the rules that are soft around the belly get poked, and instead of being the movie reviewer who waits until the DVD is released to speak on whether the film will have lasting impact (since everybody else is speaking in brush strokes of whether or not we ought go to the theatre or stay home) we'll dive into that dangerous deep end and speak of buzzword buzzword in the buzzword news-cycle hyperbolic chamber that throws out metaphors as if there is no reverb available other than the Grand Canyon and no breathlessness below Everest.
It is difficult to determine what, exactly, happened. It is, in theory, equally plausible that he did this as a publicity stunt as it is that he knew nothing at all, but read what the masses are writing about Manti Te'o and one can't help but wonder if, he turns out to have known nothing, the people of vociferous malcontent wouldn't be happier to live in the land of distrust and thus the distaste which flows from the self-forked tongue (which is a different blood-aptitude-content than that which flows kroovy kroovy red when one bites their tongue) and prefer to continue to believe...whatever they want to believe, so as, on the most basic level, to add yet another point of modern pop-cultural reference on which to give a nudge nudge here and a wink wink there with those who share the same level of concern trumped by sarcasm.
Is truth, now dressed in finery, now but a beard or a patsy who is welcomed with open arms and crossed fingers behind the back so as only to make ourselves feel better...about ourselves? "Truth is here at the party...our responsibilities are done!" No. No. And never. Admitting truth to the room, is not the same as camouflaging the very same in the midst of the static and noise.
Thus, the best question becomes, when did opinion become more important than truth?
An experiment, as is offered up here every while and once, that requires a state of decorum that might not be the status quo or the usual flow of the mind.
Walk down the street and strike up three random conversations, and see where the topic takes the day. At each step of the way, when the inevitable difference of opinion tumbles forth, don't offer a rebuttal. Then, ask a very simple question, to yourself, to the other - is what you believe, what you also believe to be truth? While it seems like a silly question, and the knee-slap response is to say, "Well of course what I believe, I believe to be the truth"...when it gets dissected, one has to ask themselves one obvious question - does it become the truth because it is what is believed, rather than it is believed and thus it becomes truth? Because only then, in the small, microscopic cracks, between truth and beauty, can one truly see just how far one is willing to bend the facts to fit their biased truth.
An aside, but maybe better offered as a tangent, is it related that on the first day of high school calculus the teacher turned to all of us and said, "Forget everything you know about math, it is all wrong"? Maybe that's what Orwell meant by the immortal two plus two equals five. Funny how in words, it looks less sinister and more like poetry.
What, then, is the theme of all these questions? Simply that the lesson is no longer accurate, the teaching tool has not evolved with the times and ought be sent to the museum alongside the slide-rule and the hornbook. An either/or is no longer valid for our times. Story and Truth have a third character in their world. Media.
Likely, it is impossible, to go through a modern birth-life-death believing only the truths that we've experienced ourselves. We've gone from magic to faith to science and effectively back to magic again - for that is the definition, yes - faith in a technological advance that we can wield as a tool or a weapon but fail to understand how the underlying source material functions so as to produce a result?
For parable has failed us, not as an insidious younger sibling but because our ears are no longer listening and story has turned truth into a convenient lie, a plausible denial, a willingness to fib. The good intentions of the greater acceptance of Truth has turned into those in need finding a way to continue to hide within the shadows. Media. Without concern for morality because of the confident feeling of not being caught, yet creating a very same tool which will grant forgiveness without concern - for there are ratings to be had.
Enveloping both Truth and Story is the emotional tyranny of the media - bringing the viewer on an endless cycle of willing violence and dishonest redemption. Because of this, none of us, who defend any side of any tale without question...are ever to be truly free. For to create an identity around dualistic battling media icons, as if there can only be two sides to every coin (for those of us on the edge know different) is to be a slave to a story that is not our own.
Truth has been turned on its head, story turned into its nemesis, and as a storyteller...ashamed...angered...that the powers of this youthful usurper, this interloper Media, has taken this tool of telling and teaching and made it possible and acceptable to change our pen-shares into weapons no better than the sword we were supposed to be better than.
So we must, regardless of how it will rip apart our comfort zone, demand an end to the fantasy. The only way that is possible is for us to tear away all of the clothing that makes us who we are, all of the clothing that we think is identity but is really just an identifiable mark for those of like mind, to find us, huddle together, and keep those we fear, at bay.
Surround ourselves with those who are different than us, rather than alike, and watch this world, grow. It is time to regain our willingness to care about truth above all else, to put our opinions (which is really just a modern synonym for "differences") aside. Only as our children learn this, will story, too, be cleansed of what media has made it to be.
We don't yet have the light for this, nor even the candle with which to flame. So let us all be candlestick makers so that when the time comes and the vegetable tallow sets solid within our grasp, we none of us shall be burned.
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