What Does Anyone Know

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You're heard the saying People see what they want to see. Or its variant hear what they choose to hear. I'm not going to argue about the concept of choosing what we see or hear, but I am convinced we do not perceive the world the same way as anyone else.

When we were children, my brother and I were often scolded for not doing something our mother told us to do. We knew she had not told us what she said she did, because in the black and white world of youth, we knew our memories were flawless and hers, belonging as it did to a middle-aged single mother was not. I vowed that I would not swear I had or had not said, done or seen anything if there were any doubt.

If we were all a little less certain of the "rightness," the factualness, of our experiences, we would have a lot less to argue about. What you experience is your truth and what I experience is my truth. But what are the facts? What does any one of us know?

Not much, and I can prove it! 😉

I just read a series of police accident reports that are related to a hotly-contested safety issue in my town. There was on accident in particular I wanted to read about, because I'd heard the pedestrian…

  • stumbled off the curb, or
  • bent over to tie his shoe, or
  • staggered into traffic

Here's what an on-duty police officer reported: "I then observed male and female dressed in dark clothing crossing the roadway…The male pedestrian was in the lead."

Here's another eyewitness account: "We were walking across the street from the hotel we are staying at…to purchase some groceries. We were halfway across the street. He said, 'Stop the car is coming too fast.' We were both waiting but I was a few steps ahead of him. He was about a yard behind me." This account is from the wife of the male pedestrian.

In the world we think we know, there should be only one place for the man to be. He was physically behind his wife, beside his wife or ahead of his wife. There should be a X that could mark the location.

I walk fast. If someone were to ask me, "Were you ahead, behind or beside your partner?" I would probably know I was ahead.

Should we believe the wife? She was there and experienced it. Or the police officer? He was a trained observer.

We have to believe both of them. Each told his or her own truth, what was real to them, what they saw and experienced. What I don't have to believe is what I heard on Facebook. I can discount stumbling off the curb (he was in the center, two-way turn lane, not near a curb) or bending to tie his shoe.

My point is, we cannot often "know" another person is wrong. Nor do we dare be too sure we are right.

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