What is truth?
Is it facts and evidence, or is it perception and choice, or is it knowledge and understanding of reality? Or is it all of these combined?
Which role do we play as individuals and as organizations in influencing the truth and our experience of reality?
Since the end of 2020, both my intellectual & relational wellbeing have been nurtured by meaningful conversations on Zoom organized by EBBF, Creativo Design and Soul every other Friday at 8:30 (you can join these conversations by signing up here)
Each time we address a different topic – related to the wider 2021 theme “On being Human” – looking and discussing it from different perspectives, one person starting us off with his/her reflections and starting questions, and then everyone else joining in the conversation.
During the last conversation “Media, Marketing & the Mind” on Friday 9 April we explored how messages shape and influence our reality, and how at the moment in the world we see a destructive and constructive force at play.
From there the topic of truth came up and Oscar Mendez Rosa – one of the organizers which I had the pleasure of meeting all the way in Mexico during 2018 Word Happiness Fest – asked me if I would start off the following appointment on the amazing and wide topic of truth.
Looking at the etymology of the word truth in English and Veritá in Italian (from Latin Veritas) and at the many theories of truth (more than 15 main ones!) has been very fascinating.
In this post, I want to share some of my reflections, rumbling, research, and links to related articles, without the intention of being exhaustive (impossible!), but simply to share with you what I learned as I explored the topic of truth and open the space to a conversation on this topic in the comments.
1 . Different aspects of “truth”
As I started thinking about the topic the following aspects came to mind and I addressed in the order reported below pursuing – or not – that specific aspect (here addressing really only the tip of the iceberg for each of them).
1. Truth as our perception and experience of the reality, which becomes our reality.
As a CX professional, I always stress that “customer (or employees or human being) experience” is simply the perception the individual has of the interaction with a given company and that such perception became the individual reality.
As an individual, continuously working on my self-development and personal growth, I have come to learn that my perception of reality is highly influenced by my energy and mood state, by how I feel, by the language I use (hence in all my classes or talks I stress how important is to change our labeling of emotions from “positive and negative” to “pleasant or unpleasant” as I learned from Non-Violent-Communication by Marshall Rosenberg). At the moment, I’m following a new course about heart coherence from the HeartMath Institute given by Lara Lucaccioni (where I also learned a new language for emotions as “regenerative or consuming”) and she started us off showing this video which I invite you to watch too.
As a thinker (dare I say wanna-be philosopher), I also find it fascinating that there isn’t just one truth but as many possible truths as we can imagine. In this article (in Italian) from Matteo Ficara “La Verità? È Immaginazione.” you can find more on this approach.
2. Truth as a relationship (influenced by our confirmation bias) between story, fact, data, and evidence.
During this year of pandemic, we have seen how challenging it is to define what is true about the virus, the risks, the vaccination; we have seen how much being uncomfortable with uncertainty and “not knowing” creates a very fertile ground for conspiracy theories. We would rather believe whatever sounds most logical (and all conspiracy theories sound extremely logical and believable) than accept that reality is often too complex to be comprehended or explained. It takes time to unfold it and understand it, and in the meantime, we can only accept the “not knowing”, even if uncomfortable.
On this aspect, I found a fascinating Tedx talk <<What to trust in a “post-truth” world by Alex Edmans>> which then led to the discovery that Post-truth was identified as Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016. An extract from this page: <<It is an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’. Rather than simply referring to the time after a specified situation or event – as in post-war or post-match – the prefix in post-truth has a meaning more like ‘belonging to a time in which the specified concept has become unimportant or irrelevant’. Post-truth extends that notion from an isolated quality of particular assertions to a general characteristic of our age.>>
3. Truth versus curated truth.
We share so much of our lives on social media (from Facebook, to LinkedIn to Instagram). While I personally always share my truth at that moment, it is still a partial truth, which only gives a view on a small part of my life in a given moment. Yet who reads it makes his/her own conclusion about the entirety of my life. Similarly, when we look at other people’s profiles or websites, we need to be conscious that even if what we see may be the truth, it can only be a partial truth, and mostly a curated truth.
4. Truth as God.
As I converted Truth to my native language Italian, Verità, I had an immediate association of it with God (Jesus is via, veritas et vita) but rather than further exploring that one, I decided to look at the word etymology and the “theories of truth” that had already been formulated.
2. Truth etymology
Looking at Latin veritas and Italian veritá I found that they can be associated both with fact and believe, choose, want
- Sanskrit vrtta, “fact”, “happening”, something that has really happened.
- The root var– in zendo (the language of ancient Zoroastrian sacred texts) relates to believe;
- Sanskrit varami, means “I choose“, “I want“, to underline how adhesion and recognition, in truth, are often tragically optional.
Looking at English “truth” & “true” mean “loyal”, “trust”, “being in good faith” but also “strong” as a tree.
Truth derives from trýwþ, a relative of the word trûui in Old Saxon, in turn linked to the High Germanic triuwu (from which the modern German word treu, “faithful” comes), in Gothic triggws, all derived from the Proto-Germanic * trewwj – “to be in good faith” and attributable to the Indo-European Proto *dru: “tree“, which follows the concept of “hard / firm / strong like an oak” existing not only in Italian, but also in Latin (the genitive of vis, roboris, from which our “robust” derives, is taken from the word robur, “oak”).
(source “Verità” di Iacopo Brini)
3. Theories about Truth
Of the many theories of truth (more than 15 main ones!), the five Substantive theories most resonated with me, and below I report only one main sentence that most resonated with me, sharing more for the last three. (source Wikipidia)
<< 2.1.1 Correspondence –> true beliefs and true statements correspond to the actual state of affairs. The truth or the falsity of a representation is determined in principle entirely by how it relates to “things” by whether it accurately describes those “things”.
2.1.2 Coherence –> truth requires a proper fit of elements within a whole system
2.1.3 Pragmatic –> William James’s version of pragmatic theory, while complex, is often summarized by his statement that “the ‘true’ is only the expedient in our way of thinking, just as the ‘right’ is only the expedient in our way of behaving.” By this, James meant that truth is a quality, the value of which is confirmed by its effectiveness when applying concepts to practice (thus, “pragmatic”).
2.1.4 Constructivist –> Social constructivism holds that truth is constructed by social processes, is historically and culturally specific, and that it is in part shaped through the power struggles within a community. Constructivism views all of our knowledge as “constructed,” because it does not reflect any external “transcendent” realities (as a pure correspondence theory might hold). Rather, perceptions of truth are viewed as contingent on convention, human perception, and social experience. It is believed by constructivists that representations of physical and biological reality, including race, sexuality, and gender, are socially constructed. Giambattista Vico that history and culture were man-made. axiom—verum ipsum factum—”truth itself is constructed”
2.1.5 Consensus –> truth is whatever is agreed upon, or in some versions, might come to be agreed upon, by some specified group. Such a group might include all human beings, or a subset thereof consisting of more than one person. >>
4. My final reflections on truth and my (temporary) conclusion and definitions.
During the Soul.com Soul Driven Leadership course on “meaningful conversation” – which I followed in September 2019 – we did one exercise where the facilitator would read a statement and all the participants had to stand on one side of the room if they thought it was true and on the other side if they thought it was false.
I remember to this day how, thanks to the statement “organization with noble goals are purposeful no matter how they operate”, I learned from Tahvi – an Indian participant – that a certain school foundation had to bribe their way for a greater good, and that – while not desirable – was surely better than not having that foundation pursue the noble goal at all.
After that course, I have introduced this true/false statement conversation as part of my HCX Masterclass during the session on Culture, and it has sparked the most beautiful and meaningful conversations.
Here is a small teaser for you.
Do you consider the following statement true or false: “to laugh you always need a trigger, a joke, or something funny like Big Bang Theory”?
If you asked me, up until last month (March 2021), I was more inclined to believe it is true. I love laughter and I even dedicated a full chapter in Yellow Factor to “Smile” and the benefits of smile and laughter. Since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 (practicing what I preached in “Body, Mind, and Soul Nurturing Resources during coronavirus time”), I watched daily at least 1 or 2 episodes of Big Bang Theory to get my daily dose of laughter, and I picked some laughter yoga exercises to use in my classes so that I could trigger laughter.
Then in March 2021, I signed up for a course with Dr. Kataria and Lara Lucaccioni, to learn all possible tricks to trigger laughter and level up my laughter yoga knowledge.
Imagine my surprise when Dr. Kataria kicked off the training saying “So let’s breathe in and when we breathe out we laugh. Go.” What? That’s it? Is that all it takes, I thought?
Dr. Kataria changed my belief about laughter. I thought it to be true that I need a trigger to laugh, but dr. Kataria first teaching is that laughter is a conscious choice and can be unconditional, hence we can choose to laugh at any time by simply breathing in and laughing as exhalation.
One more related wisdom Dr. Kataria shared is that “Science is what we know. Spirituality is what we don’t know”. What we know is constantly changing as we discover more of the infinite universe
CONCLUSIONS AND QUESTIONS
All the thinking and searching I did on the topic in the past few days, made me come to the following personal definition of truth:
“Truth is our perception and experience of the reality, which becomes our reality.
My truth is what I know, choose or believe to be true until I learn or choose a new truth.”
One of my favorite quotes from Rumi is “Beyond right and wrong there is a field, I’ll meet you there”.
I now feel compelled to say, “between true and false there is a middle ground, let’s meet there”
And to explore and meet in that middle ground, here are my questions to trigger your thinking and start a conversation in the comments, if you want to share your thoughts.
- Is truth about facts & evidence or is it about perception & choice? Or both?
- If truth is a result of our perception of reality… what can we do to influence our reality?
- If our openness to multiple truths is a result of our knowledge and education… what can we do to influence that?
- If truth is a result of story, fact, data and evidence we absorb and believe, can we “pretend” to live in a beautiful world sharing more good than bad news?
- And if the news and government can control this truth, who decides the limits and the ethic of the truth we should live in?
Ultimately, which role do we play as individuals and organizations in influencing the truth & our experience of reality?
Share your thoughts in the comments.
Smiling regards, Rosaria
* If you would like to know more about how to pursue Happiness Driven Growth in your company or would like us to deliver an engaging talk or masterclass about it at your event, get in touch or simply follow Rosaria Cirillo on LinkedIn & Instagram to receive her inspirational DOSE of Happiness.
** Customer experience is the perception customers have of the interactions with your company along every touchpoint and communication. It’s their truth. Great customer experiences don’t happen by chance. Instead, they require the orchestration of six disciplines across different teams and the mastering of six competencies. Would you like to learn more and grow your Customer Experience competencies? Get in touch to find out more about our HCX Masterclasses and HCX (Human-Centred and Happiness-Contributing Experiences) approach.
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