I read this morning that the Declaration of Independence was signed today… August 2nd. Which I don’t get because we celebrate Independence Day on the 4th of July…the day the Declaration of Independence was signed, right? Apparently no. Congress did adopt it on July 4, but it took nearly a month longer to actually prepare the document and get it signed.
That got me thinking of how we build stories around things to the point where the story is stronger than what really happened.
It’s something of course that marketers do all the time and currently many of our politicians…They State something so many times or with such conviction, that the public believes it’s true.
This actually connects to intercultural communications as well because we as humans do the same thing—it’s in our DNA to connect things prioritize what we see based on what’s familiar, cling to narratives that support our understanding of the world.
Memory vs. Reality
In fact my all-time favorite line of French poetry, in French, may apparently, have actually written by me! “Il pleure dans mon coeur com il plui dans le ciel”. And, I like my dramatic translation better too…I cry in my heart like it rains in the heavens—a deep and all-consuming sadness with beautiful alliteration of pleure and plui, Coeur and ciel. It is an absolutely perfect line of poetry that even my French friend David agrees with me, until we talked about it in front of his mom and found out that it actually was never written that way.
It’s good to know that we do this because it has to do with our reality, how we perceive reality and how people see things differently. And, once people are convinced that they see things a certain way telling them they’re wrong usually doesn’t work (think of any fight with any significant other ever). In fact in the French poetry example, I said uh-huh in the moment because I was a guest in their home, and then still not believing it immediately went to search it online when alone…only to find I had the poet wrong too.
Is “the truth” objective?
What it tells us is not only to be open to multiple perspectives, but also to be open to our own susceptibility to believe things. It’s easier in today’s world in that you can always look things up on the Internet to see what the “truth” is…perhaps internet truth being something verified by multiple sources, or enough credible information to jog your own brain.
But it also is a sign to always question what you hear, to always look at things from multiple perspectives, acknowledge that everyone’s reality is real to them.
What you may find, in the end is the truth lies somewhere in between, or perhaps you learn something new. Although with all due apologies to Paul Verlaine (I thought the poem was by Jacques Prevert) and a nod to M. Leake, my college French professor, I still like my line better. But at least I know not to argue it vehemently as the blind truth.
Oh, and that July 4th independence thing…they had issues getting the right parchment, some didn’t yet have the authority to sign it, most of the delegates signed it on August 2, but some even signed later, and two never signed it at all!
Photo Credit: Two Perspectives on Tools for Transformation