Why You Should Question More

The question was, in between the mountains in the south of Brazil, what the hell happened on 9/11 in New York? Right after the tragedy went down there were various stories making rounds and over the years a fierce battle of truth was (and still is) being waged between so called conspiracy theorists and mainstream scientists. Regardless of why things happened there are certain things that every person can see for himself, however the mainstream story deviates from this. However, not only when it comes to 9/11, also when it comes to diet, your perception of yourself and what you experienced last weekend can be different in many ways. For me this is all the more reason to question. This is why you should as well.

Questionable Truths

How many buildings went down on 9/11? Two? Or three? There were three buildings that went down, nevertheless, little people are aware of this. Why isn’t this known to the general public, because it seems quite relevant right?

In a recent blog I wrote about Your Ultimate Personal Diet Guide because there is so much conflicting information around diet. I tried to lay out the commonalities between all this information. The main message is though, there is no one perfect diet. Even though, there are different sides that question each other – paleo, vegan, no gluten, no lactose and sugar free all have there supporters that claim to thrive on their choice.

On a similar note, when I come back after a holiday and my girlfriend is asked the same question as me, she will answer severely different. Where I will say it was awesome and I had a good time, she however, manages to create a detailed extravaganza of every small thing that happened. A couple of minutes into the story you have a strong visual image that stimulates your taste buds, visual capacity, and sound perception. However extrapolated from my perspective, we were both there. My question is then, who is right?

In Physical Therapy school in my first year I had to study for my living anatomy exams. I needed to know all the origin, endings, and functions of muscles, every bone, every ligament and a bunch of other things. More over, I had to be able to approach and show them physically to my examiner. One day we learned about the muscles of the forearm. A particular muscle there, the palmaris longus, that runs from the elbow to your hand palm is not present in all humans. I was one of the two people in my class that didn’t have it. Which body is right?

In his books People Like Us and A Good Man Sometimes Beats His Wife, Joris Luyendijk writes about his experiences as a news reporter in the Middle East. One thing in particular that I remember well of his books, is the news he reported on. It turned out that he was almost never allowed to have a look first hand. Because of security regulations and bureaucracy he always had to go through news agencies like Reuters. After, there is a whole process of finding out what actually happened and a struggle to put this into a two-minute item at the 8′ o clock news. I can’t help questioning then, what is left of what really happened once it reaches the sleepy post-diner public in the Netherlands?

Different Truths

In philosophical terms truth is explained as how the world actually is. The truth is though, that everything that we think and do we always perceive through our senses. This empirical way of perceiving the world is of the highest importance in our scientific understanding of the world. That is, something is only true once we have empirical evidence for it.

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However, the result of this philosophy is that we build our ideas of what is true on what we belief is true rather than what actually is. Everything we say and write about truth is nothing more than a representation in either spoken language or writing of a supposed truth. 9/11, the stories on the 8 o’clock news, the holiday stories of me and my girlfriend, and the differences in anatomy are all subject to our beliefs. It get’s even more tricky once you talk about these things from memory.

Memory

According to Daniela Schiller, a professor at Mount Sinai School, our memory is all but to be trusted. It seems that memory isn’t static, but something that changes every time it is recalled. This means that every time I ask you how your weekend was, the memory of this experience changes. During my teenage years in high school I experienced this first hand week after week. As one of my friends would come on the bus he would tell me in colorful details how his weekend was. Upon arrival at school he would at least tell that “same” story at least three more times. Since we were in the same class I had the honor of hearing it over and over again. Interestingly every time the story got more colorful and exciting.

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I believe there is always a tension between what actually happened and what is experienced by someone. It depends on the state the person was in at the time of experiencing the event things might be memorized totally different.

No Independent Truth

As a consequence I realize that is hard to be sure if there is an independent truth out there. It always depends on the observer or the person experiencing it. This is something you become very aware of once you cross cultural boundaries, start working with new people, or move in with somebody you else.

If this knowledge becomes a common part of your belief system there is all the more reason to question, and subscribe less to one form of truth. This will not only allow you to adapt better in all day every day situations, it also leaves you free to redefine your beliefs any moment.

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