You’ve got this bump on your gum. Upper, lower, it doesn’t matter. It’s there. You tell yourself, “Don’t touch it with your tongue.” But you can’t help yourself. Inevitably, despite your instructions, your tongue continually wanders back. You know these explorational forays do no good whatsoever, and may even do some damage, especially to your mind, by insistently dwelling on the concern. But, as Walter Cronkite used to intone, “That’s the way it is.”
For me, that bump is the nagging search for the truth, including whether or not it actually exists, the evidence increasingly suggesting, “Maybe not.”
"Received Truth" – The truth that’s handed down.
I’m reading a book called, Lords of Finance. It’s about…it doesn’t matter what it’s about. It’s non-fiction. In the book ist this quote about this guy who actually lived, whose last name was “Norman.” The quote is meant to encapsulate “Norman’s” character through a comment about him that the author has unearthed, the comment being this:
“Norman, acutely sensitive to public criticism, harbored grudges for a long time – ‘the most vindictive man I have ever known’, according to a close friend.”
To the author, this discovered quote is a godsend. It nails “Norman” as a chronic harborer of grudges, the evidence substantiated by the words of a personal intimate. The author may have been trying to establish that characteristic, to illuminate “Norman’s” behavior at a critical juncture in the narrative. And here’s a juicy quote that backs him up. I can see the author smiling.
“I’ve got you, ‘Norman.’ I’ve got you dead to rights!”
The quote justifies the opinion. It says, “That’s ‘Norman.’ That’s who he was. Verified by a quote from ‘a close friend’ as: a chronic cultivator of longstanding grievances.”
The question is:
“What if he wasn’t?”
Let’s consider it for a second. Wherefrom comes the evidence that makes us, the reader, believe that “Norman” was “…the most vindictive man I have ever known”?
Our primary source on the matter is the author. But can he really be trusted? Perhaps his intuition told him “Norman” was a grievance hoarder, and, having found a substantiating quote on the subject, like a detective who has discovered some incriminating evidence on a certain suspect, he stopped looking.
Then there’s the question of the “Quoter”, the person who characterized “Norman” as “…the most vindictive man I have ever known.” It’s worth speculating, at least for a moment, “What’s that guy’s story?
It’s possible, I don’t know, maybe the “Quoter” didn’t invite “Norman” to his birthday party, and years later, “Norman” snubbed him when they accidentally ran into each other at the theater. The “Quoter”, believing, quite justifiably, that he had the right to invite or not invite whomever he wanted to his birthday party, could easily, because of the years-later relatiatory snubbing, consider “Norman” “…the most vindictive man I have ever known.”
A third person, familiar with both “Norman” and the condemning “Quoter” might chime in, saying, “That ‘Quoter’ guy is the most thin-skinned person I have ever met. He thinks everybody’s snubbing him. In my experience, I’ve always found ‘Norman’ to be quite the softy. And more than usually forgiving.”
And then there’s the third, fourth, fifth, or who knows how many, chimer-inners, contradicting each other all over the place. I mean, we all have close friends. Do they all agree on what we’re like?
And who knows if any of them were really “close friends.” He could have only met the guy once, and formed a hasty, maybe right, maybe wrong, first impression.
To be fair to the author, his research may not have unearthed those other quotes. They may not even exist; not everything people say gets written down. There’s not enough paper. Let’s give the author the benefit of the doubt here, and not think he buried all the quotes that negated his thesis. He found one quote, and he went with it. Fine.
Based on that single quote, for anyone reading Lords Of Finance, and not doing any independent research on the man, “Norman” is immortalized, now and forever, as “…the most vindictive man I have ever known.”
Even though there’s the potential possibility that the book’s characterization of him may not have been, in any way….