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The (un)importance of truth

two bodies*
two bodies*

Once I asked a psychoanalyst how she dealt with patients who lied. She told me it didn’t matter, and as simply as that she dismissed the primary reason people feel angry, disappointed and betrayed. It took me some time to realize that what she dismissed was the importance of cold facts as a means of getting to the truth.

We obsess over facts and make them our only terms and conditions for any meaningful relationship, when much of our happiness largely depends if not on lies then certainly on untruths and close approximations. We’re asking for the facts, when we, like our ancestors, rely heavily on myth (the elaborate narrative, the well-built lie) in order to grasp important aspects of our existence. Our minds are searching for meaning, and what is meaning but continuity and causality – the distinct traits of storytelling.

In the same way, desiring to write our own myths, we often conceive a ‘truth’ that uses facts as its building blocks. But is the result of accumulated facts deprived of their feeling and intention the truth, or just an accumulation of facts? And whose feelings and intentions, whose expectations and assumptions will we infuse our story with? Actually – and probably as that psychoanalyst was trying to say – the way we interpret and choose to combine and present facts is more important than the facts themselves. Still, we neurotically demand ‘truth’ to be exact, with finely set boundaries. Feeling uncomfortable in abstraction, we seek the close confines of symbolism, afraid that if we leave abstraction unrestricted it will prove treacherous, or in other words, inconsistent.

But why is consistency so important and why do we admire precision so much? Exactly because all we want is a good and familiar story to validate our expectations and assumptions. It’s just that the kind of truth we seek promises the security that only lies can offer.


[* "two bodies" is the latest addition to the black 'n' whites collection and partly the inspiration for this article]

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Thursday, 19 January 2017 16:05
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