Thursday, January 20, 2011

Truth - It's a Recurring Theme

I believe great writing always tells the truth. Not facts, necessarily, but always truth...

...This is a concept that I've been talking about and writing about a lot, lately. I'm fascinated with the idea. And also, increasingly, I'm convinced that truth is not routinely afforded appropriate respect in this culture.

I read so many articles in news outlets - both print and on line - that present facts by the boatload yet without a grain of truth. And, as I interview so many people for my own newspaper articles, having to reduce their lives to 700 words or less, I realize that trotting out a few facts simply won't begin to tell their story. There has to be more.

I usually get to the truth via listening, and by asking good questions, and by opening myself up for relationship. One day, during an interview in Tampa, my subject's eyes filled with tears and she protested, "I didn't think the content would go this deep!" "This may be the only conversation we ever have," I responded, "why waste the moment on trivial details?"

Here's a fact for you: 75% of the facts I learn in my "Community Profile" interviews never make it into the newspaper story. But my goal is to always include 100% of the truth.

Interestingly, made-up stories can be huge, wide-open windows into truth. That's why the categories of "fiction" and "non-fiction" can be so misleading. I think about my favorite novels, work such as: 
  • "The Power and the Glory" by Graham Greene 
  • "A Tale of Two Cities" by Dickens
  • "Gilead" by Marilynne Robinson
  • "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak
Fiction? Yes. Truth? You bet, from cover to cover!

My old college dictionary (a real hardcover book that sits within reach; yes, I do still use those) defines "fact" as "The quality of being actual", and "A piece of information presented as having objective reality."

"Truth" comes up, first, as "fidelity" and "constancy". I like that. Then, less eloquently, "The state of being the case."

I don't believe those definitions go far enough. Here are some examples.
  • Fact: Naomi and Craig were married in 2007. Truth: An ever-widening shaft of light broke into Naomi's world until, gradually, there was room for more and more healing love. Craig walked into that space, adding his hopes, dreams and experiences to the journey. Before long their paths became one, and the wedding served as one more gate to walk through into a future full with possibilities never before imagined. Theirs is a story that is still unfolding.
  • Fact: My trail boots are worn. Truth: I purchased the hiking shoes specifically for our trip to visit Andrew, in Italy. Mile by mile - walking the streets of Florence, hiking the trails along the Mediterranean, scaling medieval towers, combing the ruins in Rome - layers of rubber sole have been replaced by the dust and the wear of a thousand poignant memories.
  • Fact: Derek cooked dinner yesterday evening. Truth: Believe me, we don't even have time to begin to go there....!
Some stories can never be adequately told, they simply have to be experienced! May this day be full with truth... and overflowing with grace. "The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ..." (John 1:17)


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