About Truth

Drawing inspiration from Michael P. Lynch and Michel Foucault, I believe that “truth”: 1) can be interpreted as objective knowledge and 2) such information can be utilised for self-serving yet necessary objectives.

In identifying truth as objective, one may argue that truth is relative to culture, time or circumstance; by enforcing only one single truth, society may be encouraged to be less tolerant of diversity and variations. Lynch counters this thought by arguing that 1) relativity is contradictory, possibly encourages nihilism and inertia, thus is not the best-suited approach to understanding truth 2) “The cause of intolerance is not objectivity but dogmatism.” (2004, pg 33) Believing in objective truth also means agreeing that truth as we believe it can never be absolutely reliable; we are prone to mistakes and cannot know any thing for certain. Therefore, we should alway be in search of the most valid truth.

However, while truths/facts are fixed, we may not be capable enough to know them totally, yet or ever. What I take away is that as long as we share a reality and the truth is presently “beyond reasonable doubt” then it is good enough to be considered the most valid truth – at least for/in that moment.

“When we say something true, the world is as we say it is and when we believe truly, the world is as we believe it to be.” (2004, pg 11)

While it’s easier to maintain objectivity about the external world, e.g. the height of the tallest mountain, the effects of exposed iron, the culprit of a homicide, etc., how do we learn the truth about the internal world, i.e. our individual truth? Let’s call this self-truth, much like self-knowledge.

Firstly, we need to question the importance of knowing truth, be it external or internal, which brings us to my second belief: using truth as a means to an end or using truth for an objective. By acquiring and utilising knowledge, we can live our lives more thoughtfully, carefully and meaningfully; we learn the purpose of traffic lights so we wait for the green man to flash before crossing the road, thus preventing ourselves from getting knocked down by a passing vehicle and continuing the time we have with others.

“In wanting to be self-aware, what we want is to have the truth about ourselves.” (2004, pg 121)

So what is/are the self-truths we need to know to live our lives better? Lynch believes that to have a good “sense of self”, one needs to know 1) what matters to them and 2) the kind of person they want to be. Having such knowledge would then spur one to behave and embody the person they want to be. Conversely, lacking the knowledge would cause the “fear that we may be sleepwalking our way through life.” (2004, pg 121)

Then I came across Michel Foucault’s words: “…one needs for his own salvation to know as exactly as possible who he is and… that he needs to tell it as explicitly as possible to some other people.” (2007, pg 148) Not only do we need to learn truths about our external and internal worlds, we also need to convey them to others for the sake of living more peacefully.

Looking at the bigger picture, sharing knowledge not only helps the confessing individual but also helps the wider community; by exchanging experiences, community members learn about potentially stressful or dangerous scenarios and how to prevent or cope with them. By sharing, we enlighten each other.

The ideas of confessing and investigating tie in closely to the themes of one play, “Gloria”, written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins.

“Gloria” is about the survivors of an office mass shooting, how they cope with the trauma and compete over book deals, and how the media feed on the business opportunity brought by the incident. One of the survivors, Lorin, the only character who does not write a book about it (although is open to talk about it), believes that it was a shared event explains, it’s not one person’s story; it was a shared event; and none of the writer-survivors cared actually about Gloria before she became a murderer.

Drawing from all these sources, I wonder if, in search for the most valid truth, we end up measuring the value of one’s experience against another and by extension, rank the validity of one human life to another. Could this be the reason why, people hold back from being vulnerable and sharing their truths? Could it be why people place high importance in curating their public image on social media or for superficial, public interactions in the office or classroom? Could it be why, the media is so saturated with conflicting opinions and loud images that most consumers have turned passive or uncaring? Could this be why, for those who do not have the skills to curate a “good image” to feel positive acknowledgement, they bottle their confessions until pushed to the brink of self-destruction, suicide or murder?

I want to help people express their truths so they know that no matter what they are experiencing, and no matter how seemingly inconsequential, their present state and lives are valid and worthy of sharing – for others to relate to, learn from or simply acknowledge they are not alone. This is my truth and my objective.

Click on the link below to view the images/videos, snippets of stories from people/places in Melbourne CBD: https://drive.google.com/open?id=16NvxZSol2DYci8PVZgJBan7c5nRIgSH4

Foucault, M. 2007. Subjectivity and Truth. “The Politics of Truth”. Semiotext(e) Foreign Agents. Pg 147-151.

Lynch, MP. 2005. “True to Life: Why Truth Matters”. The MIT Press.