Wednesday, August 8, 2007

“the truth is nonsense”

I love reading the interviews of Bryan Appleyard. He writes for the Sunday Times in London and re-prints a lot of the longer form articles on his website (after they have run in the paper).

Reading blogs all day long and then reading Bryan's interviews is like eating spam and then being introduced to filet mignon - not that all blogs are 'spam', it's just that good writing is an art form, and we're not all artists (and we don't need to be either).

This one caught me eye recently. It's a sit-down interview with screenwriter Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon, Last King of Scotland). A small excerpt:

With Frost/Nixon, the emotional landscape was “two desperate, emotionally complex men, unable to be intimate”. For both of them, the American television interviews set up by Frost with the disgraced former president had to be a huge success. Morgan discovered so many different versions of what actually happened, he came to the conclusion that “the truth is nonsense” and regards his play as just one more version, “just another fiction”.

I don't know why this particular paragraph caught my eye - or why the phrase 'the truth is nonsense' stuck...

I think it's because it's so obviously right! The truth IS nonsense. Morgan was trying to piece together the events from other people's versions. When no one can agree what happened, what DID actually happen becomes irrelevant, nonsense.

How many time have we tried to search for the 'truth' only to discover a 'whole lot of fictions' - and that ours is just one more.

I don't really know if that's a useful thought. Definitely too deep to worry about right now.

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Anonymous said...

Hey Paul,

I noticed you referenced "the search for truth".

I spoken to a variety of people in the research business recently, and this theme of 'searching for truth' has come up frequently as a common driving motivation.

Lately, I've been perceiving two separate tasks within my day to day job - the research problem (aka the search for truth) and the communications problem (aka the task of effectively conveying what truths I've found)

I'm curious on your thoughts about this? Have you ever thought about it this way?

Keep up the good work - will let you know when my blog is up and running.


Paul Soldera said...

Hey Tom,

Yeah it's tough. The quote above stuck with me, I think, because it talked to something I always found - that a lot of times there is no 'truth' - just different stories.

Going by this, I think your two tasks are really one in the same. If the 'truth' you find is communicated in the wrong way, it ceases to be a 'truth'. What you communicate (or mis-communicate, or someone mis-interprets) becomes the 'truth'.

When multiple groups of people try and explain one thing, and all come up with different accounts - that's when 'truth is nonsense'. That happens all the time in your line of work.

But does it matter? That's something I always grappled with...