To Tell the Truth

“Post-truth.” “Post-fact.” “Fake news.”

These are terms I hear flying around lately, and I feel obligated to step in.

Talk to this guy about formal and objective reality.

Talk to this guy about formal and objective reality.

There are and have been philosophical debates on truth and reality for centuries.[1] Is truth only what is verifiable? Is it correspondence? Is it coherence? Is reality only the material reality through which the natural sciences are practiced? Is reality always already filtered through a subjective, phenomenological perspective?

Truth and reality are messy concepts, because truth and reality are created, defined, and evaluated by human-made standards.

Truth isn’t one thing. The truth of an event isn’t “what actually happened,” because when anything happens to a person that particular experience is happening to someone with a perspective. And with any perspective comes bias. Bias from actual limitations of human sensing, pattern recognition, and comprehension, but also bias from socialized beliefs and bias from a personal agenda, all of it.

You are biased.

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When "Reality" Gets Real

My Problem with “reality” television is that most shows seem to lack “self”-awareness.

What do I mean?

“Time Out!”

Some of my favorite sit-coms growing up were those in which the characters occasionally made reference to the fact that they were on a television show. Sometimes on the Fresh Prince, Will Smith would talk to the camera. Sometimes Zack Morris would stop time on Saved by the Bell. I appreciate the subtle acknowledgment made by a television show or a movie that it knows it’s being made for entertainment, because there’s nothing worse than something ridiculous (which the entertainment industry is) taking itself too seriously.

I never watched The Real World, but I have read Chuck Klosterman. He once wrote an essay[1] in which he discussed the fact that during Season 3, Puck was acutely aware that he was on a television show where everyone else pretended that the cameras weren’t there. The producers didn’t like it, which is unfortunate, albeit expected, because the only thing real about The Real World is the cameras.

I know the point of “reality” shows is to fuel our voyeuristic tendencies. But, to pretend that locking people in a house or deserting them on an island and making them play ridiculous games in order to win cash prizes is “real”? Well, it doesn’t fool me. The people who go on these shows want to be famous. They are caricatures, not authentically acting individuals.

Reality competition/game shows are almost worse, because they feed the delusion that being famous or recognizable is important. No one really goes on the Bachelor to find true love. Shows that require actual talent are a bit more tolerable, but you still get the feeling that the contestants were chosen based on looks and persona and not their talent.

“You are a powerful and attractive man.”

One of the only “reality” shows I enjoy is Gene Simmons Family Jewels, because it doesn’t try to be completely real. I have no doubt that the personalities displayed by the Simmons’ family are real, but the situations are sometimes contrived.

I like that.

I don’t like feeling duped.

Anyway, I don’t need to watch “reality,” I live it.


[1] “What Happens When People Stop Being Polite” in Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, (pp.26-40).

Quote… Unquote

“The underlying emotion that governs all the activity of the ego is fear. The fear of being nobody, the fear of nonexistence, the fear of death. All its activities are ultimately designed to eliminate this fear, but the most the ego can ever do is to cover it up temporarily with an intimate relationship, a new possession, or winning at this or that. Illusion will never satisfy you. Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free.” -Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth

The only difference between what is real and what is illusion is how you relate to it. The illusion provides a nice shield, but it will never be enough. It will never ease the internal torment.

The problem remains what it always is – finding a way to live.