The question was, in between the mountains in the south of Brazil, what the hell happened on 9/11 in New York? A variety of stories went around right after the tragedy went down. In the years after, mainstream scientists and so-called conspiracy theorists fought a fierce war over the truth. Regardless of why things happened, there are certain things that every person can see for himself, however the mainstream story deviates from this. Nevertheless, 9/11 isn’t the only case of questionable truths. Also, when you investigate different diets, what you experienced last weekend, and your own perception of yourself can vary widely. For me this is all the more reason to question.
How many buildings went down on 9/11? Two? Or three? There were three buildings that went down, nevertheless, little people are aware of this. Why isn’t this known to the general public, because it seems quite relevant right?
In a recent blog I wrote about Your Ultimate Personal Diet Guide because there is so much conflicting information around diet. I tried to lay out the commonalities between all this information. The main message is though, there is no one perfect diet. Even though, there are different sides that question each other – paleo, vegan, no gluten, no lactose and sugar free all have there supporters that claim to thrive on their choice.
Similarly, when me and my girlfriend come back after a holiday, and we are asked how it was, she will give a completely different answer. Where I will say it was awesome and I had a good time, she manages to create a detailed extravaganza of every small thing that happened. A couple of minutes into here story you have a strong visual image that stimulates your taste buds, visual capacity, and sound perception. Even though, her story was different from mine, we experienced the same thing. My question is then, who is right?
In Physical Therapy school in my first year I had to study for my living anatomy exams. I needed to know all the origins, endings, and functions of muscles, every bone, every ligament and a bunch of other things. Moreover, I had to approach these muscles and show them physically to my examiner. One day we learned about the muscles of the forearm. A particular muscle there, the palmaris longus, that runs from the elbow to your hand palm is not present in all humans. I was one of the two people in my class that didn’t have it. Which body is right?
In his books People Like Us and A Good Man Sometimes Beats His Wife, Joris Luyendijk writes about his experiences as a news reporter in the Middle East. One thing in particular that I remember well from his books, is how he did his job. It turned out that in general he wasn’t allowed to investigate news stories first hand. Because of security regulations and bureaucracy he always had to go through news agencies like Reuters. After, there is a whole process of finding out what actually happened and a struggle to put this into a two-minute item at the 8′ o clock news. I can’t help but question then, what is left of what really happened, once it reaches the sleepy post-diner public in the Netherlands?
According to Philosophy, the truth is how the world actually is. The truth is though, that everything that we think and do we always perceive through our senses. This empirical way of perceiving the world is of the highest importance in our scientific understanding of the world. That is, something is only true once we have empirical evidence for it.
However, the result of this philosophy is that we build our ideas of what is true on what we belief is true. Consequently, everything we say and write about truth is nothing more than a representation in either spoken language or writing. Therefore, the aforementioned stories, regardless of who created them, are all versions of the truth. 9/11, the 8 o’clock news, the holiday stories of me and my girlfriend, and the differences in anatomy are all subject to our belief. It gets even more tricky once you talk about these things from memory.
Why You Should Question Your Memory
Daniela Schiller, a professor at Mount Sinai School, says we should be weary to trust our memory. It seems that memory isn’t static, but something that changes every time you recall it. This means that every time I ask you how your weekend was, the memory of this experience changes. During my teenage years in high school I experienced this first hand every Monday.
In high school I used to take the bus with the same friend on a daily basis. When he came sit next to me, he would tell me about his weekend in great detail. Upon arrival at school he would at least tell that “same” story at least three times more. Since we were in the same class, I had the honor to hear every single version. Interestingly, by the end of the day, the story was totally different.
I believe that there is always a tension between what actually happened and what somebody experienced. In this, the state of mind during the experience of an event has a great impact on the way you memorize things.
No Independent Truth
As a consequence I realize that is hard to be sure if there is an independent truth out there. It always depends on the observer or the person experiencing it. You notice this when you cross cultures, start to work with new people, or move in with somebody else.
If this knowledge becomes a common part of your belief system there is all the more reason to question, and subscribe less to one form of truth. This will not only allow you to adapt better in every day situations, it also leaves you free to redefine your beliefs any moment.