“The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.”
― Niels Bohr
Neil Postman helps break down this thought. He writes, “It is better to have access to more than one profound truth. To be able to hold comfortably in one’s mind the validity and usefulness of two contradictory truths is the source of tolerance, openness, and, most important, a sense of humor, which is the greatest enemy of fanaticism. Nonetheless, it is undoubtedly better to have one profound truth, one god, one narrative, than to have none.”
Truth is often subjective. I know my truth and I would have a hard time explaining it in detail. That is because I have more than one profound truth. The other day, someone posed a question on Facebook, “If you could make one rule that everyone had to follow, what would it be?”
I thought of several possible things I could write in response. Were these all profound truths that I wanted to share? Is there a way to answer this question without sharing a truth?
This is what I wrote, “Leave it cleaner than you found it.”
Imagine that everyone did that. They threw out their garbage, pushed in the chairs, returned grocery carts to the correct place, picked up things and put them where they belong, etc.
This was a phrase my dad used to say all the time. I really liked it. I make sure to do that every year I go camping. Invariably, the person who had the site before me usually leaves some garbage behind. I clean it up and make sure the site is cleaner when I leave it. It’s a simple thing and easy to do.
Could I have written something else for that Facebook question? Of course.
I could have taken a page from the City Slickers script. Mitch, played by Billy Crystal, asks a gruff cowboy what the secret of life is. Curly, played by Jack Palance, answers the question by raising one finger and saying “This!”
He knows his truth but he also knows that he can’t share it. It is different for everyone. It’s more important that you discover it yourself.
I am going to try this exercise with my students today. I’ll have them write their rule and offer reasons why they think it would benefit society. Then we will see how many of us already believe or follow that rule. Should be fun!
If you liked this idea, you might want to read the book from which it came, The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School by Neil Postman.
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