Truth is relative… to information | Ron Cole | Columnists

Bob Dylan has a saying that says, “Man invents his destiny / The first step was to touch the moon”, but I think it goes back much further than that; at least to Albert Einstein and his damn theory of relativity.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Einstein and everything I know about him, including his bicycle and his violin, and I think a basic understanding of relativity goes a long way in helping us come to terms with the illusory and impermanent nature of our lives and also helps us to recognize and tolerate different viewpoints, preferences and beliefs. But look where that left us: unable to even agree on right-wrong, right-wrong, high-low, weak-strong, better or worse. Now, everything is relative — to our tastes, interests, information and goals.

Maybe it’s because I was born in the decade immediately after the end of World War II and grew up in the United States in a middle-class immigrant family, that made me makes it seem like there was a consensus opinion in this country – even through all the social, cultural, political and technological changes – that Hitler and the Nazis were the bad guys. (I’m only using this as an obvious example of relative unanimity.)

We might have disagreed on a lot of things — like, whether big home run hitters and fastball pitchers who were on steroids should have been inducted into the Hall of Fame; whether the glamorized Mafia families in “The Godfather” or “The Sopranos” actually have redeeming qualities that would make us sympathetic towards them; whether it was right to go to Vietnam, Iraq or Iran, or prudent to spend billions of dollars a year on space exploration when there is so much to fix on Earth – but, surely, we could agree on Hitler, couldn’t we! ?

If so, maybe it had (or has) more to do with what we want to believe about ourselves – being on the side of “right and just” than what we think about our opponents. Perhaps too much has been revealed about our own checkered past and the countless recurring instances of greed, violence, corruption and dishonesty for us to blindly believe or accept. And maybe that’s a good thing.

Diversity of thought and difference of opinion are the mark of a free society and a healthy democracy; it is also the product of the information and misinformation we are exposed to, the news we consume, the websites we visit and the social media circles in which we present ourselves.


On behalf of grocery store workers |  Ron Cole

We agree that there are certain physical, or what we sometimes call universal, truths which are indisputable, such as water flowing downward or the sun rising in the east and setting in the west, but even these relate to our presence on Earth. Likewise, what we accept as true socially and politically is relative to our dispositions, incentives and information.

I recognize the value of getting our news from different sources and seeking alternative information, and I extol the virtues of non-conformity and not automatically buying into mainstream accounts and mass consensus descriptions. I also know that there is a difference between questioning the truth and peddling lies: one is for revelation, the other for concealment and deception; one seeks to liberate, one to repress.

The consequence of allowing and perpetuating public lies is that it compromises the truth and erodes the bonds of trust and cooperation between us.

So if you are wondering how it is that a man waking up to sirens blaring, bombs exploding around him and tanks descending on his city can wonder if this is an invasion of outside the borders of his nation or of a conspiracy hatched by inside, I direct you towards current events, towards Einstein and the concept of relativity.


A Comfort Contemplating Karma |  Ron Cole

Although he and my friend last night may not have thought about or described karma in the same way, both were comfortable and compelled to ruminate on it.


Shifting Blame and Taking Responsibility |  Ron Cole

Often it’s a knee-jerk, automatic response where our first impulse is to emphasize someone else, and what they did or said that was wrong, in the process glossing over our own faults or errors. This happens even for people who are genuinely committed to learning for themselves and learning from their mistakes…


I lost track of the days (and I'm not alone) |  Ron Cole

In the past, like during Julius Caesar’s lifetime, and then again in the mid-1500s, when people’s lives, festivals, and events seen in nature weren’t in sync with the calendar, they simply changed it; add 10 days here, 80 days there, give it a new name, and then…


Happiness is not a partisan political issue |  Ron Cole

If we are not as happy as before, it may be because we are not as warm and friendly as before; maybe we don’t care or help others, or we have lost interest in learning; Where …