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Lies and Our Odd Relationship with Truth

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There is a lot of attention right now on the US government lying to We the People, probably with intention to mislead. In some circles there is also dismay (and cynicism) at the ability (and sometimes apparent eagerness) of We the People to be misled.

There are many political dimensions to this, being reported by many qualified commentators. But here I want to dig a bit into our odd relationship with truth. It is a complex relationship and, I think, an important one to pay attention to.

Much courage is required to dissent from a dominant but incomplete “truth.” Even greater courage is required to remain open to ALL types and sources of information and perspective, recognizing that all “truth” is, in the final analysis, incomplete. This recognition doesn’t have to degrade us into vague moral and intellectual relativism. It might instead make us more curious, interested, compassionate, open to what is new, different, and challenging.

We so often say we want the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And we say we don’t want to be lied to. But when you come right down to it, few of us REALLY want to know all there is to know about anything, nor to be confronted with too much complexity, seeming contradiction or mystery — all of which are natural companions of Truth as it becomes more comprehensive.

When we say we want the truth, what we usually mean (without saying it or even admitting it to ourselves) is that we want to hear acceptable truths couched in acceptably bent truths, half-truths, reframings and appropriately excluded information — all crafted into a picture that “makes sense” to us.

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