Tales, Truths & Tirades – 15 December 2016


What defines the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? I’m not trying to explain that new 2016 catchphrase “post-truth”. I’m simply referring to the effects of things such as upbringing, culture, previous experiences, or subjective interpretation on one’s understanding of reality.
The difficulty of finding the truth is beautifully illustrated in a short story by Russian author, Arkady Averchenko. He describes how he was reading a newspaper report about a young man who was found lying unconscious on a park bench somewhere in a city. His head was bleeding and it seemed that, in a state of drunkenness, he had fallen and injured himself.
Later that day, the author met a friend who told him about an incident the previous night while she and her husband were walking through a park. They were passing a bench when a young man suddenly jumped up, grabbed her husband by the sleeve and asked if he had a light for a cigarette. Her husband was annoyed about the way in which the man had looked at her, and banged him over the head with his walking stick.
When the author spoke to the husband, there was yet another version of the story. “I was lucky to be able to escape being mugged last night,” he recounted. It was obvious to him that they were threatened when an angry man accosted them in a dark spot, grabbed his arm and pretended to ask for a light.
That evening the author met another friend, whose head was bandaged. He explained how he had been attacked by a lunatic the previous night. He was sitting on a park bench and while taking out his cigarettes, realised that he had left his matches at home. He then saw a couple approaching, got up and politely touched the man’s arm and asked him for a light. “Suddenly and without reason this madman started banging me on the head. I woke up in hospital this morning.”
The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Impossible.