My “On” Button

Before the election, I talked with a friend one day about all the lies and cheats and deceptions. Like most people, she knew knew these tactics existed, but since she believed the lies told by the alphabet newscasters, she wasn’t aware there was another side.

I don’t often monopolize the conversation, but every once in a while, someone finds my “on” button, and I hold forth. Much of the truth of this past election was hard to find, but if one read more than an article or two, and if one read articles that went against what one happens to think at any given moment, it was a lot easier to piece things together. Also, I’ve studied such things most of my life — people often downplay the unpalatable truth with a contemptuous sneer of “conspiracy theory,” but the truth is, a conspiracy is merely something people in power do behind your back. And politics is full of back door, back room, back stabbing deals that we are not privy to, and if we do happen to stumble on the truth, well, then, they dismiss it by saying it’s just another conspiracy theory or fake news or whatever damning name they want to call it.

That particular day, however, I’d watched the news with her, watched the newscaster show a clip of an interview, then listened to her turn the person’s words upside down to prove a completely different point, then asked a second interviewee a question that would again make a mockery of the truth. The two of them talked about the horror of the event as if it had actually happened, rather than being a total fabrication.

Since I don’t watch the news, this took me aback. That they didn’t even pretend to hide their reprehensible behavior was too much for me. Did they really think we were such fools as to not hear what we originally heard?

Apparently so. Anyway, that got me started.

The friend listened agog as I explained not what we had just seen but also some of the subtle — and not so subtle — lies we’ve been told, explained how they vilified some players while beatifying others, and even explained some of the historical background leading up to this particular political mess. When I realized what I was doing, I apologized.

She said, “I like listening to you talk.” She asked me how I knew everything I did, including all the pieces that went together to make up my books. Then she said, “You must have gone to school for a long time.”

The truth is, I didn’t go to school for a long time. In fact, I have far less formal education than just about anyone I know, but I’ve spent a lifetime reading and researching, listening and thinking to make up for the lack. Even more, I almost never watch television. I didn’t grow up watching like most people of my generation did because my father wouldn’t get one. He wanted us to be independent thinkers, which kind of backfired on him. He wanted us to independently come to the same conclusions he did, and he was appalled to discover that we all turned out to think independently of him.

But that’s beside the issue. The real issue is that a lot of knowledge is hidden in books. Not school books or text books, but . . . books. All kinds of books, fiction and non-fiction. If one never reads, one never learns anything but what they are fed.

The first time I realized that tales hid truth was in grade school. For an English assignment, we had to create a newspaper. I thought it would be fun to make the news stories about various fairy tales and nursery rhymes, and in trying to find things to say about these bits of folklore, I happened to come across a book that gave the origins and meanings. And wow! What an eyeopener!

And so began my quest for the truth hidden in books.

If I have ever had a life-long passion, it’s with the truth, reading, seeing that which is hidden that we’re not supposed to know. So far, not all the truth is suppressed, and I’m not sure it can be, but it’s a lot harder to find than on a lighted screen.

I can’t say knowing the truth — at least as much of it as I do — has made me happy. It’s made me more of an outcast than anything (except during my years with Jeff — he was the only other seeker I had ever met, and together we learned a lot). But still, I’d rather know the truth — and if I don’t, I prefer searching for it — even if people don’t agree with me. Sometimes, their disagreement leads me to other paths. So far, none of these paths have set me on a totally different course, though a lot of the paths augmented the ones I was already on.

Searching for truth is like this find the hidden objects game I’ve been playing — it’s about learning patterns, seeing the truth as deviation from the pattern as well as seeing the truth in the pattern.

See what I mean about my “on” button? I had no intention of going into all that, but once I got started, I just kept going.

Luckily for you, I also have an off button.


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13 Responses to “My “On” Button”

  1. Uthayanan Says:

    I don’t know what is going at the moment in American politics but I was very much touched with this letter.
    (Original letter with handwriting is easy to find by internet)
    Bush left the letter for Clinton in the Oval Office on the day of Clinton’s inauguration in January 1993. While other presidents have left similar letters, Bush’s has been lauded for its graciousness and civility.

    Jan 20, 1993

    Dear Bill,

    When I walked into this office just now I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago. I know you will feel that, too.

    I wish you great happiness here. I never felt the loneliness some Presidents have described.

    There will be very tough times, made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair. I’m not a very good one to give advice; but just don’t let the critics discourage you or push you off course.

    You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well.

    Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.

    Good luck — George

  2. Royann Behrmann Says:

    Pat, would it be okay if I reposted your article on facebook of course giving you credit? If not, I understand. but I really enjoyed it an would like some friends to see it.

  3. mickeyhoffman Says:

    Americans believe things if they hear it over and over, without bothering to verify anything. If the statement makes them feel like they are “in the know” or they agree with it, then it just has to be true. We deserve the society we have because of our stupidity. As far as I’m concerned, that is the only thing that unites us as we slip into another Civil war that makes a joke out of the word civil.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      The other thing that should be uniting us is the slippage into Civil War, no matter which side we’re on, and yet so few people seem to see what is happening.

      It’s kind of funny, but I was thinking of you today and wondering what your response to this blog might be. I never did that before! Thanks for commenting.

  4. Estragon Says:

    “Truth” is a pretty squishy concept. To me, it means an assertion which has yet to be proven wrong, so there is no such thing as a (permanent, objective) truth.

    The recent US election resulted in (at least) two conflicting assertions. One that a legal election outcome gives the US a new president, the other that it didn’t. Both assertions are testable, and no doubt will be, which will establish the “truth”. Where it gets squishy is some will think the question is whether the voting was fair, which is quite different. On that question, both assertions could be “true” for quite some time.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Yes, truth is a squishy concept, but there is an immutable truth — either something happened or it didn’t. Someone lied or told the truth. Of course, since we live in a quantum universe, the concept of truth cannot exist since both things can happen at the same time, but in our every day world. As for the election, neither one of those assertions are truth because they are testable. The truth of the election will be forever buried under an avalanche of lies.

      But truth itself is what actually happened, whether people people it or not, whether it is proven or not. For example, the truth is, I am sitting at my computer even though no one sees me. (Again, I’m talking about the every day world, not the quantum one. When you add in the possibility of nothing being real, then that’s a whole other level of squishiness.)

      I just thought of something — there was no winner of the election. As of right now, it’s all speculation. The truth is, there will be no winner until the electoral college votes on December 14.

  5. Constance J Koch Says:

    I listen and observe what is going on around me, besides reading. Enjoyed reading your blog.

  6. mickeyhoffman Says:

    Truth in faith is malleable, but facts are facts. There is no such thing as an “alternate fact” which is a phrase coined recently. People think all kinds of things are true without needing proof because they just believe what they need to believe or wish to believe. This seems to override their reliance on facts that can be proven. There are some people who still believe the earth is flat, after all.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      This current idea that facts are malleable drive me nuts. A fact is a fact. We can have opinions about that fact, or an opinion about how the fact affects us or how the fact works (such as the observable fact that things fall at the same rate of speed) but as you say, facts are facts. What people want more than facts are “alternate facts” that support their opinion.

      • Estragon Says:

        “What people want more than facts are “alternate facts” that support their opinion.” I think this cuts to the real issue. “Facts” may not be malleable, but the truth of the facts can be relative to the observer.

        Using your example of you sitting at your computer when writing your response, that’s your assertion of fact. From your point of view, it’s an immutable fact. From mine, it’s an assertion. I have no reason to think you’d assert it as fact when it wasn’t true, so I accept it as a fact. That said, there are lots of ways it might not be true, so it goes into a “highly probable” bucket in my mind unless and until some evidence comes along to suggest one of the alternative ways you might have posted and timestamped a reply comes along. If the stakes were higher, I might instead put your assertion into a less highly probable bucket. If the stakes were really high, I might insist on looking into some of the alternative explanations to keep the assertion in a probable bucket.

        Thinking this way does lead to way more questions than answers. OTOH, it also leads to thinking about how someone using “alternative facts” is determining the truth of those facts from their point of view. My world is full of ambiguity and uncertainty. I understand the attraction of a world of certainty, but I’m not sure it makes for such an attractive world.

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          I think learning to live with uncertainty and ambiguity is one of the dubious “gifts” of grief. Before death takes that most important person in your life, even though you know that life is uncertain, you don’t feel it. And then you do. I struggled to find some sort of bedrock for my life to start rebuilding, but when I couldn’t find anything “certain” I learned to live with not knowing. The house gives me more certainty than I’ve had in a long time, but even that feels uncertain, as if I am just a tenant here in this house as well as here in this life.

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