Truth what you know and feel

December 02, 2016

Sometimes we need a bucket of cold truth poured over us.

Now that we live in the ‘‘post-truth’’ world, it’s lovely to bask in the afternoon sunshine of comfortable lies.

If you think that’s a bunch of nonsense then you don’t have to believe me, just look up Oxford Dictionaries, which last month designated ‘‘post-truth’’ as its 2016 Word of the Year.

The phrase sums up the behaviour of quite a lot of us who like to cherry pick bits of information and create a world based on things that ‘‘feel true’’.

The internet just makes it so much easier to create your own fantasy world and to believe what you feel is true.

Things like science and reality take a back seat to fuzzy Facebook fake news and bumper-sticker slogans.

In the immortal words of struggling lawyer Dennis Denuto from The Castle: ‘‘It’s the vibe of it. It’s the Constitution. It’s Mabo. It’s justice. It’s law. It’s the vibe and ah, no that’s it. It’s the vibe. I rest my case.’’

The new Trump Nation has plainly had enough of ‘‘experts’’ who claim to know the truth about everything from climate change, to world trade, gender and religion.

Just rely on the vibe.

I don’t know who to believe any more.

In these situations I find it rewarding to return to the fountain of knowledge — childhood.

Last week I had a serious backyard chat about reality, truth, and lies with my two-year-old grandson.

Little E is at an age when he is bursting with curiosity about the world and is not afraid to ask the tough questions and push boundaries.

This particular afternoon he was filling a bucket up with water from a hose.

When the bucket was half full he took great delight in plunging the hose into the water and asking me ‘‘has the water stopped?’’

I pretended to be dumbfounded — the stream of water could no longer be seen or heard.

‘‘It’s stopped,’’ I said.

He pushed me further.

‘‘Are you sure?’’

‘‘Yes — it’s definitely stopped,’’ I said nodding in absolute certainty. Then he would take the hose out of the water and — surprise!

My jaw dropped — the water jet returned.

We repeated this determined question and answer session for at least half an hour until our clothes were soaked and our jaws ached with laughter.

Little E knew that when the hose stream was silenced and disappeared into the bucket of water it wasn’t the whole truth.

His senses were telling him one thing — but his mind knew another.

He was in control and he cracked up at my adult stupidity in not knowing as much as he did.

Later, Little E took me to the place where the flies live and die — an outside cupboard of spider webs.

Pretty soon he will be pestering his father with questions about sunlight and darkness, hot plates and cold fridges, the flight of birds and the death of animals — with the eternal question why?

His father did the same to me and I confess that sometimes I just ran out of answers.

Why is the sun hot?

Try and answer that without referring to nuclear fusion.

Curiosity packs the marrow of children’s bones from birth.

For most of us, life sucks out our curiosity like a banana slushie and we become hollow people content with easy answers and comfortable lies.

Unless of course you have a bucket and a hose and you can prove that truth is what you know, not just what you feel.

John Lewis is The News’ chief of staff.

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