This past year I’ve been pondering Truth quite a bit. As a writer I’m navigating Truth all the time. Fiction has to be believable for readers to tolerate it. Even the most outlandish science fiction story has to contain some element of Truth. With non-fiction the problem is even trickier. Non-fiction must contain Truth, but the Truth must be fresh or new or otherwise compelling for readers to spend their time on it. So you see, in fiction or non-fiction, Truth is essential.
My musings on Truth have inspired me to develop several posts on the subject. I’m not sure where this is taking me, but I hope it's toward the Truth. What follows is my first post. (What’s with the capitalized Truth? you might be wondering. I’m glad you asked. The answer lies in my second post, where I contemplate whether or not Truth even exists.)
Post 1: An Introduction to Truth and How to Pander it
Have you ever felt like someone was trying to pander truth to you? Do you know what I mean? Did anybody ever take some sort of truth, dress it up with a slick new outfit, make it pop with a trendy marketing ploy, and then try to exploit you? Or even worse, did they ever take some truth and twist it in order to get you to believe something other than the truth?
Let me illustrate with some truths about a chemical compound called dihydrogen-monoxide. Every single cancer cell ever tested for this agent has come up positive for it. Hundreds of children die every year when they inhale this chemical and it fills their lungs causing asphyxiation. It can act both as an acid and a base, giving it the unique ability to dissolve just about anything. Drop the Titanic in it and allow enough time--the Titanic will crumble. And these are just a few truths about dihydrogen-monoxide. What if I told you it is in our food and beverages? What if I told you that you and your children ingest large quantities of it every day? And the FDA doesn’t even regulate it. Major food corporations don’t even have to test for it.
Knowing these facts, wouldn’t you agree to sign a petition eliminating this horror from our food supply? Wouldn’t you urge your politicians to pass legislation? Wouldn’t you boycott the evil companies that refuse to submit to some sort of regulation?
I certainly hope not. You see, I may have neglected to explain that dihydrogen-monoxide is water. H2O. But I bet I had you going for a minute there
Truth is powerful. We all want it. If I could package the truth and either give it away or sell it, I’m pretty sure I would become the most popular guy on the planet. In fact, many people have managed to achieve enormous fame, wealth, and power doing this sort of thing. If you want to get filthy rich, you might want to try it. Just follow these simple steps.
Step 1: Discover some sort of truth. This might be difficult because there is nothing much new under the sun, so you will probably have to re-discover or re-brand an old truth that has been largely forgotten or ignored by this generation (or at least for the past year since consumers’ memories seem to be getting shorter and shorter.)
Step 2: Package your truth. If you want an audience you have to insert your truth into some sort of consumable media. Try music or a non-fiction book or a documentary. If you are audacious and charismatic enough you might even consider starting you own religion (I know this seems like a stretch, but Joseph Smith managed to do this in the not-so-distant past.)
Step 3: Market your truth. Believe it or not, this is actually the most difficult step. You have to convince consumers that they need your truth and that your truth is worth paying for. You will probably find more success if your truth manages to fill a pre-existing hole in their existence. For example, the vast majority of North-American consumers have already been convinced that they aren’t healthy enough and that they need to lose weight, so if your truth happens to be a truth about diet and exercise, it should be a downhill battle for you, and although it might seem like the market is already saturated with new truths about being healthy, the typical American consumer has proven time and time again that they are still not satisfied with the thousands of previously marketed dieting truths. Another strategy you could utilize is to prey on people’s fear of the unknown. Marketing a truth about how the end of the world is nigh can be surprisingly easy (but beware, you probably have to hijack some Biblical scripture and be some sort of ordained minister to pull this one off successfully.)
Step 4: Enjoy the fame and financial benefits while they last, but don’t sit back and relax too long. And don’t build that twenty million dollar estate just yet. Your truth probably won’t last more than a year unless you are really lucky. Most likely you will need to dive right in and start discovering a new truth before the consumers lose interest in your old truth.
Sorry about the sarcasm. In reality, truth is not a laughing matter. If we are not seeking truth, then what are we seeking? If we don’t have truth, then what do we have? Not much. Truth matters. I want the truth. You want the truth. But before we can discuss truth any further, we have to be certain it even exists. Some people (very smart people) say it doesn’t. I think they’re wrong. Stay tuned for future posts to learn why.