Oh dear, what delinquent bloggers we've been. And we have such good intentions too. But our time is overtaken by schoolwork and people; very important things, yes, but we haven't forgotten you all. :)
This is one of my presentations for Contemporary Issues class, addressing the subject of truth vs relativism. I just got my grade on it tonight (a 98!), and am excited to share it with you.
note: I'm not very fond of the title, I just had to come up with something quick before turning it in, so if something better comes to your mind while reading it, please share!
Nothing but the Truth
by Bethany Canaan
Setting: In the not-so-distant future.
There was no sky overhead, only bleak patches of grey peeking from behind metallic spires. Who looked up at the sky anyway? Well, Oliver admitted, pursing his lips to let out a stream of smoke, that’s what he was doing right now. It was really pointless, but it gave him something to focus on as he took his break. After another puff, the door to the ally creaked open.
“Hey, Oliver. Would you have a minute to talk?”
Oliver lowered his head to meet the green eyes of Wesley Barrett. There wasn’t much point in answering. Oliver was a captive audience until he finished his cigarette. Why did Wesley torture him? The two of them were coworkers, both waiters at one the cities most modern restaurants. Oliver guessed Wesley wasn’t that much older then him, maybe mid twenties, and the fair-haired young man tried to befriend everyone he met. They got along well enough, but Oliver hadn’t taken this job for the social interaction. The way these new restaurants worked, customers just had to push a few buttons and swipe a card, removing the nuisance of a waiter. All Oliver had to do was deliver the right food to the right table, and could avoid pretty much any human interaction the entire shift. Of course, there was always that one disgruntled customer who needed someone to take their anger out on; no machines could promise an end to that problem. Wesley was only too happy to see that Oliver talked to someone.
Before Oliver even responded to his question, Wesley went on.
“What is your opinion of truth?”
That was random.
“Truth…the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Is that even a thing anymore?” Oliver gave him a dry smile, bringing his cigarette back to his mouth.
“Hard to tell, isn’t it?” Wesley said.
Deciding he could go along with it, at least until the end of his break, Oliver took another drag before answering.
“Truth depends on the person- you know, it can be different for everyone.”
“Sounds good in theory,” Wesley nodded.
“Sure. No hurt feelings that way.”
“But if everyone has their own opinion on what’s true, can they all be right?”
Oliver gave Wesley a sideways look and adjusted his lanky frame, resting his foot against the wall.
“I can’t tell them they’re wrong.”
“But you agree they can’t all be correct?” Wesley said.
“I didn’t say that either.” What was Wesley getting at? Why did it matter?
Wesley got a mischievous smile and walked over to an empty pop can lying on the ground. He brought it over to Oliver and held it out at arm’s length.
“I believe that this can wants to fly, I really do. When I let go of it, it will shoot into the sky and be free.”
Oliver raised his eyebrows. He knew Wesley was a little strange, but this?
“You ready?” there was excitement in Wesley’s voice.
“Go for it.”
Wesley let go of it and the can fell with a clank to the ground.
Wesley’s wide eyes turned to Oliver. “But I really believed it! Shouldn’t it be true? Maybe I just need to try again.”
Oliver rolled his eyes as Wesley picked the can back up and held it out.
“On the count of three…one, two, three.”
Again, the can nose-dived and crashed.
“Why didn’t you tell me I was wrong?” Wesley asked, leaving the can this time.
“If it makes you happy to believe cans can fly, who am I to burst your bubble?”
“Let’s try something else then. What if I believed I was the head chef here, instead of a waiter?”
“They’d kick your butt out of the kitchen.”
“They probably would,” Wesley chuckled. “So believing I was head chef wouldn’t make it true, you agree?”
Oliver could follow his logic and didn’t like where it was going.
“But beliefs are different. Everyone can have their own views, and it doesn’t affect anyone else, unlike you trying to be a chef in the kitchen.”
“But it wouldn’t hurt anyone, right?”
Wesley looked over his shoulder at the road.
“You know what really makes me happy?”
“Walking in the middle of the road. And someone told me there’s a road block up, so no cars are out there right now.” Wesley began to walk backwards toward the street, while Oliver looked on with morbid curiosity.
“I really believe there aren’t any cars right now, and I’ll be perfectly safe.”
This example was taking it a little too far, Oliver thought, but Wesley couldn’t possibly be serious. He reached the sidewalk, and was approaching the curb.
Wesley raised his voice to be heard over the four lanes of traffic. “You don’t think I’m wrong do you?” he stepped off the curb into the first lane. A car honked and swerved around him, but he kept going.
“Are you crazy?” Oliver shouted, and jogged towards him, stopping at the sidewalk.
“Are you going to force your beliefs on me and say there’s cars here? That I’m wrong?” Wesley stretched out his arms, motioning out. “There’s nothing here, I’m just fine.”
More honking and shouting filled the air as Wesley made it to the second lane. Oliver looked down the road to see the light turn green, a semi and bus coming one way, and row of cars and trucks the other. There was no room to avoid an obstacle.
“Tell me I’m wrong!” Wesley called.
Standing in the road like that, he was just asking to be killed.
“Or maybe you’re fine with what’s true for me isn’t true for you? Come on, say it! Am I wrong?”
“You’re wrong!” Oliver yelled, tossing away his cigarette, and running out to Wesley. He grabbed his arm and pulled him back to the sidewalk just a second before the semi came roaring by.
Wesley had the biggest grin on his face. Oliver felt like punching him.
“What on earth did you do that for?” Oliver’s heart was still pounding, and he couldn’t get over how relaxed Wesley was.
“Truth is important, isn’t it? And what makes it true, makes it true for everyone.”
“I need another cigarette.” Oliver turned back towards the ally while fumbling in his pockets for the box.
Wesley glanced at his watch. “Break’s about over.”
“Who cares? We have a conversation to finish.”
Wesley’s smile grew even wider. “Do you understand my point?”
“Don’t you think that was a pretty extreme way to make it?”
Wesley shrugged. “If that’s what it takes. Can’t you see the idiocy of relative truth? The word itself is practically an oxymoron. We base our lives around absolute truths every day- the sun comes up, we depend on our heart to keep beating and our lungs to function. The earth rotates at the perfect speed, and holds together, helping sustain billions of lives. We know gravity will hold us down so we won’t float off into space, and- ”
“We know if we try to walk across a busy road without looking, we’ll probably die.”
“Now you got it!” Wesley laughed. “The problem is, people don’t use relativism to only rationalize beliefs, but actions too. If something feels right, people do it. It’s getting harder and harder to tell, but our society it built on some absolutes that form our laws. But even those are being corrupted by quote ‘tolerance’ and ‘personal freedom’. Where does it stop? We need truth to depend on, to place our trust in. If things really were relative…it would be a nightmare. And not believing the truth is very dangerous.”
Wesley left Oliver with those words, heading back inside. Leaning back against the wall, Oliver ran his hand through his dark hair. He was frustrated, but at the same time, it made sense. Could people decide what was true for themselves with their only “absolutes” being ever-changing feelings? He had to admit that’s what he did himself, and while he had never thought much about religion, he justified what he did plenty of times using that reasoning. Thanks for turning my world upside down, Wesley, real pal you are.
Returning to work didn’t keep Oliver from thinking about what Wesley said. And with those thoughts playing over and over in his mind, he kept seeing examples of people following their own ideas of right and wrong.
While wiping down a table, he saw one man come in, slip a gold band from his finger to his pocket, then join an attractive, and much younger woman in a cozy corner booth. At another table two men talked softly and gazed into each other’s eyes. Oliver never understood why anyone would fall in love with a person of the same gender, but just because it wasn’t what he wanted didn’t mean he could speak against someone else.
He and Wesley only saw each other a couple times the rest of that evening, but were both too busy to say more then a brief “hey”. Their shifts ended at the same time, and Oliver took his time getting his jacket so he could walk out with Wesley.
“Phew! Haven’t had a shift that busy in while,” Wesley said, holding the door for Oliver.
“Got something on your mind?”
Oliver let out a laugh. “You think? What made you bring up that topic?”
“It’s been on my mind lately, and it’s something people don’t think about. They don’t ask if something’s true or right, they ask how it’s makes them feel. But that doesn’t work. We need truth.”
Oliver nodded thoughtfully.
“Now here’s another question...where does truth come from?” Wesley asked, stopping at the street corner.
“Do you have an answer for that one?” Oliver said, cocking an eyebrow at him.
“I think that’s another conversation.”
“Do you work tomorrow?”
Wesley grinned. “I do. See you then?”
“You got it.”