Alternative Facts

“Old too soon,
Smart too late.”
— Mike Tyson

I was on the phone with an old friend of mine when he remarked that people who wore masks to fight the Coronavirus were stupid.  I told him that I was wearing a mask.  That started a debate over the size of molecules and how porous cloth was.  We each recited facts and quotes from our favorite television news channels and the Internet.

Just the Facts

I argued with my friend that there are basic facts we all agree on.  For example, I told him, we all agree that a golf ball is round.  Otherwise we would be unable to communicate.

“Is a golf ball round?” he rejoined.  “Look closely and you will see it has little dimples in it.  And what if I called it a cube?  Would it still be round?”

What is the truth?

I grew up in a small town in the Midwest, went to church every Sunday, and learned about how George Washington could not tell a lie.  And how Abraham Lincoln walked a mile to return three cents change to a shopkeeper.

I became a lawyer, swore to live by the Code of Ethics, act as an officer of the court, show candor toward the tribunal, avoid even the appearance of impropriety, walk far from the edge of the slippery slope, and tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth (unless it was told to me in confidence by a client).

My word is my bond. I expect everyone else to do what they say and keep their agreements. If not I will turn my back on them, excommunicate them from my circle of friends, and sue them for breach of contract and specific performance.

Upon Reconsideration

But my conversation with my friend had me thinking about truth and lies. Have I been too harsh in my judgment of others? Too harsh in my sentences? Too intolerant of appeals? Too rejecting of rehabilitation?

The people I banned from my life had both good qualities and bad qualities. I had not spoken to my old friend for 30 years over a disagreement we had. However, when I was spending too many hours at work, overweight, and headed for a heart attack, it was my old friend who dragged me up to the track and made me join the track club.

People come with good and bad qualities – even you and I.  If you can find a way to protect yourself from the bad part, short of banishing them from your life, maybe you can continue to benefit from the good part.