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Does “Happy Thanksgiving” Suggest Giving Thanks? What are We Really Saying?

How authentic are our relationships?

Are we in relationships with people where we really communicate, or do we say what we think people want to hear?

When people say "Happy Thanksgiving" or "Happy Holidays" are they saying it with heartfelt consideration, or just extending a played out platitude with no true weight behind it?

Don’t you wonder about some of the personal or intimate conversations that must take place between brothers and sisters, nuns and priests, Michelle and Barack, wife and wife, Caesar and Cleopatra, Sidney Poitier and Diahann Carroll, a junior and senior faculty member that both dislike you, Mia Hamm and Michael Jordan, Sinatra and Bacall, two homophobes who don't realize they are homophobic, Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie, a democrat and republican, Cicely Tyson and Miles Davis, two actors (strangers to one another) immediately after a very hot love scene, Jack and Jackie, two "I'm not racist" racists, Michael and Lisa Marie, two failing students, Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X, Arnold S. and Maria Shriver, female doctor and male nurse, two librarians, Hillary and Bill, a restaurant owner and her manager, Mayor and Councilperson, two felonious inmates, the couple next door, a Black University President and the diversity director who replaced that president’s wife, two stock brokers, fathers and daughters, mothers and sons? Do you think most of these conversations offer unvarnished truths, or political prose proffered to placate?

When we fabricate a statement to flatter someone that we know really isn’t the case (“My you look like you’ve lost weight,” or, “That was a really ‘intriguing’ suit you had on the other day.”) are we wrong for not being truthful, or right for caring about their feelings? How much should we endure someone’s ineptness before we become obligated to challenge them? Are we sure we are correct in our interpretation of what we are seeing when we judge/prejudge someone’s actions, or is it just our perspectives with all their inherent flaws and foibles?

Is there a chance we can actually find truth? Does it exist as a freestanding entity? What do you think about the thought that talking is what it takes? What do you think about the line that listening is the lesson? What do you think?

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Comments

What a wonderful array of conversational partners.

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/john_francis_walks_the_earth.html

Is a talk given by a man who was silent for 17 years, while he walked the earth. Listening may indeed be the lesson; but then we have to put the lesson into action.

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/a_j_jacobs_year_of_living_biblically.html

That guy tried something for a month, based on the notion of "Radical Honesty" where not only should you never lie, but also whatever is on your brain should come out of your mouth.

He says it was an awful idea; totally not recommended.

So maybe our inner-voice that keeps us from saying certian things, and has us saying other things, for politenesses sake, is a good thing? It does make it difficult to always know when another is being sincere. But that's the problem of other minds. How do we ever know what they're thinking?

Happy Thanksgiving.

*** Inner voices are quite intriguing, aren't they? Didn't Son of Sam have an inner voice that talked to him? *** -- J.W.

Truth, I believe, is what drives fear, passion and the pursuit of knowledge. If all truth were self evident, life would be one-dimensional. Wouldn’t it? Truth ebbs and flows. It’s culturally sensitive while providing the foundation of moral dictates. Many seek it while others hide from it. Truth can be beautifully simple and vastly complicated. It can be so easily manipulated. And…. Lastly, my truth is not necessarily your truth.
Do I always mean what I say or say what I mean? No. Do I do that with intent? Yes, but never with Ill intent. Would I rather spare a broken heart or perhaps provide a moment of hope by speaking an untruth… Yes, provided I understand the consequences of my actions and remain accountable to those I’ve been untrue to. There is a time for everything. But how do we separate out these seemingly smaller omissions of truth from the larger untruths that have changed the course of history. Is there any substantive difference?
I good friend and scholar wrote, “ The fact that the necessary stories weren’t told, which may have greatly altered our present-day reality, is as much a tragedy as if bold-faced lies had been told. We currently live in a society where many of our children are puppets, little Pinocchios, because their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents didn’t have the vision or wherewithal to challenge the prevailing paradigms”
A famous song writer and poet wrote “ Gimme some Truth, all I want is the Truth.” abv

*** ABV, you say truth is culturally sensitive eh? If it is, then it becomes quite relative/subjective. Your question about how do we sort out various sized truths, some of which can be summarily dismissed while others change history is provocative. One could argue even the small untruths changed someone's history, we just may not have noticed it. We could even argue there is no such thing as a "small" untruth or "white lie."

Thanks for the shout out/quote from my new chapter. I read it and thought to myself, damn that sounds familiar. *** -- J.W.

JW,

I know I'm skipping over the first part of your post, but that last paragraph is too juicy to pass on!

I'm one of those pie-eyed optomists that thinks truth exists...and not only exists but exists on its own. And further...I feel language is completely independent from it. Language is man made...it's contrived...and it has limitations. You only have the ability to express so much. Truth exists independent of people...and our difficulty wrapping our minds around truth is a result of our inability to truly grasp it. Our brains only really understand what we've experienced. We only see things from our own perspective...and therefore only see a portion of any situation/event/happening. Truth is totality...the "full picture".

In response to ABV's response...I find it difficult to understand how truth can ebb and flow. By definition, truth is steadfast...it's actuality. Truth includes a reality beyond our ability to comprehend. The idea that your truth and my truth can be different defeats the purpose of discussing truth. Maybe the words "perception of the truth" would better suit the situation ABV is describing.

Along the same lines, I don't believe truth changes with the times, or can be culturally different. Different groups look at things from different perspectives, and their experiences are different, so their perception of things may very well be different. But that doesn't change the fact that things are what they are.

An example of what I mean that's applicable to this blog is how minorities have been treated over the past 200 years. Our country has shifted it's laws from treating blacks as property to "seperate and unequal" to "seperate but equal" to finally equal. In my opinion...the applicable truth is that all people are inheritantly equal. That's the same today as it was 200 years ago. However...people's perception of the truth can be shaped, and changed, and manipulated by society.

In the end no one can know the "truth". It just is. I'm not naive enough to think I have any better insight into truth than anyone else. Wouldn't it be a kick in the pants to find out society has duped us all into believing something completely backward? I don't think that's the case...but I try to keep my senses open. In the end I trust my gut, and my heart. They tend to let me know when I feel I'm closest to the truth. Like when I help a friend, play with my kids, feed my brain, or hike an Adirondack peak.

*** Whaler, if no one can know the truth, then isn't it difficult to say that truth exist? If our brains only know what we experience and since you think truth is out there, somewhere, then we have experienced truth to some extent. If that is the case, and my brain is different from yours, and ABV's, and Via Via's, then how is it that truth is not culturally determined, relative, and/or subjective?

When you say "Truth includes a reality beyond our ability to comprehend" then how is it you are discussing something beyond your ability to comprehend it? Wouldn't that be somewhat nonsensical? When you say "The idea that your truth and my truth can be different defeats the purpose of discussing truth" how do you reconcile that position with your additional take that "you are not naive enough to think [you] have any better insight into truth than anyone else." Isn't it possible that your disavowal of any better insight into truth can be due to your cultural trappings? *** -- J.W.

I believe in truth. Maybe that’s because I trust until I get hurt and then keep my distance until I am stronger. I also believe that everyone has their own truth and sometimes truths connect, giving people relationships. Sometimes these truths conflict, destroying lives, families, and countries and ultimately creating more truths for those who read history (written by people who have their own agendas and feelings-emotions about what occurred).

If truth is “independent of language” how can it be defined as “steadfast” or “actuality”? Definitions are created by people and are placed onto words that are also created by people so we can better understand what’s happening around us. Further, some words do not transfer “correctly” from language to language and one or two other words are linked to give an idea of what the original language meant. Some words have multiple meanings and it is up to the user to place them in context. Tiny example: Spanish word “querer” can mean “to want, to love, to enjoy” in English. Is it true that these are separate emotional verbs in English but the same emotional verbs in Spanish? I’m not sure, but maybe this is why many of my Spanish speaking friends greeted me with a kiss to the cheek after they had “enjoyed” my company only once before and my English speaking friends awkwardly accepted a hug I gave.

When I walk past a woman that is perfect in terms of physicality (according to my true definition of visual perfection), I may compliment her blouse when really I mean that the blouse looks nice on her. She caused me to notice the beauty of the blouse. Let’s say I walk past a woman who weighs twice her size with the same blouse on, sized appropriately to fit her. I may not compliment on the blouse because I may be turned off by the woman wearing it. Still, is the blouse a nice one? The woman might have thought so because she was wearing it. Are we both true? Steadfast? Would my truth change after I got to know her a bit?

Truth is defined by the moment. If my intention is to make someone feel good about themselves, even if I dislike what they are wearing, I know that someone out there will agree with what I said and it will be true to someone. My truth was that I wanted this person to feel good. Should I call myself a liar then? What if the reason why I dislike what she’s wearing is because of the way I’ve been socialized (by others’ desires to control my truth) and have a distorted image?

When I have conversations with people, I try to say what I mean- but truthfully, I’d rather read other’s truths.

*** Via Via, you make many great points, but perhaps the most provocative point you make is when you imply that our truths may be given to us. You, ABV, Brennan, and Whaler's perspective on truth could very well be/possibly is an extension of all of your cultural upbringings. Oh, and let's try the opposite affect. Is it possible that when someone thinks they are speaking truth to the merits of someone else (their performance was poor, their blouse is ugly, etc.) they are not. The person who performed or donned the blouse is the determiner of that value and if she/he thinks they did well, or well enough for herself, then outsider's perspectives shouldn't be definitive enough to shake her truth. I don't necessarily agree with this position, but philosophically and contextually it is worth considering. *** -- J.W.

Via Via,

I think you answered your own question in regard to how truth is “independent of language”.

Language is man-made...and like most things man made...it's flawed. Language has its limits. It's also open to interpretation. It is dependent on the ability of individual people to use it and to understand it.

Truth is above the ability of people to fully grasp...and likewise, it's above the ability of language to describe adequately.

My description and definition of truth (maybe I should use a capital T...Truth) is relating to the deeper sense of the word. I think your definition was more in regard to telling the truth when you speak". I would classify that as being honest (truthful) or accurate or not deceptive.

Philosophical truth is something external...I feel it exists indepent of people...and therefore, obviously, independent of language.

JW...do you want to weigh in on this distinction? Are you a believer in philosophical truth? I know a fair number of the people here have stated they are religious/spiritual. They must believe in some notion of Truth as well...no?

*** Whaler, sorry it took me a while to respond to you. Do I believe in "philosophical truth?" I can't answer that until I know what you mean by it. Do I believe in a truth that can be articulated from a variety of perspectives, somewhat reflective of moral relativism? Do I believe in a truth that is absolute (beyond the pale of cultural interpretations)? My interpretation of philosophical truth is an assessment of a notion of truth that is broadly entertained, incorporating as many factors as possible before any determination is arrived at. The movie "Twelve Angry Men" is a good example of how truth is so problematic. If it weren't for Henry Fonda's character's decision to not succumb to the prevailing sentiment (the truth of the moment) a young man would have been found guilty of a crime he didn't commit, and perhaps executed for it. I know you want to say that is the perception of truth, not truth itself. But all notions we have are related to our percepts/concepts. This truth that you seem to want to place outside of our reach and not describable by our language is not really worth talking about is it, if we can't access it? *** -- J.W.

Hey Whaler,
It’s been awhile since we’ve been in conversation. I must say you’ve given me some more reason to reflect on “Truth” over the past week. I do disagree with you that there is only one definition of Truth. Philosophers and their ilk have been in dialog over the meaning of Truth for centuries. I dare say there are many differing opinions on what constitutes Truth; which gets back to my point that “my truth is not necessarily your truth”: it’s what the writer believes to be her or his truth. In fact, the very reason people see the world differently is why there’s philosophical discourse.

I think you’re postulating on a Metaphysical Truth: kind of the essence of being. I could be wrong? In which case, if I’ve got it right, I’d have to argue that Metaphysical Truths are most assuredly culturally/spiritually defined. While language may be inadequate at times to clearly express what we reason, it is what helps to separate us from our primate ancestors. If we didn’t have the capacity for language we wouldn’t be having this conversation. And, what language can’t help us express, we’ve have art, music, and spiritualism.

Sure truths change; science and technology have shown us that. Do I believe that there are absolute and universal truths, most certainly! But how you and I come to see those truths is defined by how you and I choose to reason. Whaler, you contradict yourself when you say our brains only understand what we’ve experienced and then try to defend the notion of a “truth that is totality” and “That Truth exists independent of people”. If one must experience it to know it, as you state, how do you rationalize a “totality of truth” when all our collective experiences are different? Maybe you’ll oblige me by defining this “Truth” you speak of…….. thx, abv

*** ABV, you and Whaler are both speaking your truths or perceptions of truth quite eloquently. I only want to ask you to remind me to share an old school song with you by the Ohio Players called "Tell the Truth." It won't necessarily help in this discussion, but it will definitely provide a nice rhythm to the discourse. *** -- J.W.

Hi ABV,

I think we may have some common ground in this discussion...unless I interpreted your final paragraph incorrectly. And in looking back on my responses, I haven't fully done my position justice. (Which goes to the heart of the problem...discussing something abstract with limited tools like words :) ).

In your response you say that you also believe in absolute truths. That's what I was attempting to describe. And I agree that as individuals we catch glimpses of those truths from different backgrounds/culturals/experiences. And as a result, we may hold differing ideas on those truths and what they mean.

So I think up to this point we are in agreement, right?

Where I have been trying to make a distinction is that that original absolute truth that we agreed on is EXTERNAL of humans. It is an entity of its own...unchanged by how we view it or how we interpret it. So, Yes...we as individuals have differing views of truths because we are all individuals with our own minds...but that does not result in the truth being changed in any way. It's nature is unchanged by human thought or action. Truth is truth.

So to answer your question on a contradiction in my thought process...I'd say there is none. Varying views of truth are possible because we all "come from different angles" and see things differently. But those angles (yours, mine, JW's...) are all only a partial view of the whole. No one person has claim to know Truth...or any individual truth for that mattter. This explains why truths in science APPEAR to change...because they weren't ACTUALLY truths as we understood them at the time. We only had a partial view. Further study and experience gave us a clearer vision of what we now claim to be scientific truths.

Thanks for the response...and for the opportunity to allow me to clarify my position. This is a topic that has always fascinated me...and I welcome the chance to discuss it with others.

JW...I'll break up my response into two seperate posts...each in response to your two comments.

Your first few points are well taken. It would be hard to discuss something that we can't comprehend ourselves. And likewise, if we can't know truth, then it would be a difficult position to defend that truth actually exists. However...I think I chose some of my words poorly in my first post (actually, maybe I just wrote it too quickly without thinking it through enough).

I didn't mean to imply that we, as humans, never experience truth. In a purely intuitive way, we know when we experience Truth. In a lot of ways I view truth much like I view the discussion we had on love. It's very difficult to define. We all come at it from different angles...and I agree with you that we have cultural biases in experiencing it and interpreting it...but love itself is a unique phenomenon (maybe love is a Truth?). And truth, I feel is the same way.

Our experience in "touching" Truth or "seeing it" is only a glimpse. It's one quick peek at a Grand Beauty. It's like driving to Lake Placid through the notch and experiencing the beauty of the roadside trees in full fall color. If you were able to step back further you would see that color extends over all of Whiteface. A bigger view shows that all of Lake Placid is bathed in red/orange/yellow vibrant color. As our perspective widens we view more.

My analogy is an attempt to show how I think we can see portions of truth...and as our focus widens, we can catch more and more of it...but I don't think we can claim to see all of it.

And while on the surface I tend to agree with you that it appears non-sensical to claim we can discuss something that we can't comprehend...I don't really think there's a contradiction there. Isn't that how we learn? There were a lot of things that I couldn't comprehend as a child that I have a much better grasp on now. We evolve...we educate ourselves and we EXPERIENCE life. Through that experience we continue to catch those glimpses of truth and love and beauty...and that's what drives us as humans to move forward, hungrily in search of more of it.

I made another error in communication when (as you point out) I said "the idea that your truth and my truth can be different defeats the purpose of discussing truth". I didn't take the time to make the distinction clear that I was talking about how I define Truth versus how others have defined it. But I think this also is consistent with what I've been trying to say in that as individuals we are traveling along our journey of life in very different ways...and we see things differently. But there's an inner force/strength/"something that someone more articulate than me can define" that drives each of us forward and keeps us seeking more. That thirst is what excites us when we learn, moves us when we're emotional, and prompts us when we're philosophical.

I hope I've done a little better job putting on your screen what's filling my head... :)

*** Whaler, you did an excellent job "speaking truth." I totally understood your point this time. Thanks for elaborating. More importantly, within this context, our truths appear to parallel each other's. Perhaps we have been blogging too long, my brother! Don't get too comfortable though. I'll put something out there soon that will have us at philosophical odds again, I hope!

Have a great holiday season if we don't engage prior to imbibing too much egg nog!!! *** -- J.W.

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