I've been told that including a definition of a word to be used in a prose piece is a contrivance that should be avoided but sometimes that is the only place to start, except when the definition is totally unsatisfying...as with Truth ~ "the quality of being true".
I watched Oprah's interview with James Frey yesterday, and the day before. I can see where Oprah has grown and I was proud of her for acknowledging and apologizing for a public display that appeared painfully harsh. I never read "A Million Little Pieces" but I couldn't really understand what all the fuss was about. Here is a man who wrote a book about himself. He embellished to make the story more interesting to his reader, a reader that he was trying to touch and inspire, to offer hope, and he was horribly and publicly chastised.
I saw the original interview and all I felt was sad for James Frey. He was brave, accountable and admitted to making a mistake. Oprah was ruthless. I hate it when Oprah is ruthless.
When Jules and I were asked to come to Chicago six weeks after Shannon's accident, we were told by a very sweet producer that they were doing a show on Gratitude and they thought that Shannon's story would touch many people. We agreed to go because we believed that it was a message, a gift, a prompting from Shannon and how could we say "No" to Shannon?
Sitting in the audience, no where to run, no way to escape, we discovered that the show was about "Letters to Oprah", and not all of them were nice letters or positive letters. As a matter of fact, the opening letter was from a professional basketball player's wife who was totally pissed (sorry) that Oprah had criticized and stereotyped professional athletes as "deadbeat Dads". She fussed and fumed and Oprah tried to explain and Jules and I looked at each other wondering how we could have thought this was a good idea.
After commercial break, Oprah shared Shannon's story. The gratitude journal, the accident, my letter expressing my gratitude for knowing what had made Shannon happy, having heard about the gratitude journal on Oprah's show, all the while watching photos of my precious beautiful Shannon flashing on a huge screen to Oprah's right. After the segment, Oprah presented us with beautiful, soft leather bound journals, that she had had "made just for " us, so that we could continue writing our own thoughts on gratitude. The journals were in boxes and we didn't open them until we were on the plane flying home.
Just inside the front cover I found a typed card expressing holiday wishes to Oprah's friends.
Thirteen years later I realize that it made for good television. A compassionate gift for the grieving parents, but did she lie? Or did she simply embellish like James Frey? Did she even remember that she had given the same journals as Christmas gifts?
I'm certain that her producers made the suggestion with the purest of intentions, thought it would be a nice gesture and it is a beautiful journal that I started one of my "Million Little Attempts" at writing a book, in that journal, but the TRUTH was, that she had NOT had them made "Just for us".
I'll have to go back and watch the tape sometime... she may not have even said that but it is what I remember so does my memory, my interpretation determine whether it is the truth or a lie?
I used to illustrate this point by saying that we had a 1966 GTO convertible in our garage. To those who know cars, that was apparently a big deal. I'm sure they imagined shiney paint and flawless apholstery, sunny windblown drives down country roads...the truth was ~
and to those who knew cars, they could see the potential but it was, let's face it, ugly !!
Now later, after many long hours, incredible friends who worked tirelessly with Jules to bring that GTO back from the brink the truth looked more like this ~
How do we know? If you get a haircut that you love and you ask my opinion and I think it looks like the back end of a squirrel in a wind tunnel and I tell you that you look beautiful and you believe it, I've told the truth. Your truth. Why on earth would I tell you what I really thought... my truth? Why would I want to hurt your feelings? "Kill your buzz"? I guess what I'm saying is that there really is no good definition for "truth", and the truth is that most of what we perceive is subjective and we all view life through our personal and individual filters, so maybe we just need to relax a little.
There are paintings on the walls of all great museums that I might look at and wonder "What was he thinking?" You might look at the same white canvas sporting one bright blue dot and be overwhelmed with wonder and admiration for such artistic vision.
Religions, I think, should consider these same things when insisting that theirs is the only truth. I'm sure that God would laugh, hearing us spout with such certainty that there is only ONE truth, if it weren't so sad. We hurt each other because we need to be right. Need to trust in truth. Our truth. The one and only truth.
Maybe I just wanted to congratulate Oprah on outgrowing her ego. Thank her for being compassionate and gentle with a man who didn't mean to hurt anyone, he simply wanted to tell his story, his memory, his truth. Maybe I'm just trying to understand truth as I continue to write from the center of me, searching for words that share emotions that defy definition.
Truth is, I try really hard to always tell the truth in my writing... but what if my memory is different than yours? What if you remember a red two stick popsicle and I remember orange? What if I remember Red Lobster and you remember Sammy T's? What if I remember a graham cracker/marshmallow cookie cake and you remember chocolate chip? What if I remember that you were wearing brown pants when you sat with me in the Emergency Room and you know you never owned brown pants? Will it really matter? Will you think I'm telling a lie? Will you doubt my sincerity or my desire to share?
Doubt the popsicle color, or the time of day or the restaurant or the brown pants but know this for certain, when I tell you that Heaven is real, that Shannon lets me know she is near, that those we love are never just 'gone', that love is stronger than fear and death is an illusion... it's true !