Perception vs. “Truth”

What to say without saying anything? These days that’s a challenge. Elephants in the room etc. What I will do today is write briefly about perception and “truth.” The latter must, of course, be in quotation marks because it’s elusive and subjective and, sometimes, viewed as just self-serving perception. Strictly speaking, “truth” is the knowledge of things that are, that were, and that will be. I’ll leave that to another realm.

The Japanese director Akira Kurosawa made a film in 1950 called Rashomon, based on an earlier short story, “In a Grove.” You can watch the movie via the link for free or read the story—which is quite short. The former, considered one of the best films ever made, lasts 88 minutes. Then you can feel like you’ve done something important intellectually even though you won’t know the truth any more than when the thing began.

The plot is based on people trying to solve a murder. A samurai has been killed and his wife raped. She can name her attacker, but exactly who did what to whom is never resolved. We see different versions of the same story, but the versions are actually quite different, unlike movies that are simply from different points of view: Vantage Point, Citizen Kane, He Loves Me…He Loves Me Not. Three personal favorites. The last one is French, with Audrey Tautou in what might best be described as a surprise role. I’m sure there are many more movies that I don’t know.

Now for a word about mysteries and detective stories. Trying to find the “truth” motivates them all. A resolution involves solving the crime. That seems obvious. The reason we the reading and viewing public loves them so much is that order is restored. The British crime writer P.D. James puts it clearly: “What the detective story is about is not murder but the restoration of order.”  We like that, we need that, we crave that. We don’t always get that.

Had I the time and inclination, I could at this point launch a discussion of the differences between the samurai (as murdered in the movie) and the ninja (as two of the grandsons like to imitate). Here is a summary, but I doubt it will be anything new: high class, armored, stylish, honorable, loyal versus low class, deceptive, secretive, mercenary. Warriors versus assassins. (No need to mention this to said grandsons who love Naruto. If you see little boys running around with their arms stretched behind them, he’s why.)

Perception, then, is not reality. It is, however, everything. You may perceive events in one way while someone next to you sees things completely differently. It may none of it be “truth.” The discovery of the same may never happen. Don’t let the lack get you down. Act honorably and, if possible, not just to avoid suspicion but even the possibility of misinterpretation or misunderstanding. Somewhere in these pages I’ve advised people to think first. Still holds…dare I say it?…true.