Wednesday, December 28, 2022

The Trouble with Truth

 As 2022 draws to a close, perhaps some of you are thinking about New Year's Resolutions   I have written about that in past New Year's blogs, and some of the replies that have been shared with me related more with failure to keep those resolutions than with the resolutions themselves.  In short, many people admit that even when they made the resolution they knew they wouldn't keep it.  They were just lying to themselves.  So, this year, rather than writing about New Year's Resolutions I am going to share some thoughts on telling the truth.

"In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."

George Orwell, author

Several weeks ago, I was watching television and an author was talking about his book, titled, "The Post-Truth Era.  Ralph Keyes is not a  professor.  He lives in Ohio and writes articles for magazines such as Esquire and Good Housekeeping.  He has appeared on The Today Show and was on Oprah.  I did not anticipate a scholarly book when I ordered "Post Truth," nor is it one.  I was surprised when the book arrived to learn that it was published in 2004, now 2 decades ago.  His subtitle is "Dishonesty and Deception in Contemporary Life," which reveals that the topic is not particularly new, as my next quote makes clear.

The truth is not always beautiful, nor beautiful words the truth.

Laozi, ancient philosopher

When I began reading Ralph Keyes' book he soon explained the he was not going to write about "all lies and every liar."  What he was focusing on was "concern about casual lying, its effect on how we deal with each other, and on society as a whole."  In fact, he believed the casual lie was getting worse.  That led me to ask myself, is dishonesty getting worse?  It seems to me that it is, but one thing is certain, lying had been around for a long time, and our founding fathers have had something to say about it!

Half a truth is often a great lie.

Benjamin Franklin

Rearching for a more recent American philosopher, I turned to that great thinker--bless his cotton-picken-heart--Elvis Presley, who said:

Truth is like the sun.  You can shut it out for a time,

but it ain't goin' away.

The author of The Post-Truth Era was pretty hard on lawyers, suggesting that truth and lies in the courtroom do not mean the same thing as they do one the street.  When I was a practicing attorney, I prepared many people for testifying in court and in preparing for depositions, and I never told anyone to lie.  I did tell them, however, not to allow opposing counsel to put words in their mouths.  Answer yes or no if the question is clear and specific, but if he has tucked in extra details that aren't accurate, don't accept his question as appropriate for a yes or no answer.  "I don't know, I don't understand, and I don't remember" are perfectly appropriate answers,  if you really don't know, understand, or remember.  If you watch the news, you may know that an attorney has put himself in a difficult place by instructing his client to say "I don't remember," not because she did not remember but rather as a way to avoid answering the question.  Apparently she was told that she would be safe to avoid answering the question, because 'no one could know whether she remembered or not.'  Bad Advice!

There are few reasons for telling the truth, but for lying, the number is infinite.

Carlos Ruiz Zafon, novelist

While it might be possible that someone could get away with pretending not to remember, the truth is that once discovered the pretense is grounds for prosecution because the person had lied under oath. 

Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters

cannot be trusted with important matters.

Albert Einstein

Ralph Keyes concludes his book by saying that 10% are ethical by nature, that a different 10% have no ethical inclination at all, but 80% move back and forth, depending on circumstances.  It seemed to me when I grew up in a small community, honesty was admired and generally practiced by most people.  Perhaps that was because dishonest people were known and those doing business with them knew better than to do business on a handshake. 

Maybe lying to ourselves with a resolution to stick to a diet which only lasts until the first bowl of ice cream tempts us is not important, but I am still idealistic enough to believe that our "Post-Truth" era is a threat.  As S. Somerset Maugham said, "The fact that a great many people believe something is no guarantee of its truth." 



Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Happy Holidays to Everyone!

 I love decorating for Christmas.  I have collected Christmas decorations for many years now...and I have too many to find places for all of them.  This year I had a tree on the porch, and when the wind started getting stronger, I went out to get the Santa that I had sitting by the tree, because it is breakable, and I thought I should bring it inside.  I was barely inside the house with Santa when I heard the wind  come blasting out of the west, and before I could even begin to think about how to protect the tree, down it came.  The next morning I retrieved all of the tiny ornaments that had  fallen off the tree and brought the tree into the house to take off the rest.  Only four ornaments were broken, and Elmer and I patched them up, ready for next year and a better securing of the tree.  Elmer's Glue is a good friend to have handy at Christmas!

Part of the fun of decorating the trees is remembering where we found all of the ornaments.  When we traveled, Christmas ornaments were our favorite souvenirs. Year by year the ornaments added up.  When we retired to the farm we wanted a tree decorated with framed ornaments holding pictures of our ancestors.  We call it our Angels and Ancestors tree, since it has the small framed photographs, lots of angel ornaments, and other ornaments that look antique.  It is always fun to have family with you on Christmas, isn't it?  And these Christmas guests don't require special diets or extra bedding!  What is especially fun about them is that we can remember many of them from our childhoods...although we miss the aunts in the kitchen and the uncles napping after the Christmas feast, and the cousins to play with all of our new toys.   They aren't here, but the memories are.  

However you decorate for the holidays, or even if you don't decorate at all,  Happy Holidays to Everyone!

Christmas stockings from the past

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Christmas at Grandmother's House

Like a page from an old scrapbook, many of us have Christmas memories of holidays at Grandmother's house, with all of the table leaves stretching the table to hold the adults, and maybe a children's table in the kitchen.  Traditional meals were the same year after year, and when the meal was done the women gathered in the kitchen, washing the dishes and putting them away as they dried them in places where Grandmother would need weeks to find everything.

The men would find comfortable chairs to settle into and tell yarns and catch naps, while the children would play with the toys Santa had brought.  If it was the tradition not to open packages until after the meal, they would sneak packages from under the tree to shake and squeeze in hopes of guessing the contents. 

The day was orchestrated carefully, rarely changing much.  If someone failed to bring a favorite dish, there was likely to be grumbling, and if someone dared to alter a recipe, it would be noticed.

Yet, if you watch television today, you would assume that those old traditions have passed...that everyone today is flying to some beach resort or traveling to the mountains to ski. 

Out of curiosity, I went online to see if family Christmas dinners are out of fashion.  The results of my research are inconsistent.  I found that between December 23rd and January 2nd 112.7  million will travel 50 miles or more for the holidays.  Another site said 113 million would be away from home.  Another said one in three would travel for Christmas.

However, a survey of 2,000 people found that 73% spent time together, and that was true of Christmas more than any other time of the year.  Another survey found that 82% try to be together every year.

My conclusion...spending the Christmas holiday is not out of fashion, but what people consider spending it together is not necessarily like their Grandmother's Christmas.  It may not be on December 25th, it may be at a resort, it may be virtual, and it may be a bit of fibbing if asked by an interviewer.   But, apparently most families do have traditions that are significant to them, even if their family group is a family because they choose to be, not because they share the same mother or father.

I love Christmas traditions, but because we often lived far away from family at Christmas, many of our Christmas memories are of time spent with friends.  I love decorating for holidays, and this year when I got out some of our Christmas decorations, I discovered some that I had not seen for quite a while.  If you look very closely at the stockings, you may remember the people whose names are on those stockings.  Maybe those two people will be with us this year for Christmas!


Wednesday, December 7, 2022

The Risky Business of Marriage!

   Sometimes I buy a book only to discover it is not at all what I thought it was.  When I was younger, if I started a book, I finished it.  At some point I realized there are too many wonderful books in the world to waste time on disappointing choices.  (I must admit before I go further that some of the books I stuck with before I allowed myself to abandon a disappointing book turned out to be wonderful reads.)  However, even today I do try to give each book a chance, even if it is no more that a skimming rather than truly diving into it.  Recently, I chose one of those books that disappointed me, but I did discover a few good quotes, and one of them inspired this blog.

The Era of Flat-Tops and Back-Combing

    My husband and I married right out of high school.  The odds for success were risky.  Even before our marriage, divorce rates had begun to rise.  By 1965 rates reached for individual couples divorcing to 2.5%, jumping to 3.2 by 1969.  Between 1950 and 1999 the divorce rate doubled from the likely hood of 11 to 23 divorces per 1,000 married women between the ages of 1 and 64.  For two kids ages 17 and 18, it might have seemed that we had stepped into a rapidly ascending elevator going up in the wrong direction.

    Statistics vary from study to study, but there is a degree of consistency about the particular years during which divorces are most likely to occur.  The most common years are 1-2 and 5-8, and within those groups, 2 years stand out...the years 7 and 8.

    My husband and I have long since passed those early danger years and will soon be celebrating another  wedding anniversary ending with a zero.  Where have those years gone?  Which brings me back to the quote that inspired this blog.  When I found the quote, I slipped a book mark in that page.  Later I told my husband, "I have something I want you to read."  I didn't tell him what it was, and he didn't know what the book I was reading contained.  I just handed over the book with the book mark in place and pointed to the quote.  It reads"

 Successful marriage

is leading innovative lives together,

being open, non-programed.

It's a free fall:  how you handle 

each new thing as it comes along.   

    He read it and then said to me, "That's about what we did, isn't it?"  And it was.  He enjoys joking that he married a girl with a cosmetology license who was supposed to work in a beauty shop and put him through college and instead he ended up putting me through Law School.  I counter that his career moves took me to two New England states, Texas, New York City, back to Texas and then two Southern states and then back to Texas.  He counters that rebuttal by reminding me that he brought me home to Kansas in retirement to the 4th generation family farm where I was raised.  (By the way, I never got a job in a beauty shop, but Larry had received a lot of "free" haircuts!)  The quote above ends with these words:

As a drop of oil on the sea,

you must float,

using intellect and compassion

to ride the waves.

    Before all of this starts sounding too romantic and personal, I must quote what the book author shared  immediately before this.  He wrote, "Marriage is not a love affair, it's an ordeal."  I did not show that quote to my husband!

   Today, in 2022, about 50% of married couples eventually divorce, and 60% of second marriages end in divorce.  For third marriages it is 58%.  America has the 5th highest divorce rate in the world.  As for Kansas, we rank 9th among the states at 9.2 %.  The statistics in this paragraph are from World Population Review Website.  The other statistics are from a variety of sources.

    The history of divorce is interesting.  The 1st divorce is believed to date back to 1706 B.C. in Babylon.  The name comes from the Latin term "divortere," meaning to turn differet ways.  The first known divorce in the American Colonies was when Anne Clarke was granted a divorce from her absent and adulterous husband by the Quarter Court of Boston, Massachusetts.  Kansas was more generous that many state courts, for unlike the states where the husband could basically take the children away from their mother in a divorce, Kansas recognized the woman's right to her children as well. 

    In thinking about the challenges of marriage, I should not overlook the shy efforts of our Prairie Bachelor, Isaac Werner, whose courtship efforts never quite got far enough for marriage. 

    Perhaps I should have saved this blog for Valentine's day, but then again, there are many engagements at Christmas!  So, I will close with a final quote from the book:  

When seeking your partner,

if your intuition is a virtuous one,

you will find him or her.  If not,

you'll keep finding the wrong person.

    I am far from the right person to give advice on marriage, and that is not what I have intended to do.  Blame the quote that I stumbled on!  I have no advice to give, but I have told a few couples that our marriage succeeded because there never came a time when both of us at the same time thought a divorce was what we needed.  Sometimes that's all that it takes--one of you who thinks it is worth trying harder to save something worth saving.   Maybe there is something to that old song:  "You've got to give a little, take a little, and let your poor heart break a little--that's the story of, that's the glory of love!"