Monday, February 4, 2008

Depende ¿de qué depende?

. . . de según como se mire, todo depende



It all depends on how you look at it, doesn't it? Well, not ALL, but let's not get into some philosophical discussion on the subject of absolute truth. There is, ultimately, truth. There is, in reality, only one way that a particular event occurred.

Funny, then, how our own judgements, perceptions, and biases can completely change the way we remember things. And even more, how we want to paint ourselves (or someone else) to our listening audience alters the "reality" of any given moment in time.

Recently I heard a family member relating stories from when she was a new mom -- a combination of funny anecdotes and experienced wisdom which I was eager to learn from. She was telling me about her middle child, who was extremely fussy and screamed almost constantly for the first few months of his life. He would screech that he was hungry and then scream some more when she was trying to feed him. He screamed with a bottle; he screamed at the breast. Nothing seemed to satisfy him. She told me that there were a few times that she grew so exhausted & frustrated that she actually propped him up with a bottle and had to leave the room for a few minutes in order to regain her sanity. We laughed and joked together about how hard it is to hear your baby cry, but sometimes you just have to block it out for a minute and catch your breath.

Then it hit me. I had heard this story before. Well, sort of.

A few months before, Rebecca (another family member -- not her real name, btw) had been telling stories about this woman. Only those stories were about what a neglectful mother she was. Rebecca told me that this family member bragged about the fact that she had figured out how to prop up a bottle so that she could leave the room and not hold the baby. According to Rebecca, this mother didn't mind letting her baby cry for hours at a time. She wanted to break his spirit.

Could these stories really be about the same incidents?

But what's the truth? How could I possibly know what went on inside a house 50+ years ago when both stories were so vastly different? Was either story true? Or were they both twisted just enough to communicate a particular message?

Another incident that is equally as baffling to me involves some guys who are dear to my heart. My darling hubby got himself a brand new watch to celebrate the birth of our boys. Now, you have to understand that B doesn't do anything cheap. This isn't just some station wagon kind of watch. This is a new sports car. Maybe not a Ferrari, but at least a Mustang. A good friend of his wanted to take a look at it as they were sitting in Chipotle not that long ago. This friend dropped the watch on the cement floor. It still runs, but the case is bent & a screw that should be able to come out to change out the band is smashed in there and unable to move. Of course, B was furious & spent some time looking over the watch. The other guy took one look at it & declared it "just fine." No apologies. Nothing.

My hubby sees this as equivalent to taking your buddy's new Mustang out for a spin & running it into a post, leaving some scratches & a dent, but saying that it's a-ok just because it still runs.

Our cousin heard the story from the other guy. Of course, his version was a bit different. Funnier, perhaps. In this version, B spent a half an hour in the bathroom checking out the watch from every angle & came back in an absolute rage even though there wasn't even a scratch on it.

Again, could there be a bit of truth in the other guy's story? Maybe. I know how particular my hubby is. But I've also seen the damage to the watch.

How can someone discern what really happened over burritos that day?

Okay, I changed my mind, I am going to get into that philosphical discussion.

I have spent the last 2 weeks with various family members, hearing tales told from different points of view, yet I don't know what the reality of any one situation is. How can this be possible? How can one event inspire so many different versions of the truth.

What does that mean, anyway, "versions of the truth?" If a thing is true and real, then how can there be different versions of it?

This idea of absolute truth plays into much more than just figuring out what happened on a particular day with those friends of yours. Ultimately, it can change the way you see the universe, life, God. . .

I've heard people say things to the effect of, "well, that may be true for you, but it's not for me."

If a thing is true, it's true, right?

If the sky is blue for me, it can't be orange for you, can it?

I can believe that I wasn't speeding all I want to, but the the cop who pulls me over isn't going to want to talk about how much I don't like the reality of the ticket he is giving me, so it must not be right.


So. . .what IS truth? Is it my perception of an event? Is it what FEELS right to me? Or is it something else? Something bigger? Something that exists despite the limits of what my finite mind can grasp? Something outside of perception and emotion?

If it is that bigger, firmer thing -- which I believe it is -- I want to KNOW it.

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