Mohsen invites our reactions to events of this last year and perhaps back further, including reading books together. I choose to focus on truth events. We have read the same books, many of which involve truth in some way.
Our ability to distinguish true commentary from false assertions has been challenged as never before. “Fake news” is the phrase of the year.
My response in the spirit of Mohsen’s essay is to survey the books we have read and consider how they amplify or challenge our ideas about truth. I will, following Mohsen’s lead, pick news events or commentary that complement the books. My perspective is, in spite of my title, that there is no moment of truth, has never been, and never will be. Nevertheless, the pursuit of truth has produced results that have changed the world.
Working Days and Preparation for the Next Life
Does the personal life of a fiction writer make a difference in the beauty of the art? Is truth part of beauty? How is the personal life of a writer related to the story? How much truth is in the story? Steinbeck visited the migrant camps with camp manager Tom Collins. His writing affects us, in part because we recognize truth in fiction.
Perhaps we can relate more directly to the plight of homeless in our community.
What about the story in Preparation for the Next Life? Do we recognize the possibility of truth in Zou Lei and Skinner’s lives from what we read or see in the news? How did Atticus Lish come to invent Zou Lei and Skinner? Did he write from personal experience? He says, “This is not biography.”
What about historical fiction, e.g., one of our earlier selections, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel?
I am sure everyone found similarities between Fin–de–siècle Vienna and our current world. What is historical truth? Can we learn from history and apply historical events to predict the future and inform action in the present?
Albert Einstein’s Ideas and Opinions
Einstein advocates for his political views with the same confidence as for his views on physics. Should we trust the truth of his political views? To make the question more present, perhaps, many of us read and view Noam Chomsky’s pronouncements on political and religious issues as having similar weight to Einstein’s. The question is whether we should trust the truth of his political views because we respect him as a linguist. (I note that Chomsky disagrees with Einstein on the practice of Zionism in an Israeli state.)
Here is a youtube video of his analysis of our current government situation, which I suspect most of us would agree with. My question is whether Chomsky saying it lends additional credence to the assertions.
Lost in Austen
Strangers in Their Own Land
The Road to Little Dribbling
Can we accept some truths more easily when they arrive packaged with humor? Do you find political cartoons help maintain your sanity?
Building a Healthy Economy from the Ground Up
Can believing in a future-possible-truth guide a revolution?
An American Sickness
Believed truths can lead to action, as An American Sickness encourages us. Here are some things where you might take some initiative and ask your doctors about. Who motivates Congress? Do you think the American Hospital Association?
The top story in November (and, thankfully, still continuing) was sexual harassment and abuse of women by men in power. Women came out in large numbers with their stories of abuse by men with power over them. In the presidential campaign of 2016 we viewed a video of Donald Trump engaging in what was later termed ‘locker room talk.’ Labeling his behavior as locker room talk apparently made it acceptable to many. My earliest recollection of locker room talk was indeed in the locker room. My reaction at the time and at many later times was to be embarrassed to be associated with such crude and disrespectful talk. I didn’t then connect it with attempts by men to dominate women, as I do now. Is there a valid moral judgement connected to my repugnance? Could prohibition against demeaning and, thereby, dominating women be a universal principle with various parameter settings? Can #MeToo adjust those parameters for the benefit of us all?