We should learn from history, not just ignore it or try to change it

April 22, 2019

There was an interesting quote on a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog – “One cannot and must not try to erase the past merely because it does not fit the present.”  (Golda Mier)

I recalled that quote while watching the news on Easter Sunday. One of the news stories was about the so-called “Slave Bible”. The story concerned the efforts that slave owners made to change the Bible that they gave to slaves by removing any preacher-pointingpassages that they felt might ferment rebellion. The result was a Bible that was about ¼ the size of the actual Bible and one in which slaves were advised to mind their masters in Peter 2:18 “Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.”

That story reminded me also of modern attempts, mainly in the South and somewhat successful, to remove the racist history of the South from school history books. Also conveniently erased from many school history books is the very poor treatment of Native Americans over time, including most references to the enforced marches to arrogant“reservations” that took place. These are ugly scars on our history, and some would just remove them from our school history books, in an attempt to protect our children from the ugliness of the truth.

Instead of just erasing or covering up those times in our nation’s history, we should be using them as teaching moments with our children to help them understand the tremendous negative impact of racism and bigotry and to make sure that history does not repeat itself. There are many examples through our history as a nation where hatred or fear drove the country’s leaders to make decisions that upon reflection were wrong. The internment of all citizens of Japanese descent during World War II was another example. The McCarthy “witch hunt hearings” to try to ferret out Communists in our midst was another.

The Civil Rights Movement in modern times provided many vivid examples that many people would like to sweep under the carpet and have us forget – but they happened and many were broadcast right into our homes on the nightly news. Today we have the “border crisis” and the plight of asylum seekers and   would-be immigrants. The pain and suffering of families torn apart at the border cannot and should not be ignored or predjuiceswritten out of our history. We also have intolerance and bigotry against those whom we somehow judge to be “different” – the LBGTQ community, those who are mentally or physically challenged, or those look or speak differently. We cannot write them our of our lives and our history.

We judge nations and the people in them using many standards, not the least of which is how they deal with inconvenient truths. Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia are two examples of nations with dark pasts that many in them would just as soon forget or re-write. There are many example today in the Middle East, South America and elsewhere of nations living through eras that someday they will wish didn’t happen.

But, it did happen. It is happening. There is/was suffering and death. We cannot just ignore it by writing it out of our history books or refusing to teach about it in our schools. Rather, we should use these unfortunate historical events as teaching examples of what not to do as a people with our children. We cannot erase the events of history. Much of the history of our country might not fit the present, but that does not change it. Some we may even have trouble explaining (or rationalizing), but we must try and we must point out what went wrong in order to teach what is right.


Ain’t that the truth…

September 26, 2018

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog certainly rings true – “Believe those who are seeking the truth.  Doubt those who find it.”  (Andre Gide)

In today’s world of “fake news” and “alternative facts”, the search for the truth can be difficult. Jack wrote that he often checks out things that he sees or hears on the web site Snopes.com. Do you check out things that you read on the Internet or hear in casual conversations, or do you just believe them to be true because you saw it on the Internet?

judge thingsUnfortunately, we live in a world where snap judgments based upon shaky and unproven “facts” are the norm.  Just saying “my bad” later, when your rush to judgement has been proven to be baseless, does not repair the damage that might have been done to someone else and certainly not to the damage that it has done to your own reputation. Once you become known to others as someone who makes hasty decision or acts upon unproven rumors or allegations, you will likely be labeled as arrogantsomeone who is untrustworthy, and that’s not a good thing

It may still seem to be a bit negative, but it is much better to be known as someone who in cautious and slow to pass judgement. Be that person who is always questioning what they hear and seeking the truth, rather than rushing to decisions or action based upon unsubstantiated “facts” from questionable sources. The real “truth” seldom lies on one side or the other of a story, though both accounts are said to be true by the person telling each side. The truth is not what you believe, it is what can seek-truthbe corroborated and substantiated. It is that validation that you are seeking when you seek the truth and it is usually the absence of validation that causes you to doubt those who purport to know the truth.

And that’s the truth.


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.


How are your shoes?

October 5, 2016

“Between the saying and the doing, many a pair of shoes are worn out.”  (Iris Murdoch) old-shoe– as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog recently. Jack went on to mention the applicability of the skepticism expressed in that little saying, especially  as it applies to current politics.

Perhaps we have come to expect empty words from our politicians, promises not kept and bombastic rhetoric and boosts about abilities that they really don’t have; but, what about our own words and actions? Do people take what you say debaterswith a grain of salt or do they take your words as a commitment that they can count upon? Do you casually toss of commitments that you later find easy to blow off?  How many pairs of shoes do you wear out between the saying and the doing?

There is another, more optimistic way to look at this little saying and that is that one can wear out many pairs of shoes while doing what one has said they will do. In other words you are working hard to meet your commitments and expectations. It is from that more optimistic view that phrases like, “His word is his bond” came from. We all know people like that; people that you can count on when the chips are down and every day.

Jack posted another little saying some time ago, which I saved because I knew it would come in handy someday –

“If you’re not going to tell the truth, then why start talking?”  (Gene Wilder)

Jack posted that right after Wilder’s death. It certainly ties in well with the thoughts about saying and doing. If what we are saying is not the truth; but, rather, just something that we think the listener wants to hear, then why say it at all. That is especially true of making “commitments”.

It is all too easy to join in the chorus of those in a group who seem to be committing to do man with talk ballonsomething without any real sense that you are actually going to do it. It makes you feel good at the time that you “commit” – Yeah I signed up, I joined the group, I’m part of the “:in-crowd”. But, when it comes to actually do what you committed to maybe you are the one that always has that last minute conflict or change of plans that prevents you from being there.

Don’t think that others don’t notice. They may not call you out on it, but they do start discounting your commitments and you earn the label of unreliable. They know that there will be a lot of shoes worn out between your saying and doing.

On the opposite side of things is the person that everyone knows that they can count dependableupon; the person who is always there when needed; the person who is so reliable that we begin to take them for granted. Those are the people that hold things together when the going gets tough. That person wears out many pairs of show doing, rather than just talking.

About them Gretchen Rubin said –

“Being taken for granted is an unpleasant but sincere form of praise. Ironically, the more reliable you are, and the less you complain, the more likely you are to be taken for granted.”

People who are truly doers, instead of just talker, seldom worry about being taken for granted because they find inner peace from the satisfaction of accomplishing what they said they would do.

So, how are your shoes? Are you wearing them out doing the things that you say or do many pairs wear out between the saying and the doing? Can others count on you or do they discount your “commitments”?

Jesus said, “By their fruits you shall know them.” How will people know you? How are your shoes?


Be kind, even if you have to bend the truth…

June 9, 2016

“Today I bent the truth to be kind, and I have no regret, for I am far surer of what is kind than I am of what is true.”  (Robert Brault) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

look in mirorSome people take great pride in always being “truthful”, even it it may be unkind, such as truthfully answering the question, “Do these pants make me look fat?” What value is there in your truthfulness in that situation, if it is unkind or causes pain.

From WikiPedia comes this definition of kindness – “Kindness is a behavior marked by ethical characteristics, a pleasant disposition, and concern for others. It is known as a virtue, and recognized as a value in many cultures and religions.” There are no downsides in that definition of kindness as there might be in always being truthful with others. After all, as the opening quote points out, how sure are you that what you might be saying is the “truth?” In many cases, such as in the case of the question above, what you might say is the “truth” is really just your opinion. If that is true, why render an opinion that might hurt the feelings of someone else. What’s the upside in that?

Aesop, the well-known and respected Greek author, said “No act of kindness, no matter greek manhow small, is ever wasted.” The same cannot be said about the truth, which often falls upon deaf ears. So, perhaps today you will have one of those choices to make – to tell “the truth” to someone or to be kind. What will you do? Why did you make that choice? Do you think that telling the truth will somehow make the situation better, make the other person feel better or just make you feel better?

Perhaps we should all head the advice of Colossians 3:12 – Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. So, as you put on your clothes to start a new day, also kindness quotecloth yourself with those virtues before you begin encountering people and situations that will challenge you for a response. You’ll feel much better that the end of the day if you have responded with kindness, rather than smugly responding to all questions and situations with what you perceive to be “the truth.” So, the best answer to the question in paragraph 2 is that “those are really nice looking pants and they look great on you.”

Have a kinder, gentler day.


The truth – it ain’t goin’ away…

September 15, 2015

 “Truth is like the sun.  You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t goin’ away.”  (Elvis Presley) As seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog recently.

ElvisOne seldom thinks of Elvis as a philosopher, but before he became a rock star he had a life with deep roots in religion and faith, which served him well on occasion, later in his life. He may have wandered away from some of the principles of his upbringing every now and then, but they were still there in the background. One’s principles are the foundation for life and like the truth – it ain’t goin’ away

Another saying that I saw on Jack’s blog some time back also came to mind what I saw the Elvis quote –

“It takes a great many shovels to bury the truth.”  (German Proverb)

The truth, like hope, is a hard thing to extinguish or hide. Faith is another thing in life that one can cling to.  Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish the truth amidst the calliope of claims made that are based upon misinformation or prejudice or hate; but the truth is still there somewhere. The truth never really hides and never tries to deceive. It may be temporarily obscured by those who seek to deceive or to hide the truth for their own gain; but, it ain’t goin’ away.

It’s interesting, and somewhat telling about our society, that when people are sworn in to testify at trials they areswearing in ask to swear that they are going to “tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”  I guess that is necessary because some might only tell parts of the truth – the parts that are favorable to them – or they may add to the truth falsehoods that seek to modify or nullify the truth. Do you ever leave out part of the truth because the whole truth might not be pleasant or cold be hurtful? Maybe you embellish the truth in such a way as to soften it or perhaps even modify it? You might shut it out for a while or seek to bury it; but, as Elvis said, it ain’t goin’ away.

I recall a very dramatic line near the end of the trial in the movie A Few Good Men in which Jack Nicholson yells at Tom Cruise, “You can’t handle the truth!” Can you handle the truth? Would you rather that someone lied to you? Is ignoring the truth more convenient for you? Have you built a wall between yourself and the truth to avoid the pain or just to not have to deal with it? It ain’t goin’ away.

Accepting the truth in your life is not in any way accepting defeat, even if the truth is ugly or painful or even hurtful. Being optimistic rather than pessimistic in life is not trying to hide or modify the truth, it is just a way of dealing with it. So, don’t run away or try to hide from the truth. Don’t deny the truth. Don’t try to obscure or modify the truth. Accept it, deal with it and get on with life. You don’t have enough time or energy or shovels to bury the truth and surely it ain’t goin’ away.

Maybe the only truth that you need to really accept is found in John 14:6 – “I am the way, the truth and the life.” For sure, that is one truth that ain’t goin’ away.


Take a minute to think about it…

August 17, 2015

“Ours is a generation bloated with information and starved for wisdom.”  (Arianna Huffington) – as seen on  the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

While it is ubiquitous and easy to use, Google has also encouraged intellectual laziness. The Google answers returned are also not always even correct or the truth; however, as a society we’ve become such Google knowledge inzombies that we tend to believe whatever we see there, without taking the time to think about it. We consume the “information” that is returned, but do not necessarily make the effort to evaluate it and to add it to our store of knowledge and wisdom. It’s just as easy to go get it at Google again the next time that we need it.

Don’t get me wrong. I think the store of available information at Google is tremendous and it does make many things in life much easier than they used to be. It is our own mental laziness that detracts from the potential value of having all of that information at hand. It is a thought pattern that says, “Why learn it when you can just Google it?” The easiest answer is that learning leads to wisdom and it is that ability to learn and accumulate wisdom that separates us from the other animals.

thinking womanSo, the next time you Google something to get directions or get an answer to a question, take the time to evaluate the answer that you get and to find a place for those answers that seem valid in your storehouse of wisdom. Don’t just accept the first answer at the top of the returns, without checking a few further down the list; and always take the time to understand who posted that answer and consider why. That is especially true on the Wiki posts that you might get back, since anybody can post things there true or not.

Speaking of that, there is a little routine that a local sportscaster does from time to time called, “I saw it on the Internet, so it must be true.”  Too many people have come to believe that little statement and accept things that they see on the Internet as the truth. The Internet probably has nearly as many hoax posts and false posts as it has valuable information. Anything that you see on the Internet should be viewed with at least a critical eye, if not a skeptical one.

Remember, too, that companies and people pay Google for placement in their query returns. So, when you ask a question like “which is the best of something” or “where is the cheapest place to”, you will likely get back answers that someone has paid to put in front of you, rather than an honest answer to your question. Most of the times you’ll probably get ads back first. Ask for low cost hotels somewhere and you’ll be deluged with ads for travel sites, rather than any real hotel information. Maybe the “wisdom” there is realizing that Google won’t really answer your question. See, you learned something by taking a minute to think about it. You’ve added to yourman thinking wisdom.

Perhaps, instead of starting down at your smartphone to see what Google says is going on in the area around you, you should put it away and actually start seeing and doing the things that are going on around you. It’s called living and the thing that you gain by doing it is called wisdom. Google that.


The search for truth…

May 14, 2015

From the Jack’s Winning Words blog – “Most people really don’t want the truth.  They just want constant reassurance that what they believe is the truth.”  (Collective Evolution)  Jack went on to write – Plato (428 BCE), seek-truthfamous philosopher and teacher, was also a funny guy.  He’s the one who said, “I’m trying to think.  Don’t confuse me with the facts.”  He was joking, of course.  In life, we are continually asked to test the sources for our beliefs.  Don’t be afraid to examine the “facts” during your search for truth.    😉  Jack

That saying goes well with another that I also picked off Jack’s blog – “If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt.”  (Rene Descartes)

The dictionary defines truth as:

– 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.

noun: the truth

“tell me the truth”

-a fact or belief that is accepted as true.

plural noun: truths

“the emergence of scientific truths”

So it looks like the opening statement was the true after all – it’s all about what people want to believe. Some peoplesearching believe that all of what they saw and heard during the moon landing in 1969 is the truth, but others believe that it was all a giant hoax and that the men never left the earth. Both groups embrace their views as “the truth.” It’s interesting, too, that all of the definitions rely on using the word true to define the truth; and some of the definitions for true also point back to beliefs.

In our everyday lives I think most people believe much of what they hear from others and accept it as the truth; however, all of us have probably known people that we just didn’t believe. Maybe they earned that distrust by repeatedly lying about things or maybe they just came across as being a bit shady, so we took everything that they said with a grain of salt. Whichever is the initial case, most people search for the truth. They are not content with just not knowing or not being sure. Maybe they are not searching for the truth so much as for that confirmation of their beliefs that we started with.

doubtBut what of Descartes’ advice? Was he advising that we doubt or beliefs in the search for truth? Yes and no. I think he was saying that one cannot go through life never questioning or doubting things that we might have been told are truths. If truth is based upon belief, then there are many truths in life than cannot be tested or proven; they just must be believed. Certainly religions have always relied on the continued acceptance and belief in things that cannot be proven.

The doubts that have cause schisms within religions seldom had to do with doubts about the basic beliefs, but rather about the dogma imposed over the top of those beliefs by men in power within the church. None of Martin Luther’s 95 theses called the faith that was the basis of the Catholic Church into question; rather he questioned the authority claimed by the Pope and the practices of the church of that day concerning the forgiveness of sins – the selling of indulgences

So the key to Descartes thought is to properly direct that doubt and not to let it degrade into cynicism. Use doubts to doubt your doubtsdiscard old ideas and beliefs that cannot stand inspection and to reinforce those that prove to be true after a closer look. Doubt not your faith, but perhaps those people and institutions that have codified and legislated the practice of that faith into dogma to meet their own needs.

Do you seek the truth in life or just go through life believing everything that you’ve been told is true? How do you act upon your doubts? Do you just let them gnaw away in the back of your mind or do you take some action to prove or disprove those feelings of doubt? Are your religious beliefs based upon a faith strong enough to be classified as a truth in your life? If so, do you share that truth with others through your words and deeds? Do they see that truth in you? If you live your faith then another saying will apply – “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”


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.


Don’t know, don’t say…Don’t be a dwarf

December 8, 2014

Re-blogged from the Jack’s Winning Words blog –

 “To like an individual because he’s black is just as insulting as to dislike him because he isn’t white.”  (e.e. cummings)  Reverse black and white in the quote.  Does it make a difference?  Substitute LGBT and Straight for black and white.  Does it make a difference?  Many of the problems around us these days seem to have root in the fact that we do not see people as people.  You can’t legislate love.  Unless it comes from the heart, the problems will continue.    😉  Jack

I suspect that Leonardo da Vinci put his finger on a big part of the problem that Jack wrote about today when he said – “You do ill if you praise, but worse if you censure, what you do not understand.”  Too much of the bigotry in the world today is based in ignorance; opinionatedignorance about the backgrounds and perspectives of the people against whom the bigotry is directed. It’s impossible for a white person to understand the impact of the repressive environment that many non-white people feel and experience day-to-day in America. What chance do you have to establish an understanding and appreciation for someone else, if you start from a base of fear because of their color?  

There was a political cartoon in the paper this weekend that captured some of that. It showed a young black person backed up against a wall by a heavily armed white policeman and an average citizen looking out their window at the policeman. Each had a thought bubble above their head with the work “fear” in it. While that cartoon was within the context of recent police shootings; it clearly demonstrates the pre-existing mental context that colors the interactions of many people with each other. That is a pre-existing prejudice that gets things off on the angry accuserwrong foot.  Chris Crutcher, author of Whale Talk, put it well – “…racist (bigoted) thought and action says far more about the person they come from than the person they are directed at.”
Something similar may be said about our notions of the LGBT community. Many censure those in the LBGT community because they do not understand it. Armistead Maupin put it well when he said – “I know I can’t tell you what it’s like to be gay. But I can tell you what it’s not. It’s not hiding behind words, like family and decency and Christianity.”  Having just gone through an election where every homophobic bigot on the ballot chose to hide behind those words, Maupin’s words ring true.

So, one may surmise that bigotry is based upon ignorance; but its real strength is based in
rejectedpreventing the exploration of knowledge about the topic, thereby shutting out the discovery of the truth. Like many other things in life that we fear, because they represent unknowns; fears based upon color or lifestyle evaporate once we know and understand the truth. As E.H.Chapin put it – “Bigotry dwarfs the soul by shutting out the truth.”

Don’t let yourself become a dwarf. Don’t know…don’t say. Go seek the truth.