Pay attention to show respect…

June 8, 2021

“It’s hard for me to answer a question from someone who really doesn’t care about the answer.”  (Charles Grodin)

That was today’s quote in the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack when on to relate a story about a remembering seeing a woman in his congregation elbowing her husband to keep him awake during the sermon.

I’ve written here a few times about being a good listener. It is a mark of respect for the speaker that you pay attention to what they are saying and not spend that time thinking about how you will be replying. Grodin’s quote points out a second benefit from paying attention – you can figure out from how the speaker is talking where they are coming from and whether or not they really care about what your opinion is on the topic.

Showing respect for the speaker doesn’t mean that you are agreeing with their position. It merely means that you respect their right to have an opinion and to express it. Too many people these days don’t show even that level of respect; rather they shout over the speaker, hoping to drown out the expression of the opinion that they disagree with.

With so much misinformation and disinformation circulating in our society it is sometimes hard to have a civil discourse on controversial topics. When one bases their point of view on things upon the base of bad information or untruths it is hard to discuss it with them and the conversation quickly turns into arguments about the source of their “facts” upon which they base their beliefs. The old hack, “I saw it on the Internet, so it must be true” is the only base that many have to stand upon.

An even more disturbing trend of late is the rather fluid definition of the term “facts”. Over the past year or two we have seen many TV interviews in which it was asserted that facts aren’t facts or that there are “alternative facts”.  The term “facts” has morphed from describing an accepted absolute into describing a belief, subject to change. I guess the relative term there is the word accepted. If one doesn’t accept a “fact”, there is a tendency to make up an alternative and call it a fact, when really it is a belief or point of view.

That leads me back to a variation on Grodin’s quote – It’s hard to argue the truth of a statement with someone who doesn’t care about the truth.

If one is not paying attention to what is being said in a conversation it is relatively easy to be drawn into an argument about the wrong thing. Instead of arguing against a belief one could inquire about the basis for that belief – the facts upon which it is based. It is not enough to just say, “That’s not true.” Remember that the person speaking believes it is true, but that they may have never taken the time to question the source of that belief. A discussion about the basis for that belief may be more productive than just a direct challenge to it. Of nothing else, maybe you can plant a seed of doubt in their mind about the basis of their opinion.

So, show respect for the right of others to have and to express an opinion. You may not agree with it and perhaps your knee-jerk reaction is to talk over it or to quickly move from conversation mode into an argument about it. Don’t go there. If you are paying attention, you will realize the futility of arguing the point with that person.   Better that you should add a note to your mental file about that person on their position on this topic – a topic perhaps to be avoided in the future.  If that file gets too big, this may be a person to avoid in the future.

In the end, showing enough respect for the other person to understand where they are coming from also shows respect for yourself by stifling the knee-jerk reaction to argue with them. You just saved yourself a frustrating waste of time. Respect yourself.

The truth is the real weapon…

May 19, 2021

In his Jack’s Winning Words post today, Pastor Freed used this quote from T E Lawrence – “The printing press is the greatest weapon in the armory of the modern commander.” 

You may remember Lawrence as Lawrence of Arabia. From Wikipedia – Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence CB DSO (16 August 1888 – 19 May 1935) was a British archaeologist, army officer, diplomat, and writer, who became renowned for his role in the Arab Revolt (1916–1918) and the Sinai and Palestine Campaign (1915–1918) against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War.

In Lawrence’s time the printing press was still the most powerful way to get a message out. Today Lawrence might reference the Internet, which has largely replaced printed material as the way to communicate to the masses.

One disturbing aspect of the “progress” of electronic communications, especially the rise of social media to get a message out, is the easy with which that media can be used to spread lies as well as the truth. In Lawrence’s day one could hardly buy a printing press and start cranking out papers full of lies. Today anyone can sign on to Facebook or Twitter and start spreading lies or misinformation (well not everyone, but enough about politicians).

I suppose that in Lawrence’s day one could have said, “I saw it in a pamphlet or paper, so it must be true”; however, I doubt that people were quite that naïve back then. Today a disturbingly large part of the population does believe that if they saw it on the Internet, it must be true.

Jack asked in his post, “How do you determine what is “fake” and “real” news?” I rely somewhat on evaluating the source of the news – where am I seeing or hearing this from? There is a noticeable difference in the choices of what to report and how to report it between the newscasts of NBC or CNN and that of Fox News. The biases of both sides in those “newscasts” are evident in the words that the talking heads chose as they report the news or in the questions that they may ask during an interview. I’m not sure that they are overtly aware of their biased reporting or just let it slip in. So, the “fact” is that news sources of both political persuasions let their biases creep into their reporting.

The huge amount of misinformation or disinformation being spewed forth on the Internet has led to the rise of so-called “fact checkers”, people who proport to verify the truthfulness of information by a variety of means, such as tracking down the “source”. Since the truth is a threat to the spreaders of disinformation, they have attempted to silence the fact checkers through a variety of means. What they really sort out is the difference between facts and opinions (the basis of lies). One can often tell who the biggest liars are by listening to who screams loudest about being fact checked.

So, perhaps we all need to follow the advice of Pliny the Elder in his 77 AD opus Naturalis Historia.  Pliny the Elder translated an ancient text, which some have suggested was an antidote to poison, with the words ‘be taken fasting, plus a grain of salt’. The idea comes from the fact that food is more easily swallowed if taken with a small amount of salt. Today, the idea is to take everything with a grain of skepticism.

That grain of skepticism should not be allowed to turn into cynicism about everything but should just evoke enough of thoughtful evaluation of whatever is being said, so that the “truth” can be discerned. Some false Social Media posts to the Internet, like the “Big Lie” about the last election being stolen have no defensible basis in fact yet persist in bouncing around the Internet like an echo at the Grand Canyon. Fortunately, most of the fake news that is posted is quickly forgotten once it had been debunked by fact checkers.

So, seek the truth in all that you see and hear, especially on the Internet. We have been told in the Bible –

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

John was talking about the truth of everlasting life that is found one’s belief in Jesus; however, knowing the truth in our daily lives will set us free, too. Lies try to hold us captive to evil. Check the facts. Discern the truth and be set free.

Can there be fake truth?

July 31, 2018

We certainly see and hear a lot about so-called Fake News these days. So extend that thought to include the concept of Fake Truths. It was, to a certain extent, Fake News that claimed to the world that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and therefore an invasion of the country to prevent their use against other countries in the area was justified. That news turned out not to be true; it was based upon faulty intelligence andfact erroneous assumptions and conclusions by the intelligence community – essentially fake truths. The real truth later came out that there were no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq. So, was that fake news? Not really. It was news fabricated out of false or bad information (fake truth) that was provided by normally reliable sources and embellished a bit by politicians eager to justify a decision that likely had already been made. The news media, always hungry for a good story, took it and ran with it.

In today’s post to his blog Jack’s Winning Words, Jack Freed uses this quote from Buddha – “Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth.” Unlike opinions or assumptions or prejudices, the truth stands the test of time and inspection and is always trying to find a way to get out. William Shakespeare said “the truth will out” in the Merchant of Venice. 

It is interesting that the definition of the word truth leaves some leeway for doubt or later correction. Look it up on-line an you will get these three definitions –

the quality or state of being true.

“he had to accept the truth of her accusation”

that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.

“tell me the truth”

a fact or belief that is accepted as true.

” I believe that is true”

It is that third definition that applied to the Iraq weapons of mass destruction item of fake news that the Bush administration at the time used to justify its action to invade the country. We will probably never know how much the intelligence was fudged or faked to get to that conclusion; but, for a while we all believed that it was the truth.

These days, our attention has been re-directed to the news of Russian interference in the last presidential election. There are almost certainly nuggets of truth within the surprised emojiintelligence reports and more of them are bound to come out as the truth struggles to the surface. It is not hard to imagine a bunch of Russian hackers (be they military, the intelligence community or civilians) deciding to see what they could do to influence the election or undermine our concept of democracy. It is also not hard to imagine that a contact within the political apparatus of any of the candidates would find a receptive ear to anything that might give them an advantage. After all, politics is not practiced to the highest of moral standards. However, it might prove to be as false as the weapons of mass destruction news to jump all the way to conclusions about collusion or conspiracy. Stupidity, yes. Poor judgement, most certainly. Self-serving, of course.

However; leaping to accusations of collusion, or worse, before the truth is fully out, serves only the third definition of truth. I think we need to work our way through theFacingFactsWordCloud first two definitions before we form our beliefs about what the truth really was. The good news is that Buddha and William Shakespeare were both right and we will eventually see the truth come out. Let’s all hope that Jack Nicholson was wrong in the movie A Few Good Men. Let’s hope that we can handle the truth.  The truth will out and there will be time enough then for a reckoning.

Know the facts, but accept the Truth…

April 14, 2015

“The truth is more important than the facts.”  (Frank Lloyd Wright) – as seen in a post on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

I must admit to initially being nonplussed at this little quote. My initial confusion grew a bit when I researched the two key words – facts and truth –

Fact – (from the Merriam Webster Dictionary site)

: something that truly exists or happens : something that has actual existence

: a true piece of information

Truth – (from the same source)

a  (1) :  the state of being the case :  fact (2) :  the body of real things, events, and facts :  actuality (3) often capitalized :  a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality

b :  a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true <truths of thermodynamics>

c :  the body of true statements and propositions

d :  the property (as of a statement) of being in accord with fact or reality

It took me a while to discern the key differences in those definitions, especially since each definition uses the other term within the explanations of their meaning. So, the big difference that I finally realized  is that facts exist as free-standing entities and truths, while perhaps based upon some facts, exist as beliefs.

My next revelation (I’m a bit slow sometimes) was me finally understanding why Wright might have said this and why Jack (the ex-pastor at my church) might have found it to be so appropriate for his blog. It boils down to the facts that support the existence of a man named Jesus, who lived over 2000 years ago, was from Nazareth and went about preaching and performing miracles, and who died on a cross was buried and then disappeared from the tomb. There are enough recorded stories from a great variety of sources at the time to establish those facts. And then there is the Truth. There are also recorded eye witness reports of the risen Jesus appearing to a great many people after his “death” and before ascending into Heaven.

As I said in an earlier post, any prosecuting attorney always likes to have some facts, like a fingerprint on the weapon or a DNA test from the crime scene; however, they also love to have eye witness testimony from someone who was there and saw what went on. It is that testimony that cements the truth about what happened in the minds of the jury. We have that testimony from witness after witness in a recording of the events called the Bible and other historic document of the time. We can establish the Truth based upon those eye witness accounts – He is risen!

Why is that Truth so important? Because it established the fact that death can be defeated; that death is not the end. If you had to point to one overriding concern (worry, anxiety, fear, call it what you will) that drives men’s search for faith, it is the burning question, “What happens when I die?” It is egotistical and self-serving; but, no one wants to believe that the end of our existence is the death of the body here on earth. All sorts of facts point to the Truth that one man defeated death and has shown us all the way to join Him after our lives here are over. There may not be enough facts for the skeptics to embrace this Truth; but, I would ask them what they have to offer as an alternative? As for me, I have decided to believe the Truth and not worry so much about the facts. The Truth is more important than the facts.

Have a great week ahead. The Truth is out there.