Monday, October 19, 2015

Truth, Comedy and Great Sex

OK so the last part of the title was added in just to grab your attention, but what better way to start a piece on Truth than open it with a lie? :)

One of the last places you'd probably expect to find Pearls of Wisdom is Washington Square Park in NYC, though several years ago I made one such discovery. I have written about the experience before, how I was playing Chess with an older African American man and he asked me "What's the most important thing in the world?" and how myself and my girlfriend at the time offered up all the requisite and typical responses, "Love?", "Family?", "God?", "Health?" and each time he shook his head and finally replied, "Truth." We talked about at length about what Truth meant to him and his definition and understanding of the word has always paralleled mine.

We often hear people say "It's my truth," or "It's their truth" when referring to a particular religion one believes or when describing someones moral code, etc. but those statements are nonsensical. Their is no subjective version of "truth"-something is either true/factual, real or it's not. We can believe whatever we choose to but that belief does not in turn make it true. The chemical composition of water is in fact comprised of Hydrogen and Oxygen; it's a true statement. Claiming that drinking 8 glasses a day is the reason you are smarter than all your friends is your truth, and not a factual declaration. However people do this every day, making statements and attaching the word truth when it has no place being associated with what they've said.

Somewhere in the Social Media revolution, truth has become pliant. Many of us began sharing "their truth" in various political or spiritual posts, passing off a system of beliefs as fact when in numerous cases truth wasn't even in the same galaxy. When questioned, some will get defensive and angry claiming others have no right to question their version of truth, which is of course ridiculous, and even dangerous in certain situations. Over the years I've seen incessant bashing of various Politicians and cable news stations and often these attacks are packaged with "true" headlines detailing supposed actions/statements made, which countless times proved to be false. This leads to sharing and further commentary and often results in opinions being formed by the readers that are formulated by information that wasn't accurate to begin with-garbage in, garbage out, as they say in computing. The end result are masses of individuals whose "truth" is an opinion that isn't rooted in logic, fact, science or reason. This applies to both sides of the political aisle, as well as those claiming to be Independent or non-voting.

So why is it so easy for some of us to allow truth to be something other than what it actually is? Certainly part of it is related to cognitive dissonance-the difficulty in accepting information that conflicts with previously established beliefs-however I am convinced a lot of it has to do with fear as well. All of us have elements of our personality, background, history and desires that don't reflect beauty when a light is shined on it. So we create our own version of truth about ourselves, beliefs, principles, etc., until the manufactured version is more appealing to those around us. The problem is that a great deal of those around us are also doing the same thing. So your truth and their truth is all just a fairy tale, a narrative born of our need to exist in mental head space that allows us to feel comfortable and safe vs. uneasy and in need of introspection. 

I have always had an affinity for comedians, and certainly some of that stems from the fact that my father was a comic for a few years as well as my belief that I am funnier than most of you. Comedy is often a form of protection-distance from the same audience the comic seeks to entertain-a shield that keeps those seeking to reach too far inside from penetration. However, what's intriguing about comedians is that they are some of the most honest individuals out there, pouring some of their most embarrassing, unflattering and dark secrets/habits out onto the stage. They often bleed their insecurities, fears and failures out verbally and the audience roars with approval, the result of a talented delivery and a familiarity with the source material. The comic is often at the forefront of societal discussion and political arguments, and in many circumstances their opinions reflect the truth at the meat of the issue yet it's met with offense and disdain. Even when the comic is feeding their own ego, building themselves up with real or imagined accomplishments and success, it's usually in jest and is often followed by numerous self-deprecating tales highlighting major fears and failures.  My best friend in the whole world* Colin Quinn is a perfect example, as his One Man shows, Stand Up act, book and especially his Twitter posts are rife with bravado, ego and accomplishments, yet one of his most popular routines/stories is the time he bombed horribly at his hero, Robert DeNiro's, birthday party. Colin reveals his early adolescent missteps, failures with women and problems with alcohol in much of his work as well, and like many other comics, when he appears on news programs or is interviewed he offers his actual opinion and feelings vs. the PC/sanitized response so many others in showbiz and the public eye put forth. Vulnerability is the oxygen to the lungs of intimacy. How much more vulnerable can you be than pouring your soul out on stage, screen or page, and it leaves no wonder as to why many of us feel it easy to bond to comedians.

I had an argument years ago with someone about the statement "Everybody lies", regarding it's validity. My point was that no human being could possibly be truthful 100% of the time in every situation throughout an entire lifetime and my friend countered there were likely many people who have never nor will ever lie. I still find it highly unlikely that there's anyone who's never told a lie as there are so may scenarios where it may even be necessary, but my desire for more truth isn't dependent on the world joining hands and taking an honesty pledge; truth in the greater sense has much more value than eradicating every white lie that's ever told. Each time I see my dear, dear friend Colin* I tell him how amazing he was/is and that I love him but that may be a slight bending of the truth. Or not-he is pretty awesome-but the larger point here is that exaggeration and embellishment are not the same crime as blatant dishonesty and delusion. 

In order for our society and our world to continue evolving and to heal so many of the wounds of our history that still linger we need to care about truth, seek it, desire it above all else, and most importantly define it in the same terms. When it comes to issues of racism, gun control, abortion, climatology, police brutality, immigration, crime and the economy we have to be willing to look at all the data, all the facts-no matter how inconvenient-and make decisions based on truth and not just our interpretation of that truth. That still allows plenty of room for dissection, opinion and debate but assures we are all working with the same core data. How often have we been angered by a court decision, criminal or otherwise, where the overwhelming evidence was silenced by a crafty attorney who was able to create their own narrative for the jury? Do we really want to allow that to happen in all facets of our daily lives? 

Real truth is a hard concept for a lot of us, and defining it with our own terms and methodologies often feels better. However I am trying my best to follow the comedian's model-observing the world from every angle, speaking my mind, baring my soul and being unafraid of the results. It can be terrifying but it's also liberating, even if it's adherence creates some alienation from those around you. I would rather watch Colin, or Artie Lange, or Louis CK or Norm MacDonald say something honest and fucked up rather than listen to anyone try to feed me some packaged, polished and disingenuous tripe. I understand there's a culture of "feelings" out there and I am sensitive to that but if it's it's at the expense of reality then what are we really protecting one another from? 

If I need protection the truth is I'll buy myself a gun. ;)


*These statements may be, just slightly or possibly absolutely, embellished just a little or significantly.

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