I was listening to ” How to Fly a Horse” by Kevin Ashton this morning. He tells the story of an African slave who figured out how to assist orchids in their self pollination and thus created a vanilla industry. His master initially gave him credit but the story soon, because of cultural norms, shifted to the master teaching the slave who taught other slaves. The powerful created their own truth when they couldn’t explain how a slave could figure out a solution to a problem they had faced for decades. Eventually historians recognized that there were inconsistencies and through research discovered that Edmond Albus was the slave who launched the vanilla industry.
Ashton’s point in ” How to Fly a Horse” is to demonstrate that invention and genius comes from relentless monotonous actions and observing and adapting to the conclusions. My point is that truth is malleable not immutable. How many Edmonds never received credit for their contributions to the world because of their race or gender? How many legends just stepped in and appropriated credit for something they didn’t invent?
What other truths do we hold that have been created and recreated to support other truths that were universally accepted even though they may be false? Maybe the way we use the word truth creates the problem – many think it is synonymous with fact ( another idea that is far more malleable than we are comfortable to admit). What if truth is closer to believe or understand or feel? I often use a disclaimer when telling stories to an audience ” I don’t know if this really happened but I know it is true”. I am suggesting that the essence is where true has power rather than in veracity, authenticity, accuracy, or certainty. There are things that I can prove, based on a conjecture that passes a burden today. There are things that I know because of the sum of my experience and education. There are things that are true because I know them to be – know them not in my head but in my heart.
If you find yourself declaring a truth, check where it is rising up from. If your ego, ask why do I feel so insecure that I need to shine in this moment. If your education identifies with the statement, remember the vanilla industry and the millions of other manufactured truths. If you just know something to be right, you are likely on a path that is worth exploring.