Thursday, December 22, 2011

Oh well.

Well, this project failed to take off. I may return to it sometime, but I'm officially letting this blog rest...

Friday, September 2, 2011


Truth to tell, one of the triggers for this blog came two and a half years ago, on my other blog, in a discussion about the word "Truth." In particular, I've continued to be struck by how "truth" continues to be a quicksand for us today.

In a nutshell, truth can mean honesty (making true testimony), or faithfulness (as in a true friend or an arrow flying true). And in fact, "faithfulness" is the older common meaning of the word.

When we talk about people "telling the truth," we need to ask, what standard are they being true to. I'd argue that much of our deep misunderstanding across the secular/sacred divide is the presumption of one standard over another: that the standard of faithfulness to evidence-based reason ought clearly to trump faithfulness to God, or vice versa. Not only do we presume one should trump the other, we actively demonize those who believe otherwise, and fail to seek ways around this impasse.

This needn't be a matter of Clintonesque wishy-washy hedging and nitpicking about what "is" is. Because we all engage in—and value—both kinds of truth. No-one wants to find out their breakfast cereal contains rat poison and the manufacturer lied to us factually. An no-one wants to be betrayed by a faithless friend. The sticking point is in how we will make truth a center of our collective life.

Suggestion: take a break from invoking "truth" in public discourse and use "faithfulness" (preferably specifying who we are being faithful to), "honesty", and "accuracy."


Words are not sticks and stones, but we use words to get people to throw sticks and stones. Words are like magic—that's why magic spells are such a part of magic's trope. And words, in order to work, in order to work their magic, have to mean something.

Words are slippery. Words are malleable. They are not the rocks beneath our collective understanding we want them to be, because they shift in their meaning, subject to our changing wants and our collective will (or lack of will). But we still use them, because we don't seem to have any better tool at hand to work that magic, to reshape our world to meet our desires.

We lie with words, and we tell the truth with words. What makes those words into truth or untruth is not the words themselves, but how well those words match up to the things they describe. And we have gotten way too lazy about making that connection.

And so this blog. Each entry I will pick a word and try to get at what we mean, and sometimes what we ought to mean, when we invoke it. Some of the words are at the forefront of political speech (jobs, freedom, government), others are parts of my particular life (Quaker, map, folk). And still others I expect to pick up just because they pique my interest.

This new project builds on my "blog of record" since 2007, MapHead. I expect to be less active over there, but will try to restrict myself here specifically to this format, and reserve more general comment and exploration to that blog.

Thank you for reading this blog. And thank you for trying to be clear about what you and your fellow humans say.