truth telling and realism
Some time ago, I read a series of novels by Joe Abercrombie called, “The Third Law Trilogy.” Technically, it’s fantasy, but really there’s so little magic and other supernatural stuff in there, I look at it more as medieval fiction. Maybe it is fantasy. Whatever, shut up.
One of the characters in the story had a recurring motto: “You’ve got to be realistic about things.”
Nothing is more important than truth and nothing is more lacking in modern discussions than people being able to see things for what they are, or, be realistic about things. So much of the discourse is dominated by people unwilling or unable to see reality for what it is.* But how can we learn to do this?
In Buddhism, there is a concept called “bare attention.” In learning to meditate one of the first things you learn is how to observe the world in the “barest” way, without any further interpretation or judgement, just realism.
It is possible to learn facts and make observations without judgement. We can internalize without an emotional response. It’s like when someone says “I’m just saying” but here we will actually mean it. Usually when someone says “I’m just saying” he’s not “just” saying, he’s deliberately giving a statement that will stimulate emotions.
For instance, survey after survey reveal women to be less ambitious in the workplace. That is a fact. But here’s the trick: I stated the fact. I did not say that it was good or bad. It just is. That’s bare attention. Letting something just be as it is. Modern feminists will at best bristle at this statistical fact and at worst attack you for stating it.
Another one: I told a friend of mine that someone we both knew was unintelligent. She didn’t respond well. I tried to help things by telling her that I liked the person we were discussing and that there was nothing wrong with him, but that didn’t assuage her. She couldn’t understand how I could insult someone’s intelligence but claim I didn’t feel any negative feelings towards him. What she was missing was that it wasn’t an insult. Insults are an emotional judgement, I just made an observation. Now I may be wrong, but it was an observation made without any implications. I was not saying that the person in question was somehow a lesser person because of this nor did this truth change any of my emotions towards him. (Note: she agreed with me that he wasn’t smart, but still didn’t like me saying it.)
There is probably nothing I value more than honesty. That’s why Patrice O’Neal is my favorite comedian, because of all the his attributes, he was honest above all else. In fact, that honesty is what kept him from achieving more success and, were he alive in today’s climate, he would be BLOWING up and have more imitators than he already does. Because people need to hear honesty. They need to hear people who say what they believe without apology.
I’ve come across several people over the last few years who I consider to be truth tellers. It’s not that they are always right (I have found reason to disagree with all of them), but I am confident they will always say what they mean, that their honesty will dominate. Additionally, they all possess the ability to see reality for what it is. There is no truth nor fact that they are intellectually incapable of internalizing and using to shape their views.
These type of people are important to listen to because they will give you information that you might not hear elsewhere as those other “reporters” will attach to facts emotional judgments and not report everything. Armed with the “bare attention” attitude I outlined above, you can learn new things without the small-minded reponse so many people default to these days. There are more of these people out there, but here are a few modern “truth tellers” (in no particular order):
- Milo Yiannopoulos
- Christina Hoff Sommers
- John Derbyshire
- Paul Joseph Watson
- Gavin McInnes
- Adam Carolla
- Katie Hopkins
- Steve Sailer
* Just to name a few: the wage gap, campus rape culture, the migrant crisis, gun control.