This is a Journal entry by Tumsup

Stranger than Fiction

Post 1

Tumsup

Why is the truth stranger than fiction and why do people prefer fiction? Why, when faced with a choice between a hard truth and a squishy story, we reach for another donut and say it won't hurt us?


Stranger than Fiction

Post 2

Tibley Bobley

smiley - huhYou're joking, right? The truth is limited by what's possible and fiction is limited only by the imagination - so it can be *really* strange - and interesting. And the second question is easily answered with another question: why choose something harsh, painful or unpleasant when you can choose something nice, enjoyable and comforting?


Stranger than Fiction

Post 3

Tumsup

Not joking. It's a rhetorical question and you gave the correct answer. The truth is limited by what's possible, sure, but we have no idea how great those possibilities may be because we seldom look. Meanwhile, imagination, though theoretically limitless, seems instead to go round and round in tighter spirals. Have you reached the stage where pop music, even when it's new, seems familiar and boring?

Forgive me but let me use an example from your own predicament. The limitless imagination has given us crystals, herbs, prayers, insense, spirit guides...and on and on. I'm sure you've tried them all yet you are still in pain. Someday, very soon I hope for your sake, we'll know what pain is. And that will end it. Just imagine!


Stranger than Fiction

Post 4

Tibley Bobley

The world is certainly full of unimaginative people otherwise, I suppose there would be fewer problems and more solutions. Not that I'm in a position to criticise anyone on that score. I have to admit that I don't listen to much modern pop (being a fan of an earlier era) and when I do, I don't pay close attention to the words, which are often difficult to make out in any case. Apart from the (what would you call it) psychedelic? progressive? stuff that was weird, dreamy, nonsensical and very imaginative (helped no doubt by industrial-strength catering-economy-size doses of recreational drugs), the regular sort of pop lyrics when I was a teenager were mainly doggerel relating to adolescent hormonal incontinence and hopeless infatuation. Quite sweetsmiley - yuk but not necessarily very imaginative.

My doctor has packed me off to see a number of individuals who seemed little better than snake-oil salesmen but they were all conventional sorts. Off my own back, I went to a herbalist and an acupuncturist. They didn't help with what ails me. If the practitioner can't give a plausible account of how the treatment is supposed to work, I won't waste my time (or money) on it. I tried the acupuncturist after a lot of pushing and cajoling from people who assured me that they had first-hand experience of the efficacy of the treatment. Perhaps it does work for some people. It did something for me: it made it worse for a while. It's not too surprising that sticking needles in people can increase their painsmiley - winkeye


Stranger than Fiction

Post 5

Tumsup

Pain is a subjective experience. Have you ever scratched an itch 'til it bled? All the while thinking "that feels sooo good" Your doctor tried all the chemical ways to help and then tried the placebo effect by sending you to others. I'm sorry it didn't work. I don't know if you have tried hypnotherapy. This is not exactly placebo effect. The brain is a material thing. You can learn to control it.

Which brings me back to the original thread. If you can't 'just know' something, how do you tell what's true?


Stranger than Fiction

Post 6

Tibley Bobley

You have to use judgement and discrimination. One individual can't know everything that's known, but you can have a pretty good idea of what's likely to be true, based on all the other things you know. If in doubt (and it's something that seems to matter) check available sources of information. Some true things are very strange.


Stranger than Fiction

Post 7

Tumsup

I really appreciate your help here. I'm starting to think that maybe I phrased the original question wrong. Try this; Why do we take fiction, call it the truth and then defend it against all evidence?

It's not just that we can't admit it when we're wrong, implying some dishonesty; it's that we can't even see that we are wrong.

Even though we know the ultimate answer to the big question (it's 42), we could still mine the small details forever.


Stranger than Fiction

Post 8

Tibley Bobley

Do I detect a note of sarcasm there Tumsup?smiley - tongueout

You might need to give me a prod in the right direction. Are you talking about any particular area of self-delusion? I don't want to go off on one by making any assumptions. When you say "we", do you include me and yourself? I don't think I mistake fiction for the truth. Do you think I do? Give me an example and I'll think about it.

I have met people who were very difficult to communicate with on some issues, because it was obvious they'd deluded themselves. You feel you have to either state the thing baldly and possibly upset them, else tread carefully to avoid upsetting them. These people (all but one of those I've met) have been fairly honest sorts. When they tell you something that you can see straight away is completely untrue, it's because they've honestly mislead themselves into believing it. I can think of 4 clear examples off hand and they all involved people just trying to maintain a positive self-image. I do get round to confronting them if it goes on long enough, but it's a very frustrating business because it just generates indignant denials - apart from one that sort of acknowledged the problem but by the next conversation was back in a state of denial. So I think it must be a sort of self-protection mechanism in at least some cases.

Let me know if I'm on the wrong track again.


Stranger than Fiction

Post 9

Tumsup

Sarcasm is ironys evil twin so when I try to use one, it gets taken for the other. I meant no offense, and you are not on the wrong track.

I can't give you a prod in any direction, it's the direction itself that I'm looking for.

One of the reasons that I enjoy this forum so much is that it gives me a chance to write. To learn to write. To compose my own brain. I never had a strong grip on reality, and I've got to the age where what I had is dissolving. Hence my original query.


Stranger than Fiction

Post 10

Tibley Bobley

Oh, irony. Right. No offence taken. That's why you see all these smileys gurning at you from so many posts. I found them a bit tiresome at first but people so often wonder what you mean and whether you're being serious - well, if in doubt I shove in a smiley and hope for the best.

Working on the basis that there's no right direction then - some reasons that people deceive themselves.

People don't like to feel powerless. Everybody is. Even people who are in positions of power only have very limited power. So people delude themselves into thinking they're in control. People who freely admit they're not in control are derided and told to get a grip and take control. So even if they know they're not in control, it doesn't do to admit it. I think the insecurity generated by the feeling of powerlessness shows in all sorts of odd ways. There are the people who go in for things like astrology, tarot, witchcraft, feng shui and all those strange new-age things involving crystals and ley lines. It's all a vain attempt to convince themselves that they understand and control things that they can't understand or control. Established religions serve the same purpose. Kids carrying knives, old ladies hiding a baseball bat under their bed (more likely to be used against them than help in a dangerous situation) - all ways of kidding themselves that they're safe and in control. All very sad really.

>>I never had a strong grip on reality, and I've got to the age where what I had is dissolving.<<

Oh boy. You could me be talking there. Mind you, ask any two philosophers what 'reality' is and you'll feel reassured about the strength of your grip on it.



Stranger than Fiction

Post 11

Tumsup

The only useful thing that I ever got from Philosophy was from Zeno (I forget which one) who demonstrated by a series of clever paradoxes that a thing can be perfectly reasonable, flawlesly logical and utterly absurd all at the same time.

That was 2500 years ago. Philosophy since seems to consist of ever more elaborate examples by brilliant minds who somehow missed the point Zeno was making.

And, thank you for the thing about the smileys. Until now, it never occurred to me that smileys could be part of the language and not just decoration. I now know why my teacher of chinese used to smile at them. He knew there was something natural about chinese script.


Stranger than Fiction

Post 12

Tibley Bobley

Now now. Mustn't be too hard on philosophers. We'd have no science today without those early philosophers. So you think every worthwhile thought has already been thunk then? We can hope for no new and original thought? I haven't read much philosophy. Had a go at a bit of Descartes once. Apart from his co-ordinates, I couldn't see what all the fuss was about. I put that down to a my ignorance and now I can't even remember what it was all about.

Those smileys are not completely without useful purpose. It's easy to despise them because they're overused by some. But when you consider how much of normal (pre-www and pre-sms) communication depended on being able to hear the expression in a person's voice and see the expression on their face, it's not difficult to understand how misunderstandings happen in this environment. So smileys can be quite useful when you're corresponding in a casual way with people you've never met. Is there some sort of smiley-like function built in to Chinese writing then?

>>It's not just that we can't admit it when we're wrong, implying some dishonesty; it's that we can't even see that we are wrong.<<

Been giving this a bit more thought. It's not always a simple thing to tell the difference because of the self-deception problem. One way to get round a lie-detector test is to make yourself believe that your lie is in fact truth. People must have a capacity to do this, which makes you wonder where it could have come from. One of the things that makes human societies successful - the living together in enormous numbers without frequently falling out, having congenial relations with people in other societies - is that people have trust. They have to have it. Trust is highly valued in the most successful sorts of societies. We want to be able to trust other people and be trusted by them. So it doesn't do to be caught out in a lie or to be thought unreliable. If somebody argues vigorously, or vehemently states what they believe to be a fact, then (possibly after harsh words have been exchanged and there's no turning back) they realise that they were mistaken, they have to consider the consequences of admitting they're wrong. Their stock is diminished. Their honesty and/or reliability will be brought into question; their image tarnished. Their opinion, intelligence, grasp of the facts can no longer be trusted. Perhaps this is why a person can continue to believe they're right, in the teeth of compelling evidence to the contrary.


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