Everything Here Is True

08 September 2003

This is a meta-entry; I’m going to weblog about weblogs.


What is truth?

I have this memory:

It’s the spring of 1985. I’m a sophomore in high school. With the rest of the FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America), I’m attending the state leadership conference at the Hilton in Portland. I have a Gumby. On a whim, I dangle Gumby from the window by a piece of string, causing him to hang precariously several stories above the ground. Then somebody in the room below opens a window, reaches out, and grabs my Gumby. I race down to confront the kidnapper, and it is in this way that I meet Angela Demitrakikes.

What’s wrong with this memory?

There is a distinct possibility that it was actually Angela who was doing the dangling, and that it was me who reached out and captured Gumby.

That’s how memory works for many people (myself included). An event becomes a story, and at some point the story attains a sort of mythic quality. The details become less important than the event itself. Who dangled Gumby? Does it matter? The key point of the story is that this is how Angela and I met; the question of who dangled Gumby is irrelevant. This story integrates with the larger mythos of my life, a mythos in which I eventually date Angela’s sister, Denise. (And, twenty years later, Denise stumbles upon my humble weblog and we’re able to reconnect after a decade of lost contact. See? Even that is not factual. It’s only eighteen years since the Gumby incident, but twenty years has a better feel, doesn’t it?)

Our book group selection this month is Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl. It’s a rather inconsequential book except for the author’s note, which is an absolute gem.

Storytelling, in my family, was highly prized. While my father walked home from work he rearranged the events of his day to make them more entertaining, and my mother could make a trip to the supermarket sound like an adventure. If this required minor adjustments of fact, nobody much minded: it was certainly preferable to boring your audience.

The good stories, of course, were repeated endlessly until they took on a life of their own. One of the stories I grew up on was a family legend about myself. Its point was to demonstrate my extraordinary maturity, even at the age of two. This is how my father told it:

“One Sunday in early fall we were sitting in our house in the country admiring the leaves ouside the picture window. Suddenly the telephone rang: it was Miriam’s mother in Cleveland, saying that her father was gravely ill. She had to go immediately, leaving me alone with Ruthie, who was to start nursery school the next day.

“I, of course, had to be in the office Monday morning. Worse, I had an appointment I could not cancel; I simply had to catch the 7:07 to New York. But the school didn’t open until eight, and although I phoned and phoned, I was unable to reach any of the teachers. I just didn’t know what to do.

“In the end, I did the only think I could think of. At seven I took Ruthie to the school, sat her on a swing outside and told her to tell the teachers when she came that she was Ruthie Reichl and she had come to go to school. She sat there, waving bravely as I drove off. I knew she’d be fine; even then she was very responsible.” He always ended by smiling proudly in my direction.

Nobody ever challenged this story. I certainly didn’t. It was not until I had a child of my own that I realized that nobody, not even my father, would leave a two-year-old alone on a swing in a strange place for an hour. Did he exaggerate my age? The length of time? Both? By then my father was no longer available for questions, but I am sure that if he had been he would have insisted that the story was true. For him it was.

This book is absolutely true in the family tradition. Everything here is true, but it may not be entirely factual. In some cases I have compressed events; in others I have made two people into one. I have occasionally embroidered.

I learned early that the most important thing in life is a good story.

To further belabor this point (because it’s an important one, perhaps the most important point in relation to personal narrative), here is a bit from the Simon and Garfunkel FAQ (yes, I read the whole thing) in which Art Garfunkel describes his contributions to the duo’s songwriting process.

A. I wrote some of the lines. Never took a writer’s credit because in
spirit it was really a small two percent factor. But there’s some of my
wanting in there. In Punky’s Dilemma, I wrote a verse. [Sings] Wish I
was an English muffin, ’bout to make the most out of a toaster, I’d ease
myself down, coming up brown.” I wrote [Sings] “I’m not talking about
your pig-tails, talking ’bout your sex appeal” [for] Baby Driver. I
wrote that.

Q. Didn’t you have any desire to have credit?

A. It does work that way and you don’t ask for credit when it’s happening because in truth, in spirit, Paul’s the writer. Yeah, I wrote a little of that stuff, but that’s just technically true. In spirit, and in essence of the truth, it doesn’t matter. So I don’t know, maybe I’m being foolish for not being technical. Yeah, I wrote a certain portion of the things

Art Garfunkel is a man who understands truth.

Personal narrative—and in this I include weblogs—is about truth, but it’s not necessarily about facts. It’s about what things mean, not about what they are.

Yesterday, for example, I wrote about sitting, contemplative, staring at the falling rain. At one point Simon came to the door and asked to be let inside, so I got up and let him in. Only that never happened. Kris let him in. Why didn’t I write that Kris let him in? It didn’t fit with the tone and the theme of the piece. I was writing a personal meditation about what it was like for me to watch the early autumn rain. I chose to leave out the fact that Kris kept interrupting me (Laughing!—look how bothered J.D. is at being interrupted while he’s writing!) with questions, that she let the cat inside. My version made for a better story. It was not factual, but it was true.

Kris has been aware of this dichotomy for some time. I think she was a little disconcerted the first time she noticed that I misattributed a quote or an action in my weblog, the first time she noticed a compression of events, but she didn’t need me to explain the necessity.

Tony Pierce, on his weblog, has adopted the tagline “nothing in here is true”. I think his intent is to acknowledge that the details of his stories have been embroidered. And you know what? I don’t care. He has one of the best weblogs on the internet. His stories are good, and that’s what is important. I don’t care a whit whether he’s changed a detail here or there.

I’m tempted to adopt the tagline “everything in here is true” because, you know, it really is.


It’s been several weeks since the foldedspace.org redesign. You’ve had some time to become accustomed to the changes. How do you feel about them? Which of the sidebar gizmos do you use? Which do you never touch? Do things still feel too crowded, too busy? Do you prefer the previous one-sidebar design?

There are certain components that I’m not inclined to remove:

  • The calendar/archives box has utility for infrequent visitors.
  • I use the search box to locate old topics.
  • The miscellaneous flotch section provides a place for me to share the neat links I glean from daily surfing without having to dump them in the main weblog area.

There are also some gizmos to which I am less attached:

  • The elsewhere section seems superfluous. I already list these sites on my links page (which is actually my default home page). Does anyone ever use these elsewhere links?
  • The greatest hits section is meant to be a starting point for new visitors, but maybe that could just be tucked into the “about this site” page.
  • I love the referrers log, but, as Dave has noted, it slows the load time of the page.

If you have any comments, I’d love to hear them.


Lastly, a couple of you have expressed an interest in starting weblogs of your own. I’d be happy to help with such an endeavor, and might actually be willing to host your weblogs either at foldedspace.org or at some yet-to-be-determined location.

The advantage of hosting other weblogs at foldedspace.org is that I have the know-how to then create a sort of composite page from which info about each weblog can be viewed (sort of a very-scaled-down ORblogs). The disadvantage is that I’m rather miserly about my hard drive space; my hosting plan only gives me 100mb, and I’m already chewing up 60% of that.

The advantage of hosting at another domain (either one I own or an entirely new domain) is that there would be plenty of space for whomever wanted to write. The disadvantage is that creating some sort of unified page is more difficult. (Actually, it may not be more difficult, but I don’t know how to do it off the top of my head, whereas I do know how to pull together multiple weblogs from a single hosting account.)

First things first: is anyone actually interested in starting a weblog?

Comments

On 08 September 2003 (10:59 AM),
Amy Jo said:

Yes.

On 08 September 2003 (01:11 PM),
Mom said:

I think your new format is fine. I haven’t in the past paid too much attention to your posted links (the flotch), but I noticed the Talking with Mom one today, and I don’t quite know how to take it — whether, according to the essay, I should aspire to be a disagreeable mother and live longer or a nice and agreeable mother and not have a very long life span. :-)

On 08 September 2003 (01:40 PM),
dowingba said:

I know exactly what you mean. For instance, when I wrote about telemarketers, and said that a telemarketer had called me to evaluate another telemarketer, well in fact they called my dad. But I just wrote that it happened to me. What’s the difference, right, if it makes for a better story. It didn’t happen the way I wrote it but it’s true nonetheless.

On 08 September 2003 (02:27 PM),
Dana said:

Interesting.

I wonder how many bloggers do this level of embellishment. I mean, in some sense it’s kind of like writing historical fiction. It’s a conscious blurring of the line between what has happened, and would make a good story.

When I tell stories, there are details I can’t remember. When I relate the stories, I tell them in an audience and intent-related manner. If I’m telling it just to entertain, well, I might have to recast some things, or make up/guess at some details. But I try to make it inconsequential ones, like what color something was. JDs example of Kris letting the cat in is exactly the kind of detail I WOULDN’T change, because it is an important detail to me. It’s the difference between me getting up and interacting with the cat and being in solitude otherwise, vs. me sitting on my butt while someone else does something nearby.

But that’s just me.

If and when I have a blog, I don’t intend to write ‘faction’. I would report things that actually happen to the best of my recollection and then comment on them.

But, then, I get my creative writing out in a different forum. A blog, for me, would be far more akin to a journal than it would be to a story, and thus I would use it to a different end. Instead of shuffling events to create mood and story, I would try to find mood and story in the events I already had. I would comment on my own thoughts and reactions to these events and create mood and story that way. Reporting/recording vs. authoring.

Both are, of course, perfectly reasonable approaches. But I’ve never seen a blog which explicitely addressed this sort of revisionism, and the purposes behind it.

I’ll be curious to see if you get feedback from other bloggers and if they, too, do this sort of quiet rewriting of the history of their lives.

On 08 September 2003 (03:48 PM),
dowingba said:

This debate is a substory in 1984. What is history anyway? Does history exist outside of our minds? The only documentation of who talked to that telemarketer is in my weblog. Therefore is it not fact? When I go to the video store I tell them my name is Glenn (my dad’s name) because I use his account. As far as the documentation at the video store, he walked in and rented a video. That’s the only documentation. Is this not fact, then?

On 08 September 2003 (04:28 PM),
Dave said:

In fact, you rented a video using your father’s account. Your father may be liable for that rental because he is the contracting party, but that does not change the physical reality that your father did not walk into the store and rent the video. You did. To say that your father rented the video is accurate on a certain level because his account was used and he’s ultimately liable for it, however, to say that your father rented the video when you physically walked in, picked it out and then paid for it does not represent the whole truth. The whole truth is that you rented the video using your father’s account. By omitting a portion of the actual state of affairs you are misleading your reader.

In contrast, JD’s story, in which he lets out the cat as opposed to an accurate depiction in which Kris lets out the cat, is a lie. It is a deliberate misstatement of the actual situation. JD told us something that wasn’t accurate and he told it in a way that would lead us to believe that his words accurately relayed the actual state of affairs.

Unlike fiction, in which the initial premise is that the writer is telling a created story and thus no one is deceived, the lie inherently has the reverse premise: This is reality, anything contrary is deception.

So what difference does it make? A very large one. We each make individual assessments regarding a person’s character and trustworthiness based upon our observations of that person. This includes their willingness to provide accurate information about both important and unimportant events and details. Knowing that a person embelishes their stories does a little in helping me make that assessment, but how then am I to distinguish when the person is fabricating a story or telling the truth? If I cannot tell your truth from your lie I will simply conclude that all of the things you say are potentially false and discount everything. In which case I am reading fiction.

To me, the aspect of the web log that makes it interesting is that it is a small piece of the writer’s reality and of their opinions on the things they see go on around them. If they wish to write fiction, that’s fine, but it should be marked as such. If I want to read fiction I pay good money to my local library’s tax base and the Bush administration.

On 08 September 2003 (04:30 PM),
J.D. said:

Let me be clear about something: when I state that truth is more important than the facts, I am not advocating a wholesale disregard for the material details. No way. What I’m trying to say—and what I hope my examples illustrated—is that there are times when a Gradgrindish slavish devotion to facts stands in the way of the truth. If Art Garfunkel insists on song-writing credit because, strictly speaking, he helped write a couple of lyrics, this stands in the way of the truth: that Paul Simon was the songwriter of the duo. If I insist on knowing the facts of the Gumby story before I’m willing to tell it, I rob myself of the truth of that story.

Dana: I wonder how many bloggers do this level of embellishment. I mean, in some sense it’s kind of like writing historical fiction. It’s a conscious blurring of the line between what has happened, and would make a good story.

Yes, this is true, although blurring seems a bit strong. To me, blurring distorts the truth. What I’m suggesting is that we all—consciously and unconsciously—forego the facts in favor of the truth when we construct our internal life stories. I suspect that most webloggers do this to some degree. Check out Gang Stories. I’ll bet that the facts in these stories are not completely accurate, but that the truth of each event has not been altered.

Dana: A blog, for me, would be far more akin to a journal than it would be to a story, and thus I would use it to a different end.

There is a time and a place for both. The evocation of a mood sometimes requires glossing over facts, or fudging them, in an attempt to seek the truth of the situation. I would say that in most of my entries (75%?) there is no alteration of the facts as I remember them. In that other 25%, however, compressing time, or misattributing dialogue, or altering some small detail, better serves my purpose.

I maintain that a weblog or a journal that reports only the facts does not arrive at the complete truth.

Dana: Both are, of course, perfectly reasonable approaches.

I agree!

For me, the most important thing about a person writing any sort of personal narrative, whether weblog or journal or memoir, is that the chosen forum is fully used as a means of self-expression. Don’t hold back! Share your hopes, dreams, desires! Use your voice! It seems a shame to have a weblog (or to keep a journal) and not to use the space to proclaim your individuality.

Chris: This debate is a substory in 1984 . What is history anyway? Does history exist outside of our minds?

Excellent questions (and an excellent book).

My belief that truth is more important than the facts might seem somewhat hypocritical considering my vocal criticsim of George W. Bush’s presidency for some of these very same issues. The difference, I think, is that I’m seeking personal truth, truth within my own personal narrative, and the facts over which I choose to gloss are, in the Big Picture, inconsequential, whereas the truth that Bush thinks he sees, and the details over which he glosses, is far weightier than “who let the cat in?”

On 08 September 2003 (04:40 PM),
Tammy said:

Oh mercy me! I hope my entire family reads this. I think I’ll print it out and send it to those who don’t have the internet! Mother did you read this? My family does not understand how writing works. They insist I’m twisting facts. Let me say here that a true bona fide, born writer (such as myself)(ahem) also tends to talk in the same manner in which they write; they tell the truth as they see it but that doesn’t mean that every i is dotted and every t is crossed! Jd I could just kiss your web page for posting this. Bless you young man! I feel that, alas, I am very misunderstood in my family because of this very issue! I really don’t think people who are factual can even comprehend what we are saying. To them we are lying, pure and simple! End of story! But I guess there’s really nothing that can be done about it. All highly intellectual people are misunderstood in some way so I will just bear my cross and put up with the injustice of the whole situation.. Sigh

And yes! I want a weblog! Yes, yes, yes! Did I say yes? Well I meant to. So I’ll just say it in case. YES!

On 08 September 2003 (04:43 PM),
J.D. said:

Re: Dave’s comments

Ouch! You cut to the quick, my friend! :)

Though I disagree with you, I see your point.

To me, the aspect of the web log that makes it interesting is that it is a small piece of the writer’s reality and of their opinions on the things they see go on around them. If they wish to write fiction, that’s fine, but it should be marked as such.

Perhaps you’ve missed my point. Sometimes the “small piece of the writer’s reality” is best represented not by a strict adherence to the facts, but by a judicious restructuring of them. I am not advocating lying (nor do I consider “judicious restructuring of the facts” to be lying), not am I advocating a wholesale disregard for details. If I were to misrepresent facts in order to paint an unfair picture of someone or to otherwise obscure reality, then my alteration of the details would not be leading toward truth but toward something entirely different. I guess I’m saying that it’s okay to lie about the little things if it helps the story, but to lie about the big things is a deliberate obfuscation of the truth.

“But it’s only a difference of degree!” you might protest, and you’d be right.

“How does one know where to draw the line?” you might demand, and I could not give you an answer.

All I know is truth.

On 08 September 2003 (04:51 PM),
Tammy said:

In reading daves response it becomes apparent why he has chosen law as his profession. He is meticulous in arguing every little point. Everything is almost in outline form! He does not leave i’s undotted and t’s uncrossed and yet…. I always understood that to be a good lawyer one had to be a good liar. Are there not times in your practice, Dave, that you have to gloss over the truth, or reshape a story just a little to win your case? This is all we are doing; just reshaping the events a little to make it come out right in the end.

On 08 September 2003 (04:52 PM),
Dave said:

Well, I suppose that this depends on your definition of truth, doesn’t it? My definition of truth is: An accurate depiction of a factual situation or state of affairs with accurate contextual details sufficient to allow the reader or listener to form an accurate image of the situation or state of affairs.

Simply put, any image of the state of affairs created by what JD describes is not accurate if it states that he lets out the cat when in fact, Kris let out the cat. My image is of JD letting out the cat, not Kris. Although this statement may be unimportant to the image the JD thinks he is trying to create, if it were unimportant, why did he include it? Answer: he intended for it to be included in the mental image that he was intending us to construct.

In contrast, Art Garfunkel’s decision to not seek songwriting credit for songs to which he contributed a certain amount of the lyrics, while it prevents me from obtaining an accurate picture of who wrote a particular song, he is omitting that information because he did not deem it worthwhile to include in the image that was being created. In it’s own way, this is nearly as deceptive as JD’s statement because it prevents an accurate picture from being formed. In his instance, however, the amount of information that would need to be supplied may make the issue more trouble than it’s worth, ie, “Art Garfunkel receives writing credit for the second line of the second stanza” on a record label may be somewhat counterproductive. But to his credit, he’s not saying that he wrote it when in fact Paul Simon wrote it. Big difference.

On 08 September 2003 (05:01 PM),
Dave said:

The timing of the posts makes it look as though I was responding to Tammy’s post (which I wasn’t). Tammy, there are times in my practice when there are things that are uncomfortable to discuss or that beg to be altered. However, I cannot misrepresent or deceive and still remain ethically true to my profession or my oath. In fact, there have been several attorneys lately who were disciplined as a result of misrepresenting facts and the situation created such a furor that we had to amend the disciplinary rules to allow DA’s to advise undercover cops because the very practice of having undercover cops is inherently a misrepresentation. To have the lawyer participate in that misrepresentation was (according to the Oregon Supreme Court) unethical.

As to JD’s point, it was not my intention to be cutting, but …JD: Perhaps you’ve missed my point. Sometimes the “small piece of the writer’s reality” is best represented not by a strict adherence to the facts, but by a judicious restructuring of them. Wouldn’t that then be a piece of their fantasy, of what they wish were the case? The reality is that Kris let out the cat, not you. What you are arguing is that there is no truth other than a subjective reality. That may be true for certain things, for example, does George Bush really believe that there are WMD’s in Iraq? He might, then again, he might not. I think that he probably does believe that. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean that there actually are any anymore than George Bush thinking that JD let the cat out makes it so.

On 08 September 2003 (05:17 PM),
J.D. said:

I thing we’ve arrived at a point of semantics. For Dave, and others, truth is strict adherence to the facts. And in a sense they are correct. But to me truth transcends the details.

Being true to the details may result in a distortion of the Big Picture. Conversely, judiciuos alteration of the facts may produce a truer representation of reality.

It all depends on which is most important to you.

The truth of my entry yesterday was that I was attempting isolate myself, to revel in the early autumn rainstorm. That was my truth, and to that end it was best conveyed by removing Kris from the story.

Dave’s truth, and Dana’s, does not leave room for such alterations.

Is my version fantasy? Perhaps. Is it fiction? Perhaps. Is it a lie? Perhaps. Does it obscure the truth of what I experienced? Not at all. This is what personal narrative is all about.

On 08 September 2003 (06:00 PM),
Dana said:

Quote the first:

blurring seems a bit strong. To me, blurring distorts the truth. What I’m suggesting is that we all�consciously and unconsciously�forego the facts in favor of the truth when we construct our internal life stories.

Quote the second:

The difference, I think, is that I’m seeking personal truth, truth within my own personal narrative, and the facts over which I choose to gloss are, in the Big Picture, inconsequential,

JD, I actually think you are misunderstanding Dave and I, not the other way around. You are using a very personal and idiosyncratic definition of ‘true’ and attempting to assert that this is a valid, reasonable universal interpretation.

And I’m not just being semantic. You make that accusation a lot when we get to these topics, and I almost always am trying to make the very same point. It is, basically, an epistimelogical point, not a semantic one. The fact that you erroneously perceive it as a semantic one is part of what I’m always trying to point out.

I would argue that you are in fact not seeking truth so much as you are constructing a story you feel has or symbolizes truth. You alter and fudge details you deem inconsequential (just as George Bush is altering and fudging details he deems inconsequential) in an effort to evoke and capture a particular tone, evoke a particular emotion, or portray a certain observation, belief, or insight. Different in scale and effect, perhaps, but not different in actual practice.

There is nothing wrong with this. But it is called writing fiction. That’s not to say that it’s unimportant, or unworthy, or even wrong. But it isn’t the same thing as a journal.

The big problem that I (and, I suspect, Dave) have with this is that you are presenting fiction without making this point clear (except in the form of this particular entry). And, to top matters off, instead of fictionalizing your cast of characters, you end up presenting a fictionalized version of your own life.

This is in fact shades of 1984, as well as The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and The Fisher King, for that matter. Heck, there’s even echoes of this in later Heinlein and some of Moorcock’s more recent works.

By not being clear about having done this, and by consciously fictionalizing your own life in this way, you have blurred the boundary between reporting and storytelling.

You can report things factually and still generate story. You can talk about how actual factual events make you feel, what memories they stir up in you, and what conversations or actions they lead to. You can construct meaning and symbolism without resorting to reinterpretation of events.

The big difference, however, is that you may not be able to construct the specific meaning and symbolism you WANT to out of any random collection of events.

Again, I’m trying to differentiate between fiction and reporting/journaling/editorializing. It’s effectively the same as our frequent communication vs. ‘bad writing style’ arguments. :)

This doesn’t mean I’m going to stop reading your blog or anything. But I think you need to think about what you’re doing a bit more carefully. I think you’re being a bit blase about this…

On 08 September 2003 (07:30 PM),
Tammy said:

So would you all feel better if he adopted the tag line “nothing in here is true” ? Maybe thats all you need JD. Just some little discredit somewhere on your blog. When I write I can’t say as I ever purposely write something that isn’t so but others who have experienced the event with me claim that I have distorted the reality of it. That annoys me no end. Because my reality is my reality. It can’t be changed. But putting all that aside let me add, in the writers world Jd is not wrong. Non fictional works are never purely truth. It is impossible for them to be all truth. If Jd were to write his biography and he said he dangled gumby from the window and later it was proven someone else dangled gumby from the window, nobody would say that the entire book had to be moved from the nonfiction section of the library to the fictional section. Get real guys. You’re really sparring with words here. His book would still be considered a biography of his life. There is a true phrase, or whatever you want to call it, that circulates among the writers world and that is a little something called a “writers license”. All writers use it to help their stories along. It’s a little naive to believe every word you read in a nonfiction book is absolute truth.

On 08 September 2003 (08:00 PM),
mac said:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Write whatever the heck you wanna write…If people don’t like it, then they don’t have to read it! You don’t need any disclaimers or caveats or explanations; your blog is your creation to do with what you see fit!

On 08 September 2003 (08:09 PM),
J.D. said:

I actually think you are misunderstanding Dave and I, not the other way around. You are using a very personal and idiosyncratic definition of ‘true’ and attempting to assert that this is a valid, reasonable universal interpretation.

Agreed. Perhaps I am the one who fails to understand your position. Moreover, perhaps I am the one who is semantically incorrect when I co-opt the word ‘truth’ to represent a larger definition than it can actually encompass (even when opting for broad connotations rather than strict denotations). I don’t recall, however, having asserted that this was a universal interpretation.

I would argue that you are in fact not seeking truth so much as you are constructing a story you feel has or symbolizes truth.

Hm. I thought that was exactly my point, actually. Well “constructing” is, again, a word that’s stronger than I would choose, but it’s essentially correct.

There is nothing wrong with this. But it is called writing fiction. That’s not to say that it’s unimportant, or unworthy, or even wrong. But it isn’t the same thing as a journal.

Ah, and here I disagree. In story-telling there are two extremes: the wholly imagined and the wholly factual. The one, we can agree, can be classfied as fictional. The other is journalism. Between these two extremes is an entire continuum of story-telling. Working from the journalistic side, ther is travel writing, which contains elements of the subjective, there is historical fiction, which has a basis in fact (and to which, I suspect, you would now, perhaps correctly, ascribe the contents of this weblog), there is fiction which uses as its setting historical events (but which is not properly historical fiction), etc. etc. until we reach pure fantasy like The Lord of the Rings.

Your contention, if I understand correctly, is that personal journals (in which you once categorized this weblog) must strictly adhere to the factual extreme of the continuum. I disagree.

First of all, I believe that personal journals by their very nature can never adhere strictly to the factual side of the continuum. They are subjective. They are filled with one person’s version of the truth. Public journals are further distorted. I speak from experience when I say that reporting of the complete truth in a public journal is a much more speculative practice than doctoring certain facts; it can lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings. Why not leave these potential trouble spots out of the public journal then? Sometimes the trouble spots are important to the writer and ought to be shared. In these circumstances it is useful—and to my mind perfectly acceptable—to alleviate possible problems by folding multiple people or events into one. The “truth” (as I will continue to call it, despite its apparent lack of aptness) remains even if the facts do not.

We further disagree on the moral implications of glossing over facts in a weblog. We disagree over the definition of “consequential”. To you, I think, nearly any change to the facts is consequential. To me, things like “who let the cat in?” are not.

Another question then is: have I misreprented the nature or purpose of this forum? I hope not. I have proclaimed it a public journal, it’s true, but I’ve also made it known that this is a place in which I intend to practice my writing skills. Should I make it clear when a particular “fact” is not actually a fact? I don’t think it’s necessary. As I said previously, only about a quarter of my entries contain any kind of departure from reality, and the differences are usually small and, to my mind, inconsequential: Kris let the cat in, not me; I combine two separate spells of log-sitting into one; I say that I as listening to Christmas carols today when I was actually listening to them yesterday.

I’m not saying that anyone has to like the way I write. I’ve never claimed that it’s universally acceptable. I’m saying that I choose, from time-to-time, to gloss over certain facts in order to better represent the “truth”. I do it, and others do it, too. Perhaps I should include a Ruth Reichl-esque disclaimer on the “about this site” page. Perhaps I ought to proclaim “nothing in here is true”, as Tony Pierce does. I don’t think it’s necessary.

By not being clear about having done this, and by consciously fictionalizing your own life in this way, you have blurred the boundary between reporting and storytelling.

I am not alone. (And this is in no way meant to imply that this behavior is universal.) And I don’t think that it’s wrong.

I think you need to think about what you’re doing a bit more carefully. I think you’re being a bit blase about this…

And it is this final statement with which I most strongly disagree. I’m sorry that I seem blasé—it’s not the case. I simply disagree with you. You think that I am too casual about occasional disregard for facts; I think that you are severely over-reacting. You are placing too much emphasis on something which means very, very little.

This entry was not meant to be some shocking confessional, though it apparently has come off as that for some. I meant to explore the idea of truth: what is truth? In what ways is it related to facts? It sounds to me as if you and Dave believe that truth, in a larger, symbolic sense, can only be derived from the facts. This strikes me as very Gradgrindian, and I mean that in a negative way. It demonstrates a certain lack of imagination. Conversely, I suspect that you believe my nonchalance with regard to the facts betrays some sort of shocking naivetée or worse, willful deception of myself and others.

And, to top matters off, instead of fictionalizing your cast of characters, you end up presenting a fictionalized version of your own life.

If any deviation from fact makes for fiction then, yes, this is a fictionalized version of my life. But so then are many (not all) autobiographies and purported histories.

On 08 September 2003 (08:17 PM),
dowingba said:

If I were to tell you about my walk to work yesterday morning, would I be lying if I left out the fact that there was grass on each lawn along the way? If I say “the sky was bright blue”, am I lying because in fact the sky was sky blue. If I write about something bad that happened, and I say “it felt like my heart fell out of my chest”, am I lying because, obviously it didn’t feel like that at all?

Dave, not to be too argumentative and meticulous, but nowhere on my weblog (or on JD’s, I don’t think) does it state that everything is true.

On 08 September 2003 (09:56 PM),
dowingba said:

P.S. Unless you count the title to this post “Everything Here is True”…

On 08 September 2003 (10:30 PM),
Dana said:

JD: You think that I am too casual about occasional disregard for facts; I think that you are severely over-reacting. You are placing too much emphasis on something which means very, very little [in JD’s opinion -DEJ].

I’m not over-reacting, JD. You are misunderstanding me again, although it’s a subtle misunderstanding. There are different modes of writing. Make it clear which one you’re using.

Dana: By not being clear about having done this, and by consciously fictionalizing your own life in this way, you have blurred the boundary between reporting and storytelling.

JD: I am not alone. (And this is in no way meant to imply that this behavior is universal.) And I don’t think that it’s wrong.

What makes it wrong in my mind is not being clear that this blog is semi-fictionalized. I have no issue with your writing in this fashion.

I agree with Mac — write whatever you want, and we will read or not as consumers.

But be clear about what you are writing.

Yes, historical fiction is somewhere between factual reporting and works imagined whole by their author. You will note that they are both in the Fiction section of the library.

And I’m not saying you have to list exhaustively the number of trees you walk by, or how many rocks there are in the street, or how many cars pass you to be ‘factual’. If you don’t remember something, you are free to say, “A car passed on the right. I don’t recall the color,” or even to leave it at “A car passed me.” But if it’s not important that a car passed, you can of course drop it.

You can be factual without being exhaustive. You can be honestly innaccurate by admiting when your memory is faulty. You can still create meaning and JD’s ‘truth’ (what I would label symbolism, or inner, hidden, deeper, meaning) without actually distorting events by focusing more on feelings and internal monologue. Or by editorializing about the accurate facts.

But note that I’m not saying you can’t edit for sensitive content. If you do, try and be clear that you are doing so.

I’m not demanding an editorial change (nor am I indignant) because you write this way. But I do want truth in advertising. At the very least, tell me if I’m reading truth or fiction.

Just because lots of other people do it, doesn’t make it good form. By making it a publicly readable journal, closely modeled after your own life, you imply that it is a more or less acurate depiction of events to the best of your recollection. This is in fact not the case, and I get the impression it has never really been your intent. Have the courtesy to make it plain that this is a lightly fictionalized account of your day-to-day life and I will be happy. And make it prominent enough to be clear to a casual browser.

Perhaps this is one of those Unstated Assumptions of blogs, but if so it is not an assumption that I have ever made. I gather Dave didn’t, either. And it sounds like Kris found it at least note-worthy. None of us are idiots. I think you ought to at least consider why we think this worthy of comment.

On 08 September 2003 (11:32 PM),
Dana said:

I can’t let it go.

The truth of my entry yesterday was that I was attempting isolate myself, to revel in the early autumn rainstorm. That was my truth, and to that end it was best conveyed by removing Kris from the story.

This is an editorial choice, of course. But again, when you say this was your truth, what you are really saying is “this was what the day signified for me,” or perhaps, “this was my intent for the day.”

For you, presenting that interpretation of events outweighs your desire to be accurate, and so you adjust the facts you report to reflect your intent.

You said a couple of times that I am using ‘stronger’ words than you would to describe this. That’s because we have a very fundamental difference of opinion on epistemilogical (gosh, I wish I could spell that) topics.

What I see is a fictionalization of a real event — an excercise of authorial intent. Yes, it’s a minor act. It’s still an act.

You could have achieved the effect in ways that didn’t require you to change the actual facts. But then you move out of the fictionalized mode of writing. And you don’t seem to like to do that.

There’s nothing wrong with that. But, as I said just above, make it clear.

Dave’s truth, and Dana’s, does not leave room for such alterations.

Not at all. Truth would be that Kris let the cat in. The fact that the day symbolized or emboddied or involved a desire to isolate yourself is not ‘truth’. It is an additional fact, but a fact about your internal mental state and/or your interpretation of events. There are ways to communicate that without using the tools of fiction. Again, you don’t have to use them, but then tell me that you aren’t.

Is my version fantasy? Perhaps.

Yes.

Is it fiction? Perhaps.

Yes.

Is it a lie? Perhaps.

Yes.

Does it obscure the truth of what I experienced? Not at all. This is what personal narrative is all about [In JD’s opinion –DEJ].

Actually, it does. The truth of what you experienced is that Kris let the cat in.

But it’s also true that the interruption didn’t constitute a nullification of your desire to be (or feelings of being) isolated.

If you wanted to, you could use different techniques to include that additional bit of context.

Again, it’s not the manner in which you write that I’m quibbling about, it’s just the fact that you are fictionalizing things when there is an implication that you are not.

On 08 September 2003 (11:37 PM),
Virginia said:

Yes, Tammy, I have read every word of this entry.
I tend to agree with Dave. Also I think Dana has a good point when he says he would try to find mood and story in the events.

It depends on how you view life. I think most every event has a mood and a story, and a good writer can put this into words without altering the event or story.

I also think, that there was no harm done to Kris or J.D. by saying who, or, who did not let out the cat. When an author distroys a persons character because of the way they percieve the person out of anger or jealousy, etc. Then I think it is plain disgusting, and if I sense that in a story, the story goes in the fire.

I might add too that discriptive comments like, I was so scared my heart stopped a full minute, or she is so beautiful I could look at her forever. Everyone knows those remarks are not facts, only discriptive phrases. Even then one should be careful.

I agree with Mac, that a person is free to write what they please on their own web-log, one is free to read it or to not read it.

I’ll continue to read your posts J.D. and next time I will realize Kris let out (or in) the cat.

On 08 September 2003 (11:44 PM),
J.D. said:

As a result of today’s discussion, I’ve done reading (on the internet) regarding memoir, autobiography, and personal narrative. To summarize what I’ve learned:

  1. Memoirs, autobiography, and personal narrative are recollections of events. Mostly, they are factual.
  2. In cases where the author cannot remember a detail precisely or his viewpoint is clouded by emotion, his view of the events ought to be accepted as true. For him.
  3. Time-compression and character-consolidation can and do occur, but they’re not to be treated lightly.
  4. Most importantly, the author must be clear what ground rules she is using. If she has embroidered, she must tell the reader that this is the case. Failure to do so is a breach of an implied pact.

I have unwittingly violated this final requirement, and for that I apologize. I’ll fix the about this site page to reflect the fact that occasionally some details in my entries are not exactly as the occurred.

Here are some of the more interesting bits I’ve found in my research:

There is an interesting series of Salon articles regarding truth in memoir. (To view them, you must either subscribe to Salon or obtain a free one-day pass by watching an advertisement.)

  • Confessons of a Memoirist: Acclaimed writer Vivian Gornick admits fudging the facts to a roomful of journalists. Did she exercise creative license or betray her readers?
  • A Memoirist Defends Her Words: “A response to critics who object to the use of composite characters in my writing.”
  • Letters: What is a memoir anyway? Readers respond to Vivian Gornick’s defense of her work.
  • “You, as a reader, are a dope.” Book critic Maureen Corrigan weighs in on Vivian Gornick’s essay about using composite characters in memoir writing.

From The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory by J.A. Cuddon:

An autobiography may be largely fictional. Few can recall clear details of their early life and are therefore dependent on other people’s impressions, of necessity equally unreliable. Morever, everyone tends to remember what he wants to remember. Disagreeable facts are sometimes glossed over or repressed…

From Memories and Memoirs:

Often students worry about the validity of their memories. Each person has his or her own story to tell with a point of view unlike anyone else. A memoir is not a factual recitation of history, though history is part of the story; it is a recollection, a musing and merging of images, dreams, reflections about your life, and the life of those you have loved and who have loved you.

From Journal and Memoir Writing at Bard’s Ink:

Is It Truth?

Not everyone sees things in the same light. People remember something that happens to them differently, parts will be forgotten or skewed in a different way.

It is a well know fact that when a robbery happens or a horrific car accident the eyewitnesses tell different stories. It’s not that they are wrong but their brain saw it in a certain way.

Mimi Schwartz in the July 2000 Writer’s Digest Special You Can Write Your Life Story in her article, “8 Secrets to Memoir Success”, says: “It is those imaginative leaps that lead beyond the facts to the emotional truth of memory and what it means figuratively, not only literally.

A memoirist must take these leaps. Sometimes factual and emotional truth clash, causing others to say, “That’s not what happened at all!”

A journal article entitled Memory, Autobiography, History explores this topic in-depth (midway through the article), and not always in a manner sympathetic to my viewpoint.

Finally, from Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art comes this passage which effectively examines both sides of the debate:

Students often struggle to define the boundary between memoir and autobiography, or memoir and travel writing, and sometimes wonder which personal essays are memoirs, but they rarely ask about the difference between memoir and fiction, perhaps because it seems obvious that one is true and the other made up. But the more I think about memoir, and thus about truth, the less obvious—and the more important—that distinction becomes. After all, not everything in a memoir is true: who can remember the exact dialogue that took place at breakfast forty years ago? And if you can make up dialogue, change the name and hair color of a character to protect the privacy of the living, or even—as some memoirists do—reorder events to make the story work better, how is that different from fiction?

In memoir, the author stands behind her story saying to the world: this happened; this is true. What is important about this assertion is that it has an effect on the reader—he reads it believing it to be a true story, which in turn requires the writer to be an unflinchingly reliable narrator. In fiction, a story may be skillfully designed to sound like a true story told in the first person by a fictional character (who may be a quite unreliable narrator), but if the writer presents it as fiction, the reader will usually perceive it as fiction. Readers tend to look for, even to assume, the autobiographical in fiction, but they also recognize the writer’s attempt to fictionalize, just as they recognize in memoir the central commitment not to fictionalize .

In this way, when you name what you write memoir or fiction, you enter into a contract with the reader. You say “this is true,” or you say “this is imaginary.” And if you are going to honor that contract, your raw material as a memoirist can only be what you have actually experienced. It is up to you to decide how imaginatively you transform the known facts—exactly how far you allow yourself to go to fill in the memory gaps. But whatever you decide about that, you must remain limited by your experience, unless you turn to fiction, in which you can, of course, embrace people, places, and events you have never personally known. While imagination certainly plays a role in both kinds of writing, the application of it in memoir is circumscribed by the facts, while in fiction it is circumscribed by what the reader will believe. These very different stages for the imagination allow recognizably different plays to be acted out on them.

You may interpret this contract with the reader differently from other writers, perhaps feeling freer to tamper with the details or choosing to invent more of the dialogue. Some memoirists, like Fern Kupfer in Before and After Zachariah, conflate several characters into one composite character and acknowledge in the book what they have done. Others reorder events into a different chronology or, like Deborah Tall in The Island of the White Cow, compress several years into one. (For some reason, I feel freer to mess with time than with people.) But although there is room for disagreement about many of these choices, you will gain little of value if you end up abusing the reader’s trust. Making up a “better ending” to your story, while presenting it as true, or, worse still, inventing a whole piece of your life because it makes a good memoir, will often backfire. Readers may initially believe you if your deceptions are clever, but the more successful you are as a writer, the more likely it is that you will eventually be caught. Lillian Hellman’s acclaimed “memoir,” Pentimento , (later made into the film Julia) caught the public’s imagination and was highly acclaimed, but later turned out to be more or less untrue: Hellman had never even met the real-life Julia. Had she lived to produce more memoirs, her disillusioned readers would have been less willing to place their trust in her words. In any case, her reputation undoubtedly suffered.

Even if no one ever finds out that you tampered with the facts, your memoir will suffer if you are dishonest. It is very difficult to be both candid and deceptive at the same time, and a memoir does need to be candid. Tampering with the truth will lead you to writing a bit too carefully—which in turn will rob your style of the ease that goes with honesty. Dishonest writing is very often mediocre writing. Especially when written in the first person, purporting to be true, it has a faint odor of prevarication about it. It’s the kind of writing that leaves some of its readers with a nagging doubt: What exactly was it I didn’t believe?

Whew!

Now I need to get some sleep…

On 08 September 2003 (11:56 PM),
Dana said:

Heavy stuff.

This was an excellent discussion, though.

On 09 September 2003 (08:37 AM),
Dave said:

JD:
Only in men’s imagination does every truth find an effective and undeniable existence. Imagination, not invention, is the supreme master of art as life.
Joseph Conrad, A Personal Record, ch. 1.

Dave/Dana
When men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas- that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Abrams v. United States (1919)

What if there was no cat?

On 09 September 2003 (09:30 AM),
mart said:

i’m not buying it guys. JD, you can dig up 2 tons of material if you like on what other people think memoir vs autobiography, etc means, but the bottom line is the writer is free to do whatever they want for whatever reason and whenever, without regard for the reader.

readers can’t expect you to follow certain rules anymore than you can expect them to follow rules when processing what you’ve written. they bring all sorts of historical baggage with them to a text too. and that baggage motivates them to ferret out a certain “personal” meaning or truth in texts that suits them, in much the same way that you JD twist reality to suit your “truth”.

and this totally avoids the issue of what “truth” is anyway. many schools of theory/philosophy would take issue with the notion that just because kris let in the cat, that’s what really happened. this might have been JD’s original question (i forget), but doesn’t remembering a certain thing actually give that memory life, truth, validation? and therefore is there any objective truth at all or are there just billions of subjective ones? and why should we place more importance on a simple physical truth, than a glorious creative truth?

it might also be worth pointing out that literary forms are constantly evolving with respect to what they represent to people as a whole. news reportage in the late 19th century was a whole different ballgame than it is today. it blended editorialising with factual reporting much more than we do today. blogs have only been around a short time, but clearly they’ve gone through transformation w/r/t what they mean to certain people. i say make the reader do the work of determining that function, rather than having every writer adhere to some silly set of rules or, worse yet, declare their intentions with every step.

and virginia? why exactly are you pitching stories into fires? i hope that was you exercising authorial license and distorting “truth” a bit. if not, we gave that sort of behavior up some time ago. maybe find a library or shelter and donate the book instead.

On 09 September 2003 (11:34 AM),
Virginia said:

My apopogies to Mart. I don’t feel like I have thrown that many stories into the fire. And it has probably been a few years since that happened.
With a fireplace, it is pretty easy to destroy the story rather than remember to find it later, and do someting more constructive with it. I was also taught that if I could not read it, I should not pass it on for others to read.

I can well remember my Dad buying books from the thrift store in Canby with the intent of burning them.
They were books that he felt did not teach the truth, therefore he bought them so they would not mislead someone else. (I realize this is a debaitable topic, and probably not a wholesome one)

I will add this I am a lover of good books. I once had a library in my home that held close to 1500 volumns and along with the shelves in the living room and else where I owned over 3,000 books.

I could go on about my love of books but this poor weblog is already 16 pages long, and if Tammy is going to copy it for her family it shouldn’t get too much longer. She is going to be spending a lot on postage because she has 8 brothers and sisters that do not have internet

On 09 September 2003 (12:09 PM),
steven said:

JD, I’m glad you did the ‘homework’ to look up those Salon articles – else I was going to do so, having just heard about the Salon bru-ha-ha on NPR last week (or was it the week before – or is that even important? probably not, making this parenthetical run-on completely irrelevant and thus just annoying).

On 09 September 2003 (12:14 PM),
Dana said:

Mart [R]eaders can’t expect you to follow certain rules anymore than you can expect them to follow rules when processing what you’ve written. they bring all sorts of historical baggage with them to a text too. and that baggage motivates them to ferret out a certain “personal” meaning or truth in texts that suits them, in much the same way that you JD twist reality to suit your “truth”.

I think you are both correct and incorrect in this.

Yes, a writer can write whatever and however she damn well pleases (to wit, Joyce’s Ulysses).

And yes, a reader can read whatever she wants into a text.

However, there are conventions that have built up over time in writing and reading, just as in conversation. These conventions are societal and cultural, much like opening doors for people, asking ‘how are you?’ when you don’t really care, and table manners. By violating these conventions you risk alienating your reader, being inaccessable, or outright misleading her.

If you don’t care about those things, then fine. But you are removing yourself from ‘polite’ society. It’s kind of like the guy who never bathes. Obviously, he’s free to do that if he really wants to, but the rest of us are free to avoid sitting next to him on the bus, too. He’s not being polite to us, and we’ll probably ignore him.

Kind of like what Dave’s quote mentions about the marketplace of ideas, which comes straight from Mill (as all you WU Grads out there should remember from World Views =) ).

On 09 September 2003 (12:36 PM),
Dana said:

You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat. — Albert Einstein, when asked to explain wireless radio

Is there no cat? Well, that depends on what you think about Truth…

Wikipedia on Epistemology (excellent)

Epistemology of Religion

Introduction to Epistemology

Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s entry on Epistemology

Classical Epistemology (Copernicus through the German Revolution)

Dictionary of Philosophy’s Epistemology entry

Web Epistemology (The Web as Distributed Knowledge)

Epistemology and Modern Physics

Social Epistemology

Origin of Epistemology and the Scientific Method

Epistemology of Science

Magritte’s commentary on this… (I tried to actually embed this image into the comment, but it didn’t work, so follow the link instead….)

On 09 September 2003 (12:58 PM),
mart said:

ok. so i have a problem with how rationalist/scientific some of your worldviews seem to be.

if we take for example JD’s cat incident…

1. obviously there was a physical occurence at some point in the universe of this event. and it is this one which you you seem to be hung up on.

2. this physical event was transmuted inside JD’s head into a different kind of event. and then he chose to write about it.

now for me both types of events are equally important. both are part and parcel of the subatomic soup we’re floating around in (if you really need that scientific bent), one occuring external to JD’s skull, the other internal. so why is it that you guys are so interested only in the aspects of events occuring EXTERNAL to JD? we all come here daily to lap up his take on stuff (as filtered and processed through his senses) but ONLY if he’s dealing with rational, touchable, trustable, verifiable physical events from the universe?

On 09 September 2003 (01:04 PM),
Dana said:

Mart, all I ask is that he tell me if he’s dealing with the reality in his head or if he’s telling me about the reality outside his head, as he remembers and/or perceives it.

That’s it. Writers can write however they want. Just try and make it clear which mode of writing (Journalistic, Scientific, Rhetoric, Fiction, or whatever) you are using.

You’ll note that JD has put a sort of disclaimer waaaay up at the top on the left. :)

If I was him, I’d include perhaps a small comment on his “about this blog” page, with a reference to this very entry, too (if he hasn’t already — I haven’t checked).

But that’s just me.

On 09 September 2003 (01:05 PM),
Virginia said:

Dave, I can’t resist….Kris let the cat in, not out…

On 09 September 2003 (01:07 PM),
dowingba said:

I think that it’s impossible to tell the truth, whole truth, and nothing but the truth, when writing about yourself. Creative license is the best term for it. I want to write about myself but I want it to be interesting; and unfortunately facts have to be misconstrued on occasion. People’s memories become overdramatic, as a rule, any way.

I remember being stuck outside in a forest during a tornado once. In my memory I hid under a makeshift bench made of logs and cowered as rocks flung against my backpack and I readied myself to die. What really happened? I hid under some logs and a rock or two hit me. Afterwards I went home and ate cereal and acted like nothing happened. I probably thought I would die but who knows; it was years ago. In my memory though, my life flashed before my eyes and I made a pact with God to let me live and a whole barrel of BS. Also the image of me desperately trying to crawl out of the forest, scratching across the ground as the winds push me back into my prison flashes through my mind. Nope, never happened. But when I think about the ordeal, that’s what I remember. If I then write about it, as fact, is it not true? It’s how I remember it, even though I know it’s a lie. I’m writing down my memories, so it’s true, right?

On 09 September 2003 (01:16 PM),
J.D. said:

Well, I’ve had some time to cogitate upon this today (as I made the Costco trip—I bought nothing for myself!), and the disclaimer at the upper left is going away. There will be a much longer, more specific disclaimer in the “about this site” section, but that’s the only disclaimer I’m going to add.

Just to be clear: I’m under the impression that the only complaint the Literalists (Dana, Dave, Virginia) with my distortion of truth is the deliberate alteration of fact. Is this correct? You’ve explicitly stated that you consider lies of omission acceptable.

But what’s your stance on distorted memories like the ones which dowingba describes? Like the Gumby memory, in which I cannot be sure who was the dangler and who the grabber?

On 09 September 2003 (01:20 PM),
Dana said:

Downigba,

Well, no, it’s not true. What you just wrote is true — you remember it one way, but you know it happened differently. That is the truth.

Now, if you related it the way you remember it, it’s a better story. Note the word ‘story’. It is a fiction you have authored for a purpose. It’s not a description of the event as you know, remember, and believe it to be. You know you are crafting your retelling to enhance the drama. You are embellishing the event as you know it to have happened to make it more interesting to others.

I think it’s very interesting that so many people here seem to feel that there is little or no harm in the glossing over of facts in favor of greater drama and excitement without disclosure. I wonder why?

On 09 September 2003 (01:22 PM),
mart said:

i don’t believe there’s a difference between those 2 things. (or to put it in the words of a friend: how does he know which is which?)

quoth dana: Mart, all I ask is that he tell me if he’s dealing with the reality in his head or if he’s telling me about the reality outside his head, as he remembers and/or perceives it.

On 09 September 2003 (01:39 PM),
J.D. said:

I can’t keep up with my own weblog anymore. :(

I think it’s very interesting that so many people here seem to feel that there is little or no harm in the glossing over of facts in favor of greater drama and excitement without disclosure. I wonder why?

Well, I think the “why?” was the entire point of my original post.

And I don’t think that people are in favor of glossing over facts to add drama or excitement. Maybe so, but that’s not what I’m advocating. I’m saying that sometimes glossing over the facts is an aid at attaining the larger truth.

You said earlier that we’re not arguing about semantics but about epistemology. I don’t think that’s true. I think we’re arguing about semantics. I think my word choice was poor, and that I ought to have selected something else—”meaning”, “experience”, whatever—to represent the Big Picture. I don’t know.

Two other things:

  1. Don’t you find it more interesting that just a couple of people seem to need a strict representation of the details as they actually occurred?
  2. The whole “marketplace of ideas” thing doesn’t work for me, and neither does it work for you or Dave: “The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.” So what are you saying? Suddenly you two believe in God because it’s the most popular idea going?

I think that the Literalists make some valid points, and I’m taking them into consideration. It’s not going to change the way I write, but it will lead me to alter the “about this site” page. But I also think the Literalists should consider what the other side (the Poetics?) is trying to say; we’re none of us idiots, and perhaps our viewpoint has merit.

On 09 September 2003 (01:41 PM),
Dana said:

I suspect technically we’re actually technically Empiricists.

Lies of omission are okay?

Well, I wouldn’t go that far.

Look, if you want to describe something that happened to you, go ahead.

Doing that requires you to weigh things. You need to relay the relevant facts. If you almost get hit by a car, the color, make, and model of the car aren’t as important as the almost getting hit part.

If you want to omit those nonrelevant facts, go ahead.

That’s not the same as compositing characters, or not remembering something. It’s being an editor, not an author. You are presenting the critical facts in your opinion, not a comprehensive encyclopedia. It’s the difference between providing facts you know to be true and leaving off facts that make no material difference, and inventing facts which you don’t know to be true, or altering them to create narrative. That’s not a lie of omission, it’s simply omitting something that happened that isn’t what you’re talking about.

I picked up the yellow #2, five inch long pencil in my right hand with my forefinger and thumb. The eraser was green, and rubbed down about three-quarters of the way. The pencil was well-chewed on it’s shaft, but was freshly sharpened, with a fine point, which promptly broke as I began writing. I rotated the pencil shaft slightly, allowing me to continue writing without having to resharpen it.

versus

I picked up the pencil and began writing.

versus

I picked up the elegant fountain pen and began my task of producing an illuminated manuscript.

Two of those are ‘true’. One has been edited. One has been fictionalized, but is based on the same event.

Adding things in and changing the details purely to enhance the drama, tone, or symbolism is tantamount to fictionalizing the account. It’s being an author of a story, of a fiction, and what I really object to is not the fictionalization, but the presentation of fiction as fact.

From your “about this site”:

The weblog is a forum for my thoughts and interests, and an opportunity to share my daily life with friends and family.

That’s not what you’ve been doing. ‘Sharing’ and ‘fictionalizing’ are not the same things.

If you don’t remember a fact, do what Dowingba did a couple entries above:

“I remember it this way, but I don’t recall the color. Let’s call it blue.”

Or something like that.

Or you can keep on carrying on like you have been. If so, I think the disclaimer belongs on the front page, and probably a bit clearer than the way you did it. Perhaps something like this:

Richard Herring’s Warming Up (You get an ‘intro’ page when you initially click from the home page, which explains the purpose of the column. From there you can get to the latest entry, but it makes it plain to a casual browser looking for his blog the nature of what it is.)

On 09 September 2003 (01:50 PM),
Mom said:

It interested me that your dad burned books, Virginia, and my thought was — that’s where Steve got that from. The only times I remember him doing that were when your mother had material from ex-Mormons that we as Mormons at that time considered anti-Mormon and thus dangerous and Satanic. She would give the books and tracts to Steve to read and he would destroy them. He may also have been following the lead of some Mormon missionaries we knew well when we lived in Portland (early in our married Mormon life) who said they had found and checked out books from the Multnomah Public Library containing the text of the secret Mormon temple ceremonies and destroyed them. Now, as an ex-Mormon myself, I have strong feelings about the importance of such information being available to anyone who wants to read it. But then, I have for most of my life, certainly since my teenage years, felt very strongly about the evils of censorship. I remember seeing the movie Fahrenheit 451 as a teenager and being strongly in sync with its message about the dangers of society banning books because they didn’t like the messages contained in them, which translated to me to the logical conclusion that it was also a message about the dangers of censorship of books in a society for similar reasons. Still, as a Mormon, I was afraid of the messages of books that contradicted my beliefs at that time. There is a lot of power in the written word (witness the old saying, the pen is mightier than the sword), and despite my more liberal feelings now, I still upon occasion read things that fill me with dismay and that I would rather not have seen written. I’m sure there will always be those things, as long as our society remains free.

One thing I really like about the Internet is that despite some of the unpleasant information that can be obtained on it (to me that includes pornography), there is such a great deal of freedom and people can access all sorts of data on almost anything their heart desires, including information that some in power in churches or government would like to see surpressed. In a strange way, the Internet could be a help in keeping the censorship of books at a minimum. If the information is available anyway online, why destroy the books that contain it?

I could never burn a book, unless it contained something totally heinous like child pornography. I have read many books that have been banned someplace and for some reason and found them totally innocuous. I was even momentarily tempted to buy The Satanic Verses by Salman (sp?) Rushdie at Powell’s the other day because of the contract that some Muslims had had out on his life after it was published. The things that prevented me were having read that it was hard reading, and also because I don’t have a huge interest in the Islamic world.

I guess this is a slightly different topic than J.D.’s original web log entry but this is the ball I’ve picked up and run with. :-)

On 09 September 2003 (01:55 PM),
mart said:

dana: why?

why can’t you just decipher it for yourself? why do you need so badly to penetrate to the heart of the matter? and in fact, to the heart of the matter exactly as JD lived it?

i guess i just can’t understand why when technically it’s all just someone else’s fictional rantings to you, the gods-honest truth behind it matters so much. is it because you know JD personally? do you hold other things you read, films you watch, music you listen to to a similarly lofty ideal?

On 09 September 2003 (02:00 PM),
J.D. said:

What I really object to is not the fictionalization, but the presentation of fiction as fact.

And what I object to is the wholesale classification of this weblog as fiction just because I alter a small detail now-and-then.

That’s absurd!

If you I tell a three-page story that is based entirely in fact except that I choose to change one detail, is that story now fiction? You say yes. I say no. I agree that it contains a fictional element, but that does make the story fictional.

Oddly enough, some fiction writers suffer the reverse problem. They catch flak because what they write contains too many elements of the truth, borrows too much from their own lives. “This isn’t fiction!” the critics cry.

Well, which is it? Where’s the line. Must someting be 100% literally factual to be classified as nonfiction? If a single fact is incorrect, whether that fact is incorrect due to misremembrance, due to false percepation, or due to willful change, has the account now become fictional?

I write, on average, six entries per week. And each week I alter, on average, one piece of information. Am I writing fiction?

I think we already know how each of us will answer this.

Also: I’m not going to put a disclaimer on the front page. There’ll be a link to this entry, though, and if that isn’t more than enough information for a person, well then they’re just not going to get it!

It’s a good thing none of us are stubborn or dogmatic or anything. :)

Time to go make boxes…

On 09 September 2003 (02:17 PM),
Dave said:

I’m not comfortable with a lie of omission any more than I am with an affirmative lie. I think, however, that the intent of the writer/speaker is important. If the intention is to alter the reader’s perception or conclusions by communicating “facts” (either by omitting something or by including something that wasn’t there to begin with) which are factually incorrect then this is a lie. In contrast to that is dowingba’s reconstituted memory issue. As he remembers it, “x” took place and he reacted in “y” fashion. I’m ok with that even if had I a video tape of the event in question and it differs from what he remembers. It’s clear that he’s recounting what he remembers. But notice that he didn’t subsitute tsunami for tornado. That’s the difference. One is a deliberate creation of a false impression, the other is a mistake.

Virginia, cat in, cat out, it’s all subjective isn’t it?

On 09 September 2003 (02:18 PM),
dana said:

I’m really not trying to be a pain, but look:

JD …I don’t think that people are in favor of glossing over facts to add drama or excitement. Maybe so, but that’s not what I’m advocating. I’m saying that sometimes glossing over the facts is an aid at attaining the larger truth.

JD I think we’re arguing about semantics. I think my word choice was poor, and that I ought to have selected something else�”meaning”, “experience”, whatever�to represent the Big Picture.

Yes, yes. That’s called epistemology. What is meaning, experience, whatever — what is, and how do we know, what The Big Picture is? That’s basically the definition of Epistemology and Ontology. How do we know what we know?

We have different fundamental worldviews. Dave & I appear to have a similar one, and you and some (all?) of the others seem to share a different one.

Look, JD, you say this: I’m saying that sometimes glossing over the facts is an aid at attaining the larger truth.

What you are saying is that you have a set of knowledge about a situation, setting, or event. But when you write it up, you are going to rewrite those events to make it signify something specific that you see in what happened, or what it signified to you. The epistemology is coming in attached to your Larger Truth, not over how you write it up. You are reinterpreting the scene, and changing the details to enhance your particular interpretation.

Fine. That’s called FICTION. Yes, it’s based on something that actually happened. But you know it’s not how it happened. But your presentation of this as “sharing the daily events of your life” implies that it’s actually accurate.

It is accurate, insofar as it reflects your interpretation of the events. But it’s not accurate as an actual retelling of the events.

That’s okay. But it’s fictionalizing the account, not relaying the salient details and then commenting on what they signified to you. You are changing details to ensure a particular interpretation. That’s a different beast.

This is not semantic because it hinges on your concepts of ‘Meaning’ and ‘Larger Truths’, which end up hooking up with Absolutes versus Relativism. It’s epistemological because you are presenting this to other people without accurate explication of motive and method. You are knowingly interpreting the event you are relating to us without telling us that you are (or might) be doing this. If you say “X did Y” because that represents your Larger Truth, when in reality you observed “Z did Y, but X watched, picking his nose”, well, then you have decided upon a particular interpretation of that event, rewritten the event so that a reader of your account will (you intend) arrive at the same interpretation as you did, then not told the reader that you did that.

That’s significantly different from the usual ‘misremembered fact’, because you are aware of the changes, and you have a specific intent in making them. This is where the epistemological/ontological arguments come in. You are creating a reality, a body of knowledge, in the world, that some of us consume and believe to be factually true, which you in fact know to be falsified in order to evoke a particular tone, mood or symbolism.

Do I really care that Kris let Simon in? No.

However, there is a real and fundamental difference between telling a story where you sit, alone, and your wife interrupts you some number of times, and lets the cat in, while you seek (and successfully find) solitude despite her presence and the rewriting of events to evoke the sense of solitude that the events signified to you.

The one is editorial writing, or perhaps could be called personal narrative. The latter is fiction based on a real sequence of events, but interpreted for a purpose.

They are not the same things. Call a spade a spade. That’s all I ask. Write as you wish, but make it clear which side of the line the writing falls. Not being clear does your writing a disservice, and leads to the appearance of deceit.

I may sound grumpy here, and if so I apologize. I’m actually very surprised that I’m in the minority on this, because it was the kind of stuff I learned in High School english classes. I had a whole class in this stuff called “Critical Thinking”. We were also very particular about what sorts of approaches were and were not acceptable to use when I was in Forensics, not to mention stuff from Science (scientific method), Math (formal logic) and Philosophy (ah, Dr. Moss) classes.

I’m surprised because what you, JD, and some of the others have been asserting here is in direct conflict with what I’ve been taught and observed personally, about writing, knowledge, truth, honesty, and interpretation. I find it interesting that others seem to have learned different lessons than I did, and I’m curious as to why.

I’m not saying that there is no place in the world for the kinds of interpretations you wish to make. Of course there are. What I am saying is, as your research indicated, there are accepted ways of labeling and presenting what you write which allow a reader to know the context in which to approach the work. A blog is no different. Writing is still writing.

Your format and actual stated “about the blog” text implies a certain mode of writing. You have revealed, in this blog entry, that you were engaged in a different sort of writing altogether.

I personally feel that is not acceptable, and is a betrayal of the social contract inherent in the author/reader relationship. I feel that way because of what I have learned, read, and experienced. Others seem to have arrived at a far different place.

I wonder if there are common factors involved?

Kris, Dave, and I were all in Forensics (or Law, in Dave’s case) (although I don’t know if Kris disapproves of this modification of events. You’ve only commented that she’s mentioned it).

Kris and I both have degrees in a physical science.

On 09 September 2003 (02:25 PM),
tammy said:

Dana I have to ask, Do you really think that there are books out there that do not “change the details to enhance the drama…”? If no one enhanced the drama in their nonfictional works all we would be left with were books such as the Websters Dictionary, or the thesaurus or some such dull thing. I firmly believe that any non-fictional work(that tells a story) has had something added somewhere, somehow!

Mom in the above post you stated that you destroy books, “when an author distroys[sic]a persons character because of the way they percieve[sic}
the person out of anger or jealousy”. I wonder what book that would have been? That seems to me a far cry from destroying a book because it does not teach truth or because of pornography. Burning a book because you perceive it to be biased one way is only your perception. It is not absolute. Somebody else may have actually benefitted by reading that book.

Talking about burning books I recall my dad throwing, “Treasure Island” into the stove when he caught me reading it as a girl. His reasoning was that it was full of cussing therefore not fit to be read.

I think we should all strive for truth. But I also know that what is truth to one is not truth to another and that is why we are having this debate. So maybe there is no final answer. I say if ones conscience is clear about what one calls truth then let it be. To them it is truth.

On 09 September 2003 (02:32 PM),
J.D. said:

You have revealed, in this blog entry, that you were engaged in a different sort of writing altogether.

sigh

No. No, I wasn’t. Again, I feel (feel, FEEL) as if you are saying that one drop of fiction in a bucket of fact pollutes the whole thing and makes it fiction. This is (IN J.D.’S OPINION) absurd. It’s as if you’re missing the forest for the trees. You’re picking nits and missing the elephant. (Or some equally bizarre analogy.)

I hate to bring Kris into the discussion here since she’s consciously avoided commenting, but I understand her position as this:

She knows and accepts that I make occasional changes. She understands why I do it. She has not problem with it. In fact, she thinks that I ought not even be engaged in this debate because the point is so trivial!

Though I do agree that a mountain is being made from a molehill in this instance, I think that the larger debate, the epistlemological (spelling?) discussion, is entertaining. It’s not changing anybody’s mind, though. :)

On 09 September 2003 (02:49 PM),
Dana said:

JD If you I tell a three-page story that is based entirely in fact except that I choose to change one detail, is that story now fiction? You say yes. I say no. I agree that it contains a fictional element, but that does make the story fictional.

Actually, JD, I’d say that it depends on the detail you change, and your intent in changing it.

If you honestly misremember a fact, and report that faulty memory, there is no foul. You are being honest to the extent that you can be.

If you change or omit a minor fact (the color of a sweater, the time of day, the make of a car), well, it depends on how that change affects the narrative of events. For the most part, no, it’s not fiction then.

If you selectively modify details (even if it’s only one) in an attempt to evoke a specific interpretation in your readers, that’s when you shade into fiction. You explicitely say this was your motivation in changing who let Simon in.

Your own words on this subject:

The weblog is a forum for my thoughts and interests, and an opportunity to share my daily life with friends and family

My entries fall into several broad categories. There are the personal history entries, which tend to be long, rhapsodic remembrances of my past. My entries on daily life are similar, but more detail-oriented, and generally the kind of thing that people despise in a weblog: “I went to the grocery store today”. (I try to restrict daily life entries to Big Events or Funny Events or Interesting Events.) I often write about books and reading. I rave about computers and music. I babble about my hobbies.

Those are both from your About this Site page. The text implies a frank, candid, honest sharing of certain details of your life, interests, and thoughts. It implies a semi-journalist presentation of facts, and a very personal interpretation of and commentary on those facts.

On the other hand, in the above meta-blog entry and the thread that follows, we have:

An event becomes a story, and at some point the story attains a sort of mythic quality. The details become less important than the event itself. Who dangled Gumby? Does it matter? The key point of the story is that this is how Angela and I met; the question of who dangled Gumby is irrelevant.

Art Garfunkel is a man who understands truth.

I wrote about sitting, contemplative, staring at the falling rain. At one point Simon came to the door and asked to be let inside, so I got up and let him in. Only that never happened. Kris let him in. Why didn’t I write that Kris let him in? It didn’t fit with the tone and the theme of the piece. I was writing a personal meditation about what it was like for me to watch the early autumn rain. I chose to leave out the fact that Kris kept interrupting me (Laughing!�look how bothered J.D. is at being interrupted while he’s writing!) with questions, that she let the cat inside. My version made for a better story. It was not factual, but it was true.

In these bits, you present a thesis. That thesis is that a person’s interpretation of events contains a quality of Truth/Meaning/Big Picture, based on personal interpretation, which supercedes verifiable, remembered, facts.

Furthermore, you imply that it is entirely acceptable to willfully relate events in such a way as to increase the likelihood that an individual’s personal interpretation will be arrived at when a third party reviews the account and not disclose that you have done so.

That is an epistemological and/or ontological thesis with which I disagree, and it is this apparent interpretation of yours that I am disagreeing with in most of my posts in this thread.

Again, I don’t care whether Kris or JD let Simon in.

I care about what JD’s intent is in writing this blog.

Does he intend to portray the events of the day?

Does he intend to fictionalize them and convert them from happenings into story with a “tone and…theme“?

Does he intend to create an entirely fictional mileaux (I think I spelled that right), a la Lake Wobegon, into which he thinly inserts a fictionalized version of himself into?

Does he intend to present short works of fiction, which are relevant and deal with issues and events that bear on his own life?

I care because it’s actually an important concept. I care about Truth, I care about Story, I care about Intent. JD is grumpy when George W. distorts facts that JD doesn’t feel should be distorted, but has no qualms distorting other facts for a similar end — the end of making a group of people arrive at a specific conclusion or interpretation of events. Yes, in one case a war is involved and in the other there’s a confusion about who let a cat in, and these events are obviously of far different scopes and potential consequences.

But I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that the reason G.W. Bush thinks it’s okay to make those distortions is because he agrees with JD’s implied thesis a la The Nature of Greater Truths.

And I think it’s important to talk about this sort of thing openly and civilly. It’s actually a part of an argument that JD and I get into about three or four times a year about Universal Absolutes and Relativism. Whenever I catch a whiff of it, I point it out (I suspect JD is incredibly tired of all this).

But that’s just me. =)

Does any of that make sense? Or am I just talking to myself. (Who, me? Stubborn and Dogmatic?)

On 09 September 2003 (03:00 PM),
Dana said:

Dana You have revealed, in this blog entry, that you were engaged in a different sort of writing altogether.

JD sigh

No. No, I wasn’t

Actually, yes you were. What follows explicitly says that you were:

JD It didn’t fit with the tone and the theme of the piece. I was writing a personal meditation about what it was like for me to watch the early autumn rain.

I chose to leave out the fact that Kris kept interrupting me…with questions, that she let the cat inside. My version made for a better story

And here, you actually make an error. You didn’t leave out the fact that Kris let Simon in. You changed it from her to you. That’s different than leaving it out.

Yours does (perhaps) make a better story. But your authorial intent in your writing was more important than the facts. You wanted a specific tone and theme, and you adjusted the facts so that the specific tone and theme were arrived at by a reader.

That’s what makes it fiction. The fact that bits are not true simply means it’s not accurate, but that it’s honest. In your case, you adjusted facts to create a specific tone and theme. You provided meaning by changing facts. You had an intent in relating the event, and changed the event to reflect that intention. That’s fiction.

Just as G.W. Bush adjusted the facts so that a specific tone and theme were arrived at by a consumer of his statements about WMD, Iraq, and Terrorism.

Yes, different in scope. Not different in act, unless you are explicit that you are fictionalizing.

On 09 September 2003 (03:56 PM),
mart said:

hey dana:

i’d like to beat this horse a bit more with you. esp. since you brought up the GWBush thing. i’ll admit as i was typing out my position in some of those comments W’s whole lying-ass bullshit came to mind. and i pushed it out of mind so it didn’t work against my own argument. now that i’ve reflected a bit, i think maybe i was right to ignore that after all. because it’s not really the same thing now, is it?

apples & oranges. we’re not debating the position of lies vs. truth. (or maybe you are, i dunno) we were debating the position of lies and truths as they pertained to the creative process, more specifically writing, more specfically JD’s blog…

enlighten me please if i missed how these two things are related from your perspective. we can take this to the forum if that works better for everyone.

On 09 September 2003 (03:57 PM),
mart said:

one more post just to make it an even 50 and a new foldedspace record…

On 09 September 2003 (05:42 PM),
Dana said:

Mart
apples & oranges. we’re not debating the position of lies vs. truth. (or maybe you are, i
dunno) we were debating the position of lies and truths as they pertained to the creative process, more specifically writing, more specfically JD’s blog…

enlighten me please if i missed how these two things are related from your perspective. we can take this to the forum if that works better for everyone.

Hey, Mart!

That’s exactly what I was debating, actually. Apparently nobody else is or was.

I assumed that this blog was not, in fact, an excercise in the creative process. I assumed this blog was in fact an excercise in journalistic writing, memoire, and editorial commentary.

All writing is not ‘creative writing’. Not all writing makes use (or has to make use) of the tools available to an author of fiction.

JDs comments, above, suggest a more authorial stance, at least some of the time, than I was assuming was present. Specifically, his comments about a fact not fitting the tone and theme of the piece he was writing, so he changed and omitted things to keep the focus.

To my mind, that kind of writing is interpretive in a way that journalistic, memoire (am I spelling that right?, and editorial commentary are not.

Not all of this blog, obviously, is fictive in this way. But some of it is. And I, for one, was not aware of the differences between these entries, largely because JDs own writing and intention in these fictionalized entries seems to have been to differentiate between implicitly instead of explicitly.

That shift came as a surprise to me.

I’m not saying that the entire blog is now not true.

I’m not saying that JDs intentions are ignoble, or his writing wrong, or anything.

I’m saying that JD has different intentions when writing different entries. Sometimes his intentions are journalistic. Sometimes they involve rhetoric. Sometimes they are editorial. And sometimes they are fictionalized versions of real events. Sometiems they are all of these things at the same time, and perhaps even more.

In the first few examples of modes, there, the difference is easily discerned by topic.

When he is being journalistic, he is relating what X person said, or what Y event happened to someone.

When he is being rhetorical, he is discussing a point of philosophy, or culture, or sociology (or history, or whatever).

When he is being editorial, he is discussing a specific topic or event and he provides opinions and arguments about or involving that topic or event.

These categories are fairly clearly delineated. Some entries move from one mode to another, and it’s clear when the author is engaged in one versus another.

According to an out-of-band e-mail that JD sent me (wherein he is quite cross with me, I’m afraid), the differentiation between a journalistic mode and a fictionalized mode is the tone. He’s more contemplative in the fictionalized entries.

Aside from that difference of tone, however, he apparently does not further differentiate them. A ‘contemplative entry’ still has “Person X did Thing Y”. They can be confused and, in my personal case, I confused them. I was entirely unaware that any of JDs entries (except where he has explicitely said he is blurring some fact, detail, or identity) was at least journalistically valid. That is, the bare facts of who was present and their actions was in fact accurate, and that the surrounding commentary was in fact editorial content.

I personally feel that is not an adequate indicator, particularly with the text that was present on his “About this Site” page. I did not expect that sort of embellishment and authorial stance from what otherwise appears to be a journal.

I would be hard pressed to tell the difference. JD says that the difference is “obvious”. I am unhappy about the word “obvious”. It is “obvious” that the sun goes around the earth. It is “obvious” that the Christian God exists. It is “obvious” that women should stay at home, barefoot and pregnant, and shouldn’t wear pants.

I distrust things that are “obvious”.

Of course writing in that interpretive fictional mode is valuable, important, and useful. But it is using the tools of fictional writing to present a narrative of real people and real events. It is a layer of interpretation that I was unaware was ever present in this blog. The fact that it was sometimes present, and the fact that I do not have a foolproof way of differentiating between JD’s journalistic stance vs. his fictive stance leaves me in the position of not reliably being able to tell when he is writing about something that is Actually True (ie, factual) vs. when he is relating something that possesses his “Inner Hidden Deeper Meaning” Truth, which I would contend is the product of his own personal interpretation of meaning that derives from his own personal interpretations of events, feelings, and facts.

Take the solitude entry. His intent, as an author of that piece, was an attempt to communicate that the day meant, symbolized, and/or conveyed the idea of solitude to him. So, in order to communicate that to us, as readers, he choose to alter the details of the day to evoke a sense of solitude in us, his readers.

His personal intent as an author of a blog entry was to evoke a tone, to produce an emotional feeling. He accomplished it using the tools of fiction, ie, setting, character, and narration. He created a narrative of a series of events (out of the raw material of the events that actually happened in a factual sense) in such a way as to increase (if not insure) the desired reaction from the reader.

G.W. Bush had an intent in his claims and speeches of WMD and Terrorism. He accomplished evoking a specific tone and emotional feeling by using the tools of fiction, ie, setting, character, and narration. He created a narration of a series of events (out of the raw material of the events that actually happened in a factual sense) in such a way as to increase (if not insure) the desired reaction from those who listened.

I said, above, that the scope and impact of the two fictions is far far different. Obviously, it’s worse to tell a story to evoke a feeling of fear and righteous anger in order to justify a war than it is to tell a story to evoke a feeling of a pleasant day of solitude.

But in both cases the authors have produced stories. Fictional stories. And the problem I have is that both have not made that explicit in what I personally deem an acceptable and clear way.

I was under the impression that this blog was not operating in that fictional mode ever. Perhaps this is an unstated portion of the Standard Blog Social Contract that I was not aware of. Perhaps it’s generally assumed that everybody is editing things in this way to make their entries convey specific ideas, tones, feelings, or to contain specific symbolic expressions.

If that is the case, then any fault here is mine for being unaware of that general social contract.

But if that is not in fact the case, then JD has committed a (very very minor) faux paus in not making his authorship of some fictive entries explicitely differentiable from his journalistic, editorial, and rhetorical ones. He has (unwittingly) implied that the fictive entries do not in fact exist, and that the whole of the content lies in the latter three types of entries when this is in fact not the case.

In My Humble (and it really is humble, regardless of how authoritarian and pig-headedly stubborn I may come off in my own rhetorical writing) Opinion, the Right Thing To Do, to maintain an acceptable social contract between reader and writer, is to be explicit in some clear, obvious fashion, that a piece is or is not factually true vs. fictional in some part. This can take a blisteringly wide variety of forms, and I can’t even begin to start listing them. Many would be undetectable and would involve slight changes to JDs approach to the material he intends to fictionalize.

JD has indicated that he will alter his About this Site page and reference this discussion, which I consider to be the minimum acceptable corrective action to maintain the social contract I perceive to have been broken. If it were mine (and it isn’t, so this is, again, a simple personal opinion), I would include a disclaimer on the front page, where the blog is, that from time to time the entries are more or less fictional than at other times, and my reasons for this.

But, as I’ve said above, that’s just me.

To reiterate: I don’t care who let the cat in. I don’t deny the validity of this kind of writing versus other kinds of writing. I don’t fault JD for having not been previously clear about his mode changes. I think JDs writing is completely appropriate and good for a blog. I think his style and composition are good, and he has good topics. I think that these are completely appropriate techniques for writing fiction, or for personal interpretation pieces where it is explicitly clear that they are (or may not be) factually true (“Nothing in this blog is true” does that, for example).

I do not think it is appropriate to have some pieces which are largely journalistic, and others which are written similarly but which are (lightly) fictionalized because of a conscious intent by the author to make a better story unless those two kinds of writing are clearly delineated. If not, there is the implication that there is no difference between the two kinds of entries. Any of them may be fiction. Or any of them might be true.

Which is which? I assumed they were all journalistic. Apparently I was wrong. Other people apparently assumed JD did this all the time. Can they actually pick out when he did do it and when he didn’t? If not, then is that important to the readers? Is it important to JD?

It is important to me. I like to know when I’m reading fiction, and when I’m not. Most of JDs entries are not fiction. But those places where they are fictional are going to slip right by under my radar as if they weren’t. JD wants me to trust him that these are minor and inconsequential details. Will they always be? If I can’t tell which things are not true, then how can I trust him? How can I (epistemology again) know when he is being a reliable narrator, and when he is not.

I’m beating this horse to death because JD wants to write, and write well.

How did you feel at the end of The Usual Suspects? That happened because of the story having been told by a narrator that the audience took as being reliable when he wasn’t. At the end of the film, it is revealed to the audience that he is, in fact, unreliable, and that requires the entire narrative as presented to become doubtful in the minds of the audience. How much is true? We can’t tell.

In that example, the unreliable narrator technique is utilized, with forethought, to evoke a specific effect at the end.

JD has unwittingly done the same (granted, again, on a far far far more minor scale) sort of thing.

Now, how do we know how much of the rest of the blog is true? The bits we witnessed in common? The bits we can verify through third parties?

He assures us it is infrequent. Is he telling the truth? (I trust that he is, but I’ve known him for over a decade. There is no way, without knowing him, that I can make an informed decision on this)

This is why I keep beating this dead horse. =)

On 09 September 2003 (07:22 PM),
mac said:

jeez–don’t you people ever work?

On 09 September 2003 (07:24 PM),
dowingba said:

Strangely, being so short staffed at my job site causes me to work 3 people’s jobs, and every single day is open to close…and yet I still find time to keep up with this debate, somehow…

On 09 September 2003 (07:32 PM),
Dana said:

I’m two timezones ahead of you. it’s 9:30 here…

Mwah-ha-ha-ha!

On 09 September 2003 (07:32 PM),
dowingba said:

To compare “absolute truth telling” or whatever you want to call it to “journalism” isn’t exactly a good analogy. Last night I saw a (really great) documentary about 9/11. To paraphrase one part:

Blah blah blah towers get hit. And then the country watched in horror as it was made known that a plane had also hit the pentagon, killing x number of people instantly, and a fourth plane had crashed in a field in PA, brought down by the heroic acts of its very passengers…

Everything in that sentence is true. Except it implies that we somehow knew instantly that the fourth plane was brought down by the “heroic acts of its very passengers”; but by my recollection, it was several days or weeks until that was actually discovered (after reviewing the black box, or something). Since the whole documentary was a minute-by-minute, perfectly chronological depiction of the events, that was a conscious glossing over of the truth, as far as Dana (and x other people) are concerned.

On 09 September 2003 (07:41 PM),
Dana said:

Dowingba,

My recollection is that some of the people on that flight had cellphones and called people on the ground before the crash, alerting them to what had happened. It was suspected that the passengers had overwhelmed the hijackers, but wasn’t verified until the cockpit voice recorder was found. But that is only my (fallible) recollection.

If things happened as you remember them, then I would say, yes, this is another example of fictionalizing a factual account to evoke or create a particular theme, tone, or symbolism. It does happen all the time. It doesn’t invalidate the entire documentary, but it does put it into question as journalistically reliable.

In My Opinion. =)

On 09 September 2003 (07:47 PM),
Dana said:

But note that I’m not just talking about simple bias. I’m talking about sitting down and actively trying to juggle things to produce a particular narrative, not just using hyperbole, but for all intents and purposes writing fiction. Using poetic language, making changes to time, events, character, and the whole gamut (not all at once, though).

What you have there puts a slant on the events, or uses information discovered later to describe an earlier event in more detail than would have been possible at the time.

What JD did with Kris and the cat is a material change on a slightly different order.

(This particular conversation could go on for as long as we want to keep hammering on it. It’s a pretty complex topic, I think.)

On 09 September 2003 (07:50 PM),
dowingba said:

We should just go on until we fill up the last 25% of JD’s serverspace, actually…

On 09 September 2003 (07:56 PM),
Tammy said:

Dana you’re definitions of what is “obvious” are rather ludicrous, are they not? You know, Dana, theres something I have wondered about the entire day as I kept track of the things you posted. (Maybe I am just sticking up for jd because he’s my cousin; family tends to do that):) and yet I wonder why you are so contentious about this blurring of truth and fiction. It seems to me you have blurred far greater lines in your own life. And I think you know what I am referring to. It’s like having a beam in your own eye while trying to take a sliver out of someone elses. And, I might add, the blurring of lines in your life are seen as a far greater offense to most people than Jd saying he let the cat in instead of Kris. I love you but I’m just trying to say that it seems rather trivial when stacked up against other things that people try to pass off as truth.

On 09 September 2003 (08:21 PM),
Dana said:

Tammy,

I do know exactly what you mean. I’m not trying to say that what JD is doing, or has done, with respect to the blurring of truth is a terrible, horrible, shocking thing.

This is, for me, primarily a logical excercise. I like to think about stuff, and mentally take it apart. These sorts of discussions are part of my own personal process of doing that. I have been told that this is off-putting to people. I know for certain that it really frustrates JD.

I’m really not trying to personally attack anybody or convince anybody. I’m trying to determine if I am wrong, what I am wrong about, and how wrong I might be.

My examples of ‘obvious’ are meant to be extreme examples.

At various times in history, those things are or have been ‘obvious’. Just because they were considered obvious doesn’t make them right (or wrong). I think it’s a logical fallacy to justify something as true just because it’s ‘obvious’, when ‘obvious’ changes based on time, culture, and lots of other stuff.

Now, another thing I’ve been accused of (more than once) is using Big Gun Rhetoric tools when everybody else is just sort of shooting the breeze. I suspect this whole discussion is yet another example of that. I am rarely able to see that except in retrospect, unfortunately :/

You said:

And, I might add, the blurring of lines in your life are seen as a far greater offense to most people than Jd saying he let the cat in instead of Kris.

Certainly. But that isn’t about telling lies, or convincing other people of something.

I’m not trying to imply that JD is committing an ‘offense’. I just think he’s being a bit sloppy in his journalistic/authorial integrity. And I hasten to point out that this is my own personal opinion, that I am expressing here not because I want to criticise or pick on JD, but because I see this as a marketplace of ideas, and I want to partake of the discussion as fully as possible.

I realize that my own actions (and intentions) are offensive to some people (for those of you confused, go to the left-hand “greatest hits” sidebar and click on Transgender Discussion). But that kind of offense-taking is very very different from the kind of annoyance/bother that I’m expressing here.

Being offended by me and my condition is very much like being offended that some people who don’t have red hair dye their hair. Yes, my procedures will be far more physically drastic than dyeing my hair. It is (in my personal interpretation of the Universe) of roughly the same level of offense.

I don’t force myself where I’m not welcome. If people are uncomfortable with me, I do my best to avoid them. I don’t ask that people have to think what I’m doing is a fantastic idea. I just ask that they treat me with courtesy and as a human being, with the respect that all people deserve to get. That does not include pointing and laughing, beating me up, or killing me just because I’m going to do this.

Some people are offended not just by what I am going to do, not just by seeing me from a distance, or being forced to serve me as a clerk in a store, but by the fact that I even exist and am able to carry out the procedure I am going to undertake.

All of this is a far different kind of outrage, offense, and set of actions than either what JD has done here, or what we’ve been discussing as a side topic.

I guess what I’m attempting to say is that I’m not by any stretch of the imagination trying to imply I’m above this (or any other) kind of criticism. I just have strong opinions on this particular issue, and here they are.

JD is one of my dearest friends in the world. I know that I frustrate him nigh unto death sometimes, but I really am not trying to be offensive, dogmatic, or deny other people’s right to disagree with me.

On a slight side note, there is a point of overlap between my being transgendered and JD’s minor fictionalizing of some blog entries.

In the course of concealing my transgenderism, I spent about 30 years lying almost constantly about what I was thinking, feeling, and desiring, to every single other person on the planet. I have a lot of practice in deceit, and a great capacity for it. It’s not writing, but it’s similar — bending the truth to present a particular face on things.

Perhaps that’s why I am so dogmatic about the appearance of it in this kind of a forum?

I dunno. What do you all think?

On 09 September 2003 (08:57 PM),
mart said:

dana:

i agree there are some HUGE issues in this discussion. it really gets down to some core issues about the relationship between creators and their audiences (and that’s one that’s pretty close to my heart as a musician and artist). and i have to say that yr a far far better rhetoritician than i am. maybe that’s because you have a lot of forsenics bkgd, or lots of college philosophy, while in general i smoked too much pot and while we dealt with all these issues, we kinda just got caught up in the “whoa!” at a certain point and all osmosised the point rather than carefully following it through. i’m sure you know what i mean. or maybe not…

right now i’m reading “literary theory: an introduction” by terry eagleton. and so i’m kinda trying to work some of this stuff out myself intellectually as well. so yr pig-headedness is analogous to my trollish nastiness, i.e. for effect and therefore considered in the humour with which it is llikely intended.

On 09 September 2003 (09:22 PM),
tammy said:

You said, “ but that isn’t about telling lies or convincing other people about something

Excuse me, but are you saying that you are not trying to convince somebody about something that isn’t true? are you saying that you are not telling lies? Dana, there is one solid “obvious”: A penis belongs to a male and not a woman. Therefore you most definitely are trying to convince other people about something that is not true. You are trying to convince people that you are a woman. You are trying to make the arguement that people assume they are reading about jd’s life because of his front page therefore they expect truth. Well in the same manner people expect that someone wearing a dress is a woman! They expect truth. But that is not what they get when they get you. Under that dress is a man. What greater lie can one tell?

On 09 September 2003 (10:31 PM),
Dana said:

Tammy,

You have a strong argument.

Here’s where I see the difference between what I’m doing and what we’ve been discussing: When people look at me, they can tell I’m not a woman or, rather, that I’m a guy in a dress. Yes, I am thrilled if I am treated as if I am a woman. I personally perceive myself as a woman, and I desperately want that. Some people do treat me that way, even knowing I was not born a woman. Others, like yourself, can’t. I am trying to be myself as much as I can. That involves making myself look a certain way. Yes, there is a certain amount of potential deception there, from a certain point of view. But no matter how good I look, for the most part I won’t pass, because of more nebulous things, like my voice, or my (frown) baldness.

So, for people who know, who can tell, well, they know, and they can make an assessment. No deceit has taken place.

For some people, it is a relevant fact that I was born male. Under situations I feel it is necessary and appropriate, I would freely explain it. No deceit. For most of normal life (ie, going through a checkout line) there is no material difference between how I was born and what I am now or am going to become in the not too distant future. For people with whom I have that sort of interaction, and who cannot tell I was not born a woman, they are deceived. If they can tell I was not born a woman, they are not deceived. If they were to ask, in any case, I would have no fear of telling them the truth.

So, the only people who end up getting deceived are those people whom I have interactions where it’s not a material fact that I’m transgendered, and who can’t tell it by looking at me.

Yes, I would love to be physically female and not be in a position where I have to be deceitful at all to anybody. But I don’t live in a world where that’s possible. I get fifth best place, and I refuse to walk around with a sign around my neck saying “Transsexual woman here” for those (few) people who think I was born female and for whom the fact that I wasn’t can have no useful purpose.

So, I’m sort of agreeing with you. Yes, in a sense, I am lying. But it is, again, something about which other people don’t really need to know. And most people can tell. Maybe not from a distance, but is it really materially important that you know if a transsexual woman passed you on the street? I contend no.

If you take your argument to it’s absurdist limit, people who dye their hair are lying. People who wear any makeup at all are lying. People who shave are lying. People who wear tinted contacts are lying. People who have false teeth are lying.

There’s a penumbra of ‘need to know’ for any fact or truth. I freely admit that some facts are not important to accurately relate an event (ie, my pencil example waaaay back up there). In my estimation, my gender of birth is one of those things. It is sometimes relevant, but for the most part it isn’t.

You (and many other people) disagree with that judgement, just as I disagree with JD’s judgement about fictionalized entries in his blog.

But it’s my judgement to make, just as whether or not (and to what extent) JD informs his readers of context and author intent.

As for bigger lies than a man representing himself as a woman because he feels he is a woman inside, well, there are lots.

My lie doesn’t kill anybody.

The lie of a president can result in a war, which always have casualties, frequently innocent civilian casualties.

The lie of a terrorist can result in deaths from a suicide bomb.

The lie of a witness on the witness stand could result in wrongful incarceration or a wrongful death penalty execution.

The lie of a scientist can result in wasted valuable resources, or erroneous knowledge causing people to be injured, become sick, or be killed.

The lie of an executive can result in unsafe products injuring or killing people, or people losing great amounts of money and not being able to provide for their families.

The lie of an engineer can result in unsafe buildings or other structures, or unsafe products killing or hurting people, or in some cases other sorts of unhealthy living conditions (ie, sewer issues).

I would contend that all of those are worse deceits than the deceit of me putting on makeup, a wig, and doing my best to appear like the normal woman I wish I had been born. Nobody dies or is even materially harmed as a consequence of my actions and my deceit. People who are close to me are, varyingly, emotionally traumatized or at least uncomfortable. The only person physically in any sort of danger from my judgement is myself.

So, I think, all in all, that my lie is far from the worst lie that can be told.

Yes, reading JDs blog without checking out his disclaimer will lead people to expect truth, unless he makes it explicit when it’s not true. I am arguing for that level of concern. I’m not saying that he can’t or shouldn’t write the way he has been. I’m just saying that there should be some way of determining, or hinting, or something, that this may or may not be truthful.

In my case, if someone asks, I’ll tell them. If it’s an important thing that they need to know, I’ll tell them. For most people, they don’t need to be told because they can tell. But if they can’t, it’s not going to be that important to them, anyway. Yes, they may care. But why? So they can be extra nice to me? So they can show me that through Jesus I can be Saved? No. It’s so they can gawk at the freak, laugh and call me ‘it’ or ‘him’, beat me up, or recoil in horror at maybe having been attracted (or whatever) to another guy. Not so they can treat me like a person or get to know me, but so they can know to treat me like less than a person.

This whole thing is not a simple topic. I don’t think you can reduce it to a soundbite (which is one of the reasons my posts have been so verbose today).

My basic position is that the necessity to represent or report factual truth is dependent on many different interrelated factors. Danger to your self or others in revealing or telling the truth, kinds of danger, degree of danger, possible consequences for yourself or other people, amount of difficulty in carrying out informing people, whether other people knowing the truth is important to a positive end or a negative end, whether people already know you’re fabricating things, as in storytelling or any other explicit fiction. And many others factors, besides these.

Many of these things you can’t know for certain. You have to apply judgement. In my judgement, JDs situation warrants a disclaimer. In my judgement, my situation does not.

On 09 September 2003 (10:33 PM),
J.D. said:

I feel as if I am Frankenstein and this thread has become Frankenstein’s monster. If I am not careful, the thread will track me across Europe, follow me to the barren Northern wastes, steal into my house, spill its soul, and then kill me.

Just wait. It’s gonna happen!

On 09 September 2003 (10:47 PM),
Dana said:

I wish I could edit posts sometimes :/

To elaborate on my judgement statement, above:

In JDs case, I judge that he should have a disclaimer, whereas I judge that I don’t. Why do I judge that way?

In JD’s case, his untruth is exceedingly minor, and hurts nobody. The consequences are extremely mild. But at the same time, the consequences, and the action necessary to remove or diminish what mild consequences there are is also exceedingly simple. Since it’s easy to do and doesn’t really affect his life one way or the other, I feel he ought to.

My deceit is a far more significant one, as I am representing something about myself which is materially proveable as not being ‘accurate’, at least until surgery.

But the consequences for providing a disclaimer are in my case far more significant as well.

First, you could argue that I should stop my deceit entirely. Doing so risks me committing suicide.

Second, if you ignore the argument that I shouldn’t start in the first place, judging that doing this is less of an issue than killing myself, but that I should have a disclaimer, then I am opening myself up to being beaten, raped, and/or killed. I draw attention to myself by “acting weird”. I significantly diminish my safety.

Let me explain. Most people can tell I’m not a woman. But that discernmet requires them to pay attention to me. If I’m just walking in a crowd, nobody pays that much attention to me. I’m anonymous and unimportant. If I wear a sign around my neck saying “transsexual”, then I will attract attention, and thus diminish my safety.

Being transgendered and presenting as a woman is already unsafe to a degree. Making it certain that I am one, and drawing attention to myself at the same time, increases that lack of safety.

So. Should I be honest but unsafe? Or should I judge that my not getting seriously injured or killed is more important in the grand scheme of things than that a guy might idly look at my legs and think I was born a woman?

In this situation, I deem complete disclosure to be both something that is not easily done, and which will have potentially significant negative consequences for me, as opposed to partial disclosure which results in greater safetey overall and no great harm beyond the deceit itself to anybody else. I judge the negative consequences of full disclosure outweigh the negative consequences of partial disclosure and a potential for deceit in some cases.

That’s my thinking, anyway.

On 09 September 2003 (11:31 PM),
Dana said:

Seasons Greetings from Tonto, Tarzan, and Frankenstein!

(I couldn’t find any good reference to the classic Sting/Hartman Frankenstein skit where they bring in Frankenstein’s good friend, Colonel Pickering, and they have a friendly wager over whether they’ll be able to teach the monster to speak properly, more’s the pity.)

On 10 September 2003 (07:57 AM),
tammy said:

You spent almost your entry entry by explaining why you don’t need to let people know that you are lying. However, you feel, that jd does need to let people know. It positively makes no sense. You have all these reasons why it would be dangerous to tell the truth. Wait a minute brother! Your worrying about the danger of telling the truth after the lie. If you weren’t lying there would be no danger. If you got up every morning and went out as a man there would be no reason to come up with all these excuses about why your lie is a more noble lie than jd’s. And I see no comparison between dying your hair or not. Thats like wearing different color hats, or changing dresses. It doesn’t make you someone you are not! And false teeth? Again no comparison. That is a matter of health and nutrition. Adn let me add, nobody cares about the false impression this leaves. It’s an accepted practice in our society. Just as the practice of crunching time and dramatizing a few details is an accepted practice among writers.

Our society does not, however, and never will, accept transgenderism. The minute society as a whole accepts this practice than (IMO) we are no longer a civilized society. And if that were to ever happen(that it was accepted) than our culture and way of life would have changed so drastically that any body would be relieved to read a blog such as jd’s that deals with isolation on a rainy afternoon. They wouldn’t care how many lies he told. It would be an escape from the chaos around them; the collapsing of norms that holds civilization together. They would read his blog and sigh for the good ole days when life was as simple as listening to the rain, and the cars passing on wet pavement.

As is I stated earlier; your arguments are null and void because they all explain why you can’t reveal your lie and do not deal with the fact that you are lying!

On 10 September 2003 (08:24 AM),
J.D. said:

The disclaimer is up on the about page, though I doubt it’s completely acceptable to the Literalists. :)

On 10 September 2003 (09:01 AM),
Dana said:

Tammy,

If you want to reduce this from a discussion of the nature of truth and truth-telling to a specific discussion of my own deceptions, I’m happy to do that.

Let’s take a look at your assertions:

First:
Your [sic] worrying about the danger of telling the truth after the lie. If you weren’t lying there would be no danger.

I actually did address this, although I was pretty brief.

This is an assertion on your part that assumes that my being transgendered, and having a desire to crossdress, is something I am choosing to do that is just as simple as picking out which shoes to wear on a given day. It assumes I would be just as happy, or perhaps even happier, if I chose the ‘male’ choice instead of the ‘female’ choice.

This is in fact not the case, although I accept you do not believe that. It’s not a concept most people understand very clearly, if they ever do ‘get it’.

Lets look at it from a different perspective. What constitutes a ‘male’ choice vs. a ‘female’ choice. Well, guys wear suits and ties, grow (or shave) beards, and stuff like that. Women wear skirts, pantyhose, heels, makeup, jewelry, and stuff like that.

Why?

Because of cultural and societal norms. Pantyhose are a ‘descendant’ of tights. Tights were originally a male garment, worn with knee-briches, during a time when it was common for men to wear rouge and powder on their faces, and when it was considered unseemly for women to show their legs at all.

So, where is the impetus, aside from cultural norms, to think that one mode of dress is better or more important to adopt than another? There weren’t high-heels and pantyhose in 1 A.D.

It’s all just molecules. What shape we put those molecules into, and what meaning we imbue them with, is a product of our own minds, societies, and cultures, and there is no externally provided frame of reference that makes one ‘more correct’ than another. Things like the Bible can say “do what is good for a man if you are a man”. Okay. But it’s culture that determines what is good for a man.

There’s a second assumption in this statement. That my lying is the cause of the danger I am put into if people know I am cross-dressed in public. That’s actually not true. What makes it unsafe is not the act of wearing clothes of the opposite sex. What makes it unsafe is the unpredictable reactions of other people to my choice to wear clothing intended for the opposite sex.

This is important. If there were no people present, or if people who were accepting were present, then there is no danger one way or the other. The danger comes from people with intolerant and violent attitudes.

To suggest otherwise is to suggest that women who get raped are in fact responsible for the rape, and not the rapist. That people who get mugged are at fault, not the mugger. This is exactly the same logic you are assuming by saying that I am responsible for the danger I put myself in if I wear women’s clothing and get beaten up or killed because of it. I shouldn’t have been doing that, then I’d have been safe. Well, that woman shouldn’t have been wearing that, or she wouldn’t have gotten raped. Those people shouldn’t have been in that part of town, or they wouldn’t have gotten mugged. It’s the same.

I think I’ve beaten that to death, although I’m sure Tammy doesn’t agree with many of these statements.

If you got up every morning and went out as a man there would be no reason to come up with all these excuses about why your lie is a more noble lie than jd’s

My lie is not more noble than JD’s, and I would never claim it is. It is still a deceit. The only difference between his lie and my lie is that it is easy and has few to no consequences for him to put himself into a ‘non-lieing’ state, and it’s not so simple for me. Dressing as a man is not as simple for me as you make it out. That’s all there is to it.

And I see no comparison between dying your hair or not. Thats like wearing different color hats, or changing dresses.

Yes, you are correct. It is like wearing different color hats. If a woman changes clothes from pants to a skirt, why is that a different action than if a man does it? What makes a skirt wrong for a man to wear? You assume or believe that it is wrong. Why? Because only women are supposed to do it. Why are only women supposed to do it? My mother went to a college where the dress code for women was skirts. They were disallowed from wearing pants or shorts. There was a time when it was completely taboo for women to wear pants. Today, it is acceptable. Why is there a different standard for women at different times? Because what’s ‘acceptable’ changes over time. If it changes over time, it’s not an absolute, reliable fact of nature. It’s amenable to change. The only censure you can give someone for violating a cultural taboo is based inside that culture — that is, it doesn’t have the weight of anything other than the disapproval of the culture.

[False teeth]…let me add, nobody cares about the false impression this leaves. It’s an accepted practice in our society.

Yes. Why is it that this is an accepted practice in our society? Why is this deception (“I have Real Teeth!”) so different than mine (“I am and always have been a woman!”)? What differentiates them, aside that one is about organs you eat with, and the other is about an entirely different set of organs that you only make use of in private with people very close to you?

Now we move to an entirely different topic.

Our society does not, however, and never will, accept transgenderism. The minute society as a whole accepts this practice than (IMO) we are no longer a civilized society

Why (and how) does the acceptance of being transgendered equate with an uncivilized society? I’m curious as to your reasoning, here.

Tolerance of people’s differences isn’t civilized? Empowering people to be happy and make their own decisions about their bodies and lives, free from external control, as long as their choices don’t hurt others isn’t civilized? Alleviating debilitating mental discomfort and depression, and preventing suicide isn’t civilized?

There have been many cultures in history that have made a socially acceptable niche for transgendered people. The two that I remember off the top of my head include the native americans (and the people known as hijira (I think I spelled that correctly)) and the Untouchable caste in India.

Why can’t we be one of them? What makes it so wrong?

And if that were to ever happen(that it was accepted) than our culture and way of life would have changed so drastically that any body would be relieved to read a blog such as jd’s that deals with isolation on a rainy afternoon. They wouldn’t care how many lies he told. It would be an escape from the chaos around them; the collapsing of norms that holds civilization together

Society didn’t collapse when women started wearing pants. Why would civilization collapse when men start wearing skirts?

Fundamentally, JDs situation with his blog, and my situation with my transgenderism are very different, because the two situations are hooked to very different parts of social roles and relationships, and they have very different motivators. While there is a superficial similarity in the deceits involved in both, it’s not something you can argue by analogy with. What applies to one does not automatically apply to the other.

I already explained my reasoning in the two cases, purely from a ‘difficulty, impact, consequence’ analysis of the deceit.

You have been using the deceit parallel to try and argue by analogy that if I think JDs blog needs a disclaimer, then being transgendered is bad. That’s not an argument that really holds up from a logical point of view, for a number of reasons.

(And, just to reiterate a point I’ve often made, I am not offended, mad, or indignant that Tammy is making this argument, and if it sounds like I am I apologize — I likewise hope I haven’t offended Tammy, aside from the offense I suspect she feels that I (or anyone) experiences being transgendered and expresses that openly).

your arguments are null and void because they all explain why you can’t reveal your lie and do not deal with the fact that you are lying

This is in fact completely correct — I don’t deal with *why* I’m lying. But I also didn’t criticize JD for *why* he was fictionalizing in his blog. None of my arguments anywhere in this thread deal with motivation, they deal with ‘proper’ and ‘appropriate’ handling of the context around a lie/deceit/fictionalization.

I think I did deal with the motivations a bit up above, but to be more explicit:

I have no idea why I want to be a woman. It could be a mental condition. It could be a physical condition (ie, something genetic, or something developmental). It could be all of these things together.

The fact of the matter is, nobody knows why it happens, and nobody knows how to ‘cure’ it. The only method of alleviation that anybody has found that actually works is the method I am pursuing, and it is not perfect. This is a chronic, uncurable condition.

That’s why I’m lying. To avoid a lifetime of pain and depression, and a high risk of an early death through suicide. I know that not everybody understands or agrees with these facts or choices. But they are people who are not living with this first hand. They don’t have to live with the consequences, they can only imagine them. Believe me when I say if there was another way that wasn’t worse, I’d take it.

Nobody would choose this life unless they were desperate.

On 10 September 2003 (09:08 AM),
Dana said:

Just to clarify something:

That’s why I’m lying. To avoid a lifetime of pain and depression, and a high risk of an early death through suicide.

JD will not get depressed and commit suicide if he doesn’t satisfy his urge to fictionalize in his blog.

That is a real danger in my case. That alone would be enough to analyze the two situations differently, IMHO.

Okay, I’ll shut up now for a bit. Sorry for hijacking your blog, JD… =)

On 10 September 2003 (09:10 AM),
Dana said:

Actually, JD, I think the text on the about page is quite appropriate. That’s a good disclaimer =)

On 10 September 2003 (10:15 AM),
Tammy said:

I just have to laugh when i read this. We are back to the same old impasse are we not? You’re(notice you needn’t put [sic] if you decide to quote me. I used the contraction. Most of my spelling mistakes are due to poor typing or as in the case above, getting in too much of a hurry) Anyway you’re right that I disagree with all the reasons and logic above. i ownt go into it all. If anyone cares to know how I believe you can find this discussion on the forum. I do want to add though that you’re deceit lies not in wearing a dress (the scottish men do this) but the deceit lies in trying to pass yourself off as a woman!

I am not trying to say that if Jd’s blog needs a disclaimer than being transgendered is bad. I am only pointing out the transgendered bit, not as a discussion for whether it is morally right or wrong, but to point out that the outrage you feel at his little discrepencies is totally out of proportion to the fact that you try to lie to everyone you meet! It may not always work, but you would sure be happy if your lie could pass off as truth. Thats all I’m saying. It’s so easy to see where someone else is doing something wrong. oh my goodness, jd did not let the cat in. What an outrage! On the other hand we have oh my goodness, there’s a man trying to make me think he’s a woman! Because of all that gender applies(love, sex, moral values,civilization! it therefore becomes much more than whether a man wears a skirt and a woman wears pants.

But as I said, we will never agree on this. Aaannnnnd Dana, saying that teeth and other parts are all organs is not correct. Teeth are composed of dentin that surrounds a pulp and the crown is covered with enamal. No where are they ever referred to as organs. And even if they were an organ, both man and women have teeth so it’s not lying about the very essence of who you are!

Civilization and transgenderism. Well now this could become complicated but let me make it simple. There are certain things we all hold to be true; the world is round, the sun rises in the east, there are four seasons, rain is wet, the sun is hot, a man has a penis, a woman does not, grass is green etc. You see being male and female is an absloute to me and to the majority of people in society. If suddenly the world was flat and the sun was cold and women had penises where and what and who would we be. Civilization would be on its head. People would be killing people. People would be killing them selves. Nobody would know who they were or what place they had in society. No body would even know how to procreate. It would not only be the end of cicilization it would be the end of the world! But of course one must believe that being a male and being a female are an absolute! And I believe that man and woman, moon and stars, sun and rain, babies born to women, men having a penis etc. are absolutes. Therefore without them all would come to an end.

On 10 September 2003 (10:18 AM),
Tammy said:

2nd paragraph 8th line, “because of all that gender implies.

On 10 September 2003 (11:57 AM),
mart said:

whatever tammy.

On 10 September 2003 (12:15 PM),
J.D. said:

You see being male and female is an absloute to me and to the majority of people in society.

This statement could be the launching pad for a thousand discussions, all of them interesting. It may launch one at foldedspace in the next few days.

You’ve been warned. :)

On 10 September 2003 (01:00 PM),
Dana said:

I just have to laugh when i read this. We are back to the same old impasse are we not?

Yeah, I suspected we would get there eventually =)

(And my own spelling is not that great, either. I just happened to spot that one when I was quoting it.)

I am only pointing out the transgendered bit, not as a discussion for whether it is morally right or wrong, but to point out that the outrage you feel at his little discrepencies is totally out of proportion to the fact that you try to lie to everyone you meet!

Ah, I wasn’t clear on this. Sorry about that.

To address this, I would point out that I don’t really feel outrage that JD is fictionalizing his weblog on some occasions. It surprised me, yes, but far far less than my coming out to him as transgendered surprised him.

I think his particular state of untruth is completely defensible. The only (minor) criticism of him that I have is that since it is so easy, and since there are no real consequences to doing so he ought to put in a disclaimer.

In my case, it is not easy to disclose, and it is not without real consequences. Therefore, I don’t judge that I need to disclose this all of the time.

It may not always work, but you would sure be happy if your lie could pass off as truth.

You are correct, I would love it if everyone thought I was born a woman. But is that an important fact for people to know? You say it is, I say it is only in certain circumstances, and in those circumstances I would not keep it a secret.

In JDs case, there are circumstances when his fictionalizing is not important to make explicit. For example, if he is writing a novel, it’s already assumed that he’s fictionalizing. It’s only under the specific circumstances of something with the appearance of a journal that I feel he needs to telegraph his actions. And he is now doing that on his about page.

Does that distinction make sense? I’m not sure if I’m explaining it very well :/

Re: Organs:

“Our teeth are as much an intricate part of our bodies as our eyes, ears, lungs or any other organ.”

“Associated accessory organs such as the teeth, tongue and salivary glands begin the processes of mechanical and chemical digestion through mastication.”

even if they were an organ, both man and women have teeth so it’s not lying about the very essence of who you are!

This leads to another question. What makes a man a man and what makes a woman a woman? How does being a man or being a woman relate to the essence of who you are? I feel that the essence of who I am is a woman, and that my body is wrong. You feel that is an impossible state, and that I am mistaken in this. I don’t see an easy way out of that impasse. :/

Now we get to the fun bit — The Collapse of Civilization and the End of the World =)!

There are certain things we all hold to be true (1,2); the world is round(1, 2), the sun rises in the east(1, 2, 3, 4), there are four seasons(1), rain is wet(1), the sun is hot(1, 2), a man has a penis (1, 2, 3), a woman does not (1, 2, 3), grass is green (1) etc. You see being male and female is an absloute to me and to the majority of people in society.(1)

The above references are meant to be illustrative of how the statements which precede them are either interpretive (and thus not necessarily factual) or actually in error in some point of fact or logic.

But to continue:

If suddenly the world was flat…

Many people thought the world was flat for centuries at a time. The world did not end.

…and the sun was cold…

The sun is much colder than many stars, although it is slightly warmer than the average star. But many stars are twice as hot. ‘Hot’ is a relative statement.

…People would be killing people.(1, 2). People would be killing them selves. (1) Nobody would know who they were or what place they had in society (1). Civilization would be on its head (1, 2).

But of course one must believe that being a male and being a female are an absolute! And I believe that man and woman, moon and stars, sun and rain, babbies born to women, men having a penis etc. are absolutes. Therefore without them all would come to an end.

I would just refer you to here, here, and here.

Really, the whole document at this site is excellent.

On 10 September 2003 (01:14 PM),
Dana said:

Tammy You see being male and female is an absloute to me and to the majority of people in society.

JD This statement could be the launching pad for a thousand discussions, all of them interesting. It may launch one at foldedspace in the next few days.

Yay! Something else I can blather on about for 70+ posts!

On 10 September 2003 (01:37 PM),
Tammy said:

Ok i know that people once thought the world was flat. Of course that didn’t change anything because the world wasn’t flat. If however, the world was truly flat it would change everything. And yes the sun is cold but the only absolute that everyone, even children, can relate to is that the sun is hot. It comes out and the day is warm. I was stating simple facts for a reason. I was trying to show you how absolutely everybody, even the simplest people know that grass is green and men have penises. One could also argue that the grass can be brown or yellow. Bu the simple absolute is that it is green. And the simple absolute in your case is that you were born a man thus a man you are!! (Yow!)

On 10 September 2003 (02:12 PM),
Virginia said:

Stanley thinks this is all pretty funny. (all the Comments) He says it wasn’t any earth shaking event or anything, it was only about who let the cat IN. He says it reminds him of the time Dear Abby (?) askd the question about which way to hang the toilet paper on the holder in the bathroom. She said she got more letters on that question than any she had ever asked. She finally had to tell the people to STOP sending letters.

On 10 September 2003 (02:15 PM),
Virginia said:

FYI: You hang the toilet paper so the end comes out over the top!

On 10 September 2003 (02:25 PM),
Tammy said:

How dare you make light of such a lofty discussion! :)

On 10 September 2003 (03:23 PM),
Dana said:

Tammy i know that people once thought the world was flat. Of course that didn’t change anything because the world wasn’t flat…I was stating simple facts for a reason. I was trying to show you how absolutely everybody, even the simplest people know that grass is green and men have penises.

My point is that at one point “everybody, even the simplest people knew the world was flat, but that didn’t change anything because the world wasn’t really flat” illustrates that everybody can know something, and that something they know can be wrong.

So, then you immediately move into trying to establish that being transgendered is wrong, because “everybody, even the simplest people know that grass is green and men have penises”. But your first point about the flat vs. round earth establishes that “everybody knowing something” isn’t sufficient for it to be true.

So it’s a logical fallacy (as I linked to earlier) to try and argue that way. It’s an argument which may sound persuasive, but which in fact has no logical validity.

That doesn’t invalidate your opinion or point of view, but it means that the argument isn’t a logically valid refutation of my own opinion and point, either.

Basically, we’re back at the impasse. :/

Except.

Except there are actually men with no penises.

Either through mishap, genetic conditions, or development defects, there can be men who do not in fact currently have, or never developed, penises. Which suggests that everybody knowing men have penises is just as incorrect, in it’s way, as everybody knowing the world was flat was incorrect.

Tammy, I think part of why we are at this impasse has to do with the application of logic.

You believe that being transgendered is wrong, and you are looking for arguments to prove that to me. When those arguments are ineffective in persuading me to agree with you, you look for different arguments. You have not arrived at your point of view through logic, you started with that belief, and are now after the fact attempting to construct logical support for that belief. One of your fundamental assumptions is that your conclusion is true (which is in itself a kind of logical fallacy).

My own judgement that being transgendered is not in fact wrong stems largely from logical reasoning. For most of my life I was ashamed of being like this, and I knew everybody would hate me because of how I was. I started out agreeing with you — that this was wrong. But the more I thought about it, and applied logic to the situation, the more I came to realize that thinking this was wrong wasn’t supportable by logic.

So to change my point of view, you would need to have an argument that refutes the chain of reasoning which has lead me to what I think.

Likewise, for me to change your point of view, I would have to prove to you that something you firmly believe in is wrong.

I don’t think either of us are ever going to actually be able to do that to the other. But I don’t mind the attempts =)

On 10 September 2003 (03:24 PM),
Dana said:

Whew! At least I put the toilet paper on the roll correctly =)

On 10 September 2003 (05:40 PM),
Dana said:

Here are some excellent articles discussing physical brain differences between male-to-female transsexuals and non-transsexual men (and a similarity to women).

This is not proof of cause (as the article explains), but does show that there is a reliable physical difference between ts and non-ts people.

On 10 September 2003 (08:08 PM),
tammy said:

Yes there are people born without genitals. For them it’s hard to discern what they will be. But- if you are born with a penis there is nothing hard about figuring it out. You are a man! Dana, I cannot believe how you reason this whole thing! You act like I’m the one that needs to prove my logic. That isn’t so my friend! You’re the odd one out, not me. 99.99999999% of the world believes like I do. Positively, unequivically everything in the universe hinges around this one concrete fact. In plumbing and electrical work the fittings are even male and female. The one that has the ability to insert something is male. The receiver is female. You are the one that cannot prove that you are right. I have all the proof in the world that I am right.
And my arguement is supported by logic. Logic tells you that a male has a penis no matter how you want to twist it. (ooops I meant no matter how you want to twist logic! gulp) This same logic is why you are not accepted in civilized societies. It’s more than logic. It’s indisputable fact! Yes, we are at an impasse. The difference between you and I though is that your at an impasse with most of the known world. I am only at an impasse with you.

On 10 September 2003 (08:34 PM),
dowingba said:

Dana is having surgery, and will not have an “inserting” part, she will have a “recieving” part.

On 10 September 2003 (08:39 PM),
Tammy said:

Doesn’t matter one whit. He was born with an inserting part. Therefore he is an inserter.

On 10 September 2003 (09:25 PM),
dowingba said:

But that is the statement that has no proof. Dana will no longer be an inserter because Dana will no longer have an “inserting part”. It’s not “pure logic” to assume that “He was born with an inserting part. Therefore he is an inserter.” When Dana has a “recieving part”, the logical explanation is that, say it with me now, she is an “reciever”. The illogical explanation is that she’s still an inserter.

On 10 September 2003 (09:26 PM),
Nikchick said:

But- if you are born with a penis there is nothing hard about figuring it out. You are a man!

Tammy, are you saying that you believe a spirit/soul has a *gender*? If each person is endowed with a soul by their creator, that we are defined spiritually by our physical forms through divine ordinance?

If the soul is the purest form and essence of our lives, is it so regardless of gender, skin color, or physical defects such as mental retardation, birth defects, or other handicaps?

Personally, I think you over-estimate how much of the world has an inflexible view of gender if you believe that “99.99999999% of the world believes like I do.” Throughout history it has been recognized in many cultures that some people do not fit into gender roles strictly defined by whether or not one has a penis. Prior to the advent of gender reassignment surgery (available thanks to modern technology) those afflicted (or in some cultures “blessed”) would simply live their lives as the gender they felt aligned with their souls. Many Native American cultures had an accepting and even reverent attitude toward people so “called”. Books such as Gender Reversals and Gender Cultures Anthropological and Historical Perspectives touch on the modern thinking and research on this topic.

On 10 September 2003 (10:03 PM),
Dana said:

Tammy,

You sound like you might be getting a bit exasperated (JD does, frequently). You’re right, I do think you have to prove your logic, just as I think I have to prove my own.

You said:

Dana, I cannot believe how you reason this whole thing! You act like I’m the one that needs to prove my logic.

Immediately followed by this:

That isn’t so my friend! You’re the odd one out, not me. 99.99999999% of the world believes like I do.

Now, I want to take a step back from this specific argument, and ask you if you would jump off a bridge if all your friends did.

No.

Why not? Just because everybody does (or thinks) something in no way guarantees they are right. It doesn’t guarantee they are wrong, either.

Lots of people thinking or believing something does not add or subtract from it’s accuracy. In fact, it has no direct, logical impact on it’s truthfulness, either for or against.

So you can’t use it to prove something is right or wrong.

It’s a logical fallacy.

I’m not saying I am right and you are wrong because you are justifying yourself this way. I’m saying that it is not an actual, formal logic-based reason. It does not count as proof.

You can still feel that way, but you can only argue persuasively that you are right, not argue from a point of logic. I’m using formal terms, here, because this is the kind of argumentation I learned in school, and the sort of logic I learned from math.

Persuasive arguments can be believed, but they can’t be proven.

My arguments and reasoning has derived from formalized logic. They can actually be reduced to math-like logic and proved, aside from certain unprovable axioms, which are sort of the foundational first principles that formal logic says you can’t reduce a logic system beyond.

Now, you can defeat my logic by actually disproving one of these axioms, but the only axiom that I’m using that I’m aware of that we disagree on is that there is or is not a Christian God. And I don’t use that as part of my logic anywhere.

(As an aside, I apologize if this bores anyone to tears, or if it sounds patronizing — I’m trying to explain where I’m coming from as completely and clearly as possible.)

So, to be crystal clear. It doesn’t matter that I am in the minority. The majority isn’t always either right or wrong, so we can’t use that as proof that something they do or don’t believe makes things more or less true. From a formal logic point of view, only. Which is how I am reasoning.

Tammy continues:

Positively, unequivically everything in the universe hinges around this one concrete fact.

No, it doesn’t. Gravity has nothing to do with it. All of chemistry, physics, and math have absolutely nothing to do with the binary division of male and female.

It’s not even true in biology. Many (all?) single-cell creatueres split in half, they don’t have sex. There is a species of reptile that lives in Central America that has no male members. Each member is a female, and it’s offspring are genetically identical to the parent. Some species of fish and frogs are capable of switching back and forth between male and female depending upon the relative gender ratios present in the group they are in.

So, you can assert that everything in the universe revolves around the binary division of male and female, but that doesn’t prove that it is. And you provide no supporting information or arguments to back this assertion up.

You may believe it is a concrete fact. You cannot prove that it is. Saying that everybody knows it is a concrete fact does not prove that it is a concrete fact.

Back to your statements:

In plumbing and electrical work the fittings are even male and female.

Plumbing and electrical devices are made by people. They are not a property of nature. There are only a limited number of ways to solve the engineering problem of putting one thing into another thing. Is it so surprising that we design and name them based on the biological systems we are so intimately involved with? No. Again, the fact that we use our minds to make something some way, and then give it a particular name, has no direct connection to the way the universe as a whole works, or what is Right and Wrong.

You are the one that cannot prove that you are right. I have all the proof in the world that I am right.

Actually, you have provided exactly zero proof that you are right and that I am wrong.

You have written a lot of arguments that I am wrong and you are right. But none of those arguments are logically sound. They all contain one or more logical fallacies.

That doesn’t prove I’m right. But it doesn’t prove me wrong, either. I’m perfectly willing to be shown to be wrong. But you have to actually do it.

And my arguement is supported by logic.

Tammy, I don’t mean to sound harsh, or to attack you, but I have seen no evidence of this. I’ve tried to point out where I see your logical fallacies, but you don’t seem to want to argue on that level.

That is what, to me, brings us to an impasse.

I want to debate this using the tools of rhetoric. I want to actually use arguments that adhere to formal logical principles. You are not doing that, so I can’t take your arguments as a serious challenge to my proposition.

Again, that doesn’t mean I’m right. It just means you have not succeeded in disproving me, nor is my logical position either strengthened or weakened — it may yet be flawed, as you clearly believe. If you can actually logically disprove my statements, I would be happy to learn it. If you can explain to me what the flaw in my reasoning is, aside from a general disbelief in a Christian God, I would love to learn what that flaw is.

This same logic is why you are not accepted in civilized societies.

If this were true, Tammy, then women wearing pants would not be accepted in civilized societies, either. At one time, 99.999999% of the world believed that women shouldn’t wear pants.

If that many people believing the pants-wearing statement were wrong then, they can be just as wrong now. The fact that many people believe something is no assurance that the thing is either true or false. It only describes the state of being well known. It does not add or subtract from the thing’s correctness.

It’s more than logic. It’s indisputable fact!

No it isn’t, Tammy. You believe it to be. You have provided no proof. I have provided counter-examples. Indisputable facts are facts that can be measured and observed repeatedly, and which can be described and predicted reliably.

The relative importance of gender role varies from society to society. It varies in time over the lifespan of a single society. Taboo is a product of culture, and it evolves and changes. Gender is a quality that many forms of life have, but not all forms of life, and not unliving things. Rocks are neither male nor female.

The specific taboos of a society or culture cannot be predicted and are not unchangingly static. They vary wildly from place to place and time to time. Unless they are repeatably predictable, or reliably static, they cannot be indisputable facts, they can only be observable facts.

Facts which can only be observed can never be indisputable.

All of these statements are logically sound and internally consistent. Do not simply say I am wrong. Explain to me WHY I am wrong.

Yes, we are at an impasse. The difference between you and I though is that your at an impasse with most of the known world. I am only at an impasse with you.

I wouldn’t put it that way. I would say that I am at an impasse with modern society’s mores and beliefs. You are at an impasse not with me, but with a logical argument I am making.

That logical argument could well be flawed. But you have not uncovered and explained to me a flaw that invalidates it with the techniques of formalized logic. Those flaws you have claimed can be shown to be logical fallacies of one sort or another and, therefore, not in fact true.

Part of the impasse is with what we consider proof. I am asking for a specific kind of proof, and you are providing a different kind of proof. We reason using different mental toolboxes, I think. I don’t find your arguments persuasive, and you don’t find mine persuasive, either.

That’s probably what the true impasse stems from, more than anything else.

Anyway, I hope this hasn’t been too frustrating. I know I go on at great length and in excruciatingly painful detail. I know it bugs JD to no end, and probably many of my other friends too polite to mention it =)

As always, I am in no way offended by any of this discussion, and I intend none to anybody else. I hope I’ve managed to explain a little more clearly where I’m coming from.

If anybody has been frustrated, offended, or otherwise made uncomfortable by all of this, I apologize — that was not, and never is, my intention. I’m just a bit monomaniacal sometimes :/

On 10 September 2003 (10:17 PM),
Dana said:

Oops.

I wrote:

Those flaws you have claimed can be shown to be logical fallacies of one sort or another and, therefore, not in fact true.

What I should have written was this:

Those flaws you ahve claimed can be shown to have logical fallacies of one sort or another and, therefore, cannot in fact be proved to be true. They can be believed, but that doesn’t necessarily make them true, nor does it permit them to be used as justification for later logically sound arguments.

Once again I wish for an edit feature on comments.

Or, perhaps it would be a good idea if I posted smaller entries so that I was actually capable of proofing them =)

On 10 September 2003 (10:29 PM),
tammy said:

Yes i do believe that a soul has a gender( in a sense). I believe when the body dies the soul lives on. I believe in heaven and hell. I believe the Bible is infallible. I believe every word is inspired by God, therefore, I believe the soul ives on and goes to either heaven or hell. I believe the Bible when it says that in heaven we will “be known as we are known.” I also believe that in hell we will be known as we are known. In Luke chapter 19 we have the story of Lazarus and the rich man. Each recognized the other person though one was in a lake of fire and the other was in Abrahams bosom.
When God created humans in the Book of Genesis it says “He breathed… and man became a living soul.” I do not believe that when your soul goes to heaven (or hell) that it becomes “nongendered”. It belonged to you therefore it is your “gendered” soul.

And I firmly believe that if you were to count one by one the people that recognize a penis belonging to a male vs. those who don’t you would find that 99.9999% believe that to be the case. If one were to research the cultures that accept that the organ does not determine gender one would find that these were either primitive cultures or cultures whose roots are not planted in Christianity; whose God is not the Creator of the universe and the creator of man himself. These cultures, in their confusion, worship many gods. I admit that even America, that was founded on Christian principles, is beginning to wink at alternative lifestyles. According to the Bible this says only one thing; the end of humanity on this earth is very near. I “look up for my redemption draweth nigh.” God save America!

Give me a stump to stand on and I will preach! You gave me the symbolic stump so I preached.

On 10 September 2003 (10:37 PM),
dowingba said:

Off topic: I wrote a 10,000 word essay in HTML that was half the filesize of this page.

On 10 September 2003 (11:04 PM),
Dana said:

Dowingba,

What can I say? I’m verbose! =)

On 10 September 2003 (11:06 PM),
Tammy said:

Dana, so you claim I’m not being logical. Ok lets say that I haven’t proven anything by logic. But I don’t have to prove anything. You do!The burden of proof lies with you. And why is it so all important to reason with logic? I don’t see anywhere in the universe that it says that I have to use logic. It’s important to you obviously, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only way to argue. Why can’t one reason with common sense? Ok, so say you have a few more months of college under your belt than I do and say you know how to use the Queens English better than I do. You are a prime example of the person the apostle Paul writes about when he says there are those “who are ever learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth.” The proof is not in logic. The proof is in the penis!

And why are we discussing nonliving things? There is no relevance there. Of course rocks are niether male nor female.

And you are choosing to ignore what I said earlier about women wearing pants. The point is not whether women wear pants or men wear dresses. The point is that the men in Scotland are not trying to deceive and pass themselves off as women and the women who wear pants are not trying to be men! The wrong is not wearing pants or dresses. The wrong lies in trying to deceive others.

Now you may choose to end this like you did the discussion on the forum if you would like. There you implied that there was no point in argueing with me because I didn’t argue facts instead I based my beliefs in fundamental christianity and you had learned that those kind of people cannot be reasoned with. Did I paraphrase you correctly?

And, dana, I am not upset or frusterated. I just felt that it was time for me to come on a little stronger in how I actually feel about you and others like you.

On 10 September 2003 (11:40 PM),
Nikchick said:

God save America!

I’m not at all convinced it’s worth saving. America is one of the driving reasons life on earth is ever more precariously on the verge of being wiped out: we use more than our share of everything the earth has to offer, we’re war-mongering, we kill, rape, pillage, and pollute out of all proportion, and *still* we’re overly concerned with what’s going on in our neighbor’s bedrooms instead of the starving children, the extinction of precious species, the horrible, senseless violence, the modern-day slaves forcfed to sell their bodies or make cheap shoes, the ravages of disease, the needless suffering and our ever-aging population…

If the end of the world is coming, let’s get it over with already. Let’s stop pussy-footing around, let God take his faithful and comdemn the rest and cease the thousands of years of human torture the world has been subjected to.

Sheesh, you’d think I’ve been hanging out with dowingba with all the gloom I’m throwing around here, but as long as we’re all being honest, I figured I’d follow suit.

On 10 September 2003 (11:58 PM),
dowingba said:

I’m gloomy?

Tammy, the burden of proof lies squarely on your head. Unless you don’t agree with “innocent until proven guilty” and all that…

And my arguement is supported by logic. Logic tells you that a male has a penis no matter how you want to twist it. -tammy

And why is it so all important to reason with logic? I don’t see anywhere in the universe that it says that I have to use logic. -tammy

On 11 September 2003 (12:09 AM),
Dana said:

Tammy,

It’s very late here, and I must get to sleep. Briefly…

But I don’t have to prove anything. You do!The burden of proof lies with you.

The burden of proof, in my opinion, lies with everybody who makes a statement. I have backed up my statements with logic. You haven’t.

And why is it so all important to reason with logic?

Logic provides repeatability, uniformity, and confidence. There are other ways to reason. Logic has proven itself over time against them.

That doesn’t mean that anybody in particular has to use it. You are free not to.

But I am reasoning from a logical framework and you are not. That means we have a difficult time actually countering each other’s arguments. My points of logic are not persuasive to you, and your persuasive arguments are not logical to me.

So where does that leave us? At an impasse.

Why can’t one reason with common sense?

Because common sense can be shown to be factually wrong. It doesn’t prove anything.

Common sense says that heavy things fall faster than light things. Logic and science has shown this not to be true.

Common sense says that time is the same everywhere. Logic and science has allowed us to generate the theory of Relativity which has shown us this is not the case.

Common sense is unreliable. Of course it can be reasoned with. But the results will be unreliable.

Logic is reliable.

I value reliability. Therefore, I use logic.

The proof is not in logic. The proof is in the penis!

I would actually say that the proof is in the genes. There is a condition known as Androgenic Insensitivity Syndrome. Normally, people with XX chromosomes develop as women, and XY people develop as men. People with AIS are XY, but develop as women. At puberty they have a problem, because their hormone system is out of whack, but otherwise they are completely unremarkable women. But they are (and always have been) genetically male.

So, how should we judge them? Should we judge them in the women’s pile, because they didn’t develop a penis? Or should they be judged as men, because they are genetically male? After surgery, I won’t have a penis, either, and I will be genetically male.

Which is the important fact? The current presence of a penis? The ‘original factory installed equipment’? Or the genetic makeup of the individual? Or what about the physical development, which can be different than the genetic makeup?

What about people who are intersexed, who have both a penis and a partial or full set of women’s organs? Which side of the fence do they fall on? And why? What about them puts them on one side of the fence or the other?

I’m not saying there are universally acceptable answers to all these questions, but the I would say that any answers you give should be consistent with one another.

And why are we discussing nonliving things? There is no relevance there. Of course rocks are niether male nor female.

We are discussing rocks because you stated boldly that Positively, unequivically everything in the universe hinges around this one concrete fact.

Rocks are in the universe, and they don’t hinge around this one concrete fact.

So, therefore, everything in the universe does not hinge around this one concrete fact.

The point is not whether women wear pants or men wear dresses.

I’m sorry, I missed this at the time, although I realize that now.

My point about pants vs. skirts, above, was not in response to your earlier argument about this, but to provide a logical counterpoint.

In one place, you asserted that everybody knowing something proves it true.

Someplace else you asserted that women can wear pants.

My point is that these are incompatible points of view, because at one time, everybody knew that women shouldn’t wear pants.

So either everyone was wrong, and women can wear pants, which means that everybody knowing something can’t be used to prove something else, OR everyone was right, and women can’t wear pants.

That’s what I was trying to get across, although I’m not convinced I’ve stated it here any more clearly. :/

The wrong lies in trying to deceive others.

Well, it is true that I am trying to deceive others. Or, perhaps a more accurate way of putting it is that I am not disclosing a fact about myself casually, so that people who do not observe it for themselves will be unaware of it.

Either way, you have to make a decision about this deception, and deception in general.

Is it ever permissable to deceive someone? When is it permissable? Why do those conditions influence the permissability of deception?

I explained my reasoning behind why I judged this a permissable deception.

That doesn’t keep it from being a deception.

But it isn’t an arbitrary or an unwitting one. I have made a considered and deliberate choice, and you haven’t provided me with any reasons to doubt or question that choice.

Now you may choose to end this like you did the discussion on the forum if you would like. There you implied that there was no point in argueing with me because I didn’t argue facts instead I based my beliefs in fundamental christianity and you had learned that those kind of people cannot be reasoned with. Did I paraphrase you correctly?

Not exactly, but I suppose it’s close enough.

I think the fundamental problem is that we don’t reason the same.

That doesn’t mean that one of us reasons better than the other, it just means that we use different criteria to judge what is true and what is not. Why we think things are true doesn’t overlap.

I use logic, primarily.

Tammy uses belief and common sense.

Unless we decided to argue with a common set of standards, I don’t see how we can ever do anything but spit at each other without either of us giving an inch.

I’m happy to keep doing it for as long as you want to, but I’m not sure what end it really serves.

I just felt that it was time for me to come on a little stronger in how I actually feel about you and others like you.

I’m glad you did. I think everybody should be free to say their piece and expect to be heard with tolerance and respect. I hope I have done so. If not, I appologize.

That having been said, I do have one more thing to comment on:

Ok, so say you have a few more months of college under your belt than I do and say you know how to use the Queens English better than I do.

I also want to apologize if I seem condescending, or overly intellectual, or patronizing, or anything like that.

This is how I think. I don’t have any illusions — I know how dumb I am, and I know the worth of people, no matter what their educational background.

My insistence on logic is a quirk of my own personality, and I don’t intend to seem like I’m some ivory tower intellectual sneering down my nose at people.

I hope no one here feels that way about me, and I honestly don’t think that. Tammy’s comments made me concerned that I was maybe coming on too strong.

On 11 September 2003 (12:16 AM),
Dana said:

Okay, so it wasn’t so brief.

Nikchick I’m not at all convinced it’s worth saving. America is one of the driving reasons life on earth is ever more precariously on the verge of being wiped out

Nicole, have you ever heard of John Titor? I just found out about him today. The skeptic in me says it has to be a hoax, but the SF fan in me really is a bit disturbed by the picture he painted.

Of course, I’ve read Bradbury’s Toynbee Convector, too, so I have to wonder.

Still, it’s thought provoking.

On 11 September 2003 (08:12 AM),
Nikchick said:

Dana wrote:I would actually say that the proof is in the genes. There is a condition known as Androgenic Insensitivity Syndrome. Normally, people with XX chromosomes develop as women, and XY people develop as men. People with AIS are XY, but develop as women. At puberty they have a problem, because their hormone system is out of whack, but otherwise they are completely unremarkable women. But they are (and always have been) genetically male.

Thanks for posting this! I knew of this condition, and saw a very enlightening documentary about it some 15 or 20 years ago, but couldn’t remember the name of the condition. Went looking the web, but could only land at Fragile X Syndrome, which is quite different.

Nicole, have you ever heard of John Titor? I just found out about him today.

Nope, never heard of him, but then I’m weirdly isolated that way.

On 11 September 2003 (08:17 AM),
Tammy said:

Ok, one small bit then I am done. Dana you as a person are an ok person I guess. I just disapprove of your life style as does most of America. The other day we were having a parking lot sale with about a hundred other vendors and this transgendered individual comes walking through the sale. It was really a man but it was trying to make us think it was a woman. I thought about you. I thought, “wouldn’t it be ironic if that were Dane being Dana today?” But anyway as soon as this guy gets out of his car the whispers started. Vendors were calling to other vendors and motioning toward the guy. People were rolling their eyes. People were snorting and laughing at the guy behind his back. If I put you in the guys spot I felt sorry for him; but when I forgot about you i just thought how gross it was. Then I took time to seriously think about you. I pretended he was you. I found that in that way I could be polite to him. But a second evaluation of my feelings revealed that I felt no pity. It wasn’t like a cripple who couldn’t help being crippled. This man made a conscience decision to leave his house that morning with his long hair with the bald spot on top, his huge manly feet ungangly stuffed into heels, and a short little skirt flapping about his muscular legs. The pity left me. And here is why we debate: I firmly believe he had the choice to dress like the man he was that morning, you think that he really didn’t have the choice. You feel like his choice was either dress like a woman or kill himself. You know what? If people responded to me like they were responding to that man that day I would choose death! I think there is something in people like you that makes you so insecure that you go for the big bang! What can I do to shock people today? What can I do to get the attention I so long for? So you do whatever it takes, rather like dowingbas exhibitionist desires.

Now I know you totally disagree with what I have said. But that is why we are at an impasse. I believe you are choosing to act like a woman because you crave attention for some insecure reason in your life. I also feel that your insecurity with your manhood was keeping you from any real close sexual relationship. Women do not like insecure men. So rather than admit that you had these insecurities (which go along with feelings of inferiority) you decided to empower yourself and say you were born to be a woman. That way there was an excuse for your inferiorities. That way if a you remembered single forever it wasn’t because a woman didn’t want you, it would now be because you are transgendered. That set you apart from the common unmarried man that wanted to be married. God forbid anyone should find out that you longed for a woman to love but no woman loved you in return.

You mention often how frusterated JD and others get at your arguements. That too empowers you. You could not compete in the world of men that jd belongs too. So you choose to set yourself apart so no one knew that you could not compete. Thats how inferiority works. It doesn’t mean that you really couldn’t have found a woman and competed in a mans world. It just means that you “thought” you couldn’t. So because of your pride you pulled yourself out of the competition. To be transgendered is not a brave or noble act. It’s a cowardly act. When people get frusterated at your arguements it feeds your ever starving desire to want to believe that you are right. Hey, they can’t argue me down. Hmmm maybe I do have a point. And every arguement you get into reinforces that in you; it makes you feel better about what you have chosen to do. It never dawns on you that people are frusterated because you are intent on proving something that is ridiculous.

Ok now that I have made everyone hate me I’ll quit. And I will admit to you dana, that I am frusterated because it’s all so stupid! Oh the underlying feelings are not without merit but the way you choose to deal with your feelings are ridiculous!

On 11 September 2003 (10:04 AM),
Nikchick said:

Oh the underlying feelings are not without merit but the way you choose to deal with your feelings are ridiculous!

This is what ruins your side of it for me, Tammy. In order to “figure out” Dana and make the situation “fit” into your world-view, you’ve gone so far as to decide for yourself Dana’s innermost thoughts, feelings, and motivations. Regardless of how Dana describes those thoughts, feelings, and motivations to you, you have decided that you know the “real story” and act accordingly.

That’s no different than me finding out that a person is some sort of devout Christian and *assuming* they’re motviated by the same quest for glory, the selfish need to be better than others and to judge others with “god on their side”, the desire to put their “good works” forth and be glorified by their church that I’ve seen from other so-called Christians. I can pretend I know what motivates them, what they’re like inside, but I don’t *really* know. Acting as if I do does everyone a disservice, including me, because it allows me to act without compassion.

The truth is that no one wants to suffer, and everything a person does is to deny or avoid their suffering. The worst thing we human beings can do is lose our compassion for those who are suffering, whatever form that suffering takes, because compassion is one of the few things that makes us different from the animals. Without compassion, we can’t ease our suffering or the suffering of others.

On 11 September 2003 (10:19 AM),
Dana said:

Tammy,

I’m not sure where to start — there are so many different ways I could respond to this.

First, I’m not offended or annoyed. Second, I don’t intend to frustrate or offend you by this response. I say that a lot, but I want my intentions clear at the outset.

We have come, in a roundabout way, back to one of the original topics of JD’s blog entry. What is Truth? How can we know with any confidence that something is true?

You believe being transgendered is wrong.

Why?

Because it’s “obvious”.

Because you believe that the bible and Christianity have specific taboos against aspects of it (or the whole thing altogether), and you believe that Christianity is a voice of authority.

Because it’s just gross.

Because only someone crazy would want to be like this.

Because it’s ridiculous.

Because everybody else agrees with you that it’s just wrong and they all point and snicker.

Because it makes me different, and people shouldn’t be different, at least not in this way.

These are all guesses, taken more or less from this discussion and the previous TG discussion on the Forum. I’m not trying to put words in your mouth, this is just the overall sense I get, and I would definitely appreciate it if you’d correct any inaccuracies.

Whatever your specific opinions, it’s clear you don’t approve of this, and think I’m sick.

Let’s not quibble about if you are right or wrong. You think you’re right, I think you’re wrong.

Why do you think your reasoning is superior to mine?

Two reasons, I think. First, it gives you the answer you want, the answer you believe to be ‘correct’.

Second, and more importantly, because you believe you were right to begin with. I am obviously wrong to be this way. If my reasoning arrives at the ‘wrong answer’, it must be flawed.

I believe (and please do correct me if I’m misrepresenting you) your certainty that you are right stems from your church, that your church teaches that things like being gay and being transgendered are wrong.

That faith, and your own trust of your own common sense, give you certainty. You derive truth from your faith and from how you feel about things.

You see a TG person, and you feel it is weird and gross. Your faith gives you explicit permission to be intolerant and discriminatory towards that person. It reinforces what your common sense is telling you.

Tammy, this may surprise you (or it may anger you), but I feel sorry for you.

My impression of you is that you are a decent, kind, caring person. But I also think you are probably intolerant without even realizing it.

I think you are intolerant not because you are religious and I am not, but because you are willing to accept things that give you permission to be mean to people who disagree with you or your churches teachings.

If the story of Jesus happened today, my understanding of things is that he would hang out with Hookers, Drug Addicts, and people like me, and be telling you that when you are kind to one of these people, the so-called “dregs of the earth”, that you being kind to him.

Kind doesn’t include pointing and snickering and whispering if I or another TG person walks by.

But I’m not religious, and all of that is a religious based argument. I may well have executed it poorly, and I’m quite sure you won’t agree with the point I’m trying to imply with it.

The impasse does not come from my being ridiculous.

The impasse comes because you have no respect for my position. You sit down at the table knowing I’m wrong, no matter what I say or do. The very fact that you dismiss my reasoning, my ideas, in a sense my entire life, as ‘ridiculous’ means that my position is unimportant to you.

My position is only something for you to defeat, not something for you to learn about and then judge when you have more observations, explanations, or facts. No, it’s a wrong position that is ridiculous, that cannot be defended, and I can only be in the right once I have abandoned it.

Back to the topic at hand.

Your analysis of my life and ‘insecurities’ is almost entirely wrong. I’ve been engaged once (I broke it off), and have many very fulfilling and satisfying relationships with both men and women. I have lots of friends. Good friends, who stick by me when things are tough. If I do say so, I have excellent taste in friends.

Others have made the claim that I am just looking for attention by doing this, my father in particular. Again, it’s not the case. What I want from people is tolerance to be who I feel I am, without fear of reprisals for doing so. Tolerance means treat me politely, and if you are going to snicker and point, have the courtesy not to do it to my face. Obviously, no snickering and pointing would be better, but I’m a realist.

Of the many transgendered people I know, several were marines, and were quite successful. I wasn’t, but I compete quite well in the masculine world because I am technical and I am also socially skilled enough to carry on conversations with non-technical people, get along with folks, and, generally, communicate with people. Also, my rhetorical skills are quite useful.

But all of that is besides the point. You surely feel that no matter how I justify it, or what feelings I ascribe to having, that there is something sick or wrong about me.

You may well be right, although not in the way you think. According to this article, it’s probable that at one or both of the windows where a male baby receives a surge of very specific, strong hormones, I didn’t get them, or didn’t get them correctly. This suggests that I have a developmental disorder, not a purely “mental” one. That is, much like people who are genetically normal, but develop abnormally because of a chemical in their mother’s body. In my case, instead of having “ambiguous genitals” or a physical defect, I have an “ambiguous brain”, or something like that.

Is it the true cause? Maybe. Maybe not. I have confidence that it is this, or something like this. Not because it gives me the answer my common sense tells me, but because this article is based on scientific research, which is in turn bound by the rules of logic, and is therefore reliable, repeatable, and predictable.

One last thing.

Ok now that I have made everyone hate me I’ll quit.

You’ve said things like this before, and I wish you wouldn’t. Do you really think we hate you? You seem to almost wear our imagined ‘hate’ like a badge of honor.

Whatever you think, Tammy, I don’t hate you. I just disagree with you. I can like and be friends with people whom I violently disagree with, because I am tolerant of differences in others. Just because people are different than me is not a sufficient reason for me to condemn them. I judge by actions, not by opinions. And by actions, I mean ‘are they kind?’, ‘are they smart?’, ‘are they funny?’, ‘are they honest?’, not ‘are they male and ‘choose’ to wear a dress?’, or ‘do they have lots of piercings’, or whatever.

Dana, getting down off her soapbox…

On 11 September 2003 (11:52 AM),
Tammy said:

You know something nickchic? Incredibly I do have compassion for dana. I know that I drew my conclusion based on what i feel rather than absolute truth. But I thought it was time I really out with the truth of the matter as I view it. What is strange to me is the knowledge that if I saw dana in person I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I would find her abhorhent. Can’t help it. I just would. Is that right? No. But thats how I would feel. Now if I saw Dane as a man I know I would love to count him as one of my friends. The person that I know in cyber space is an intellectually stimulating, and funny individual. And I might add, a very compassionate and thoughtful individual. But if I were to think of Dana as sitting at his computer in a skirt I wouldn’t be able to sit and write to him with an iota of compassion or understanding! I openly admit this weakness of character on my part.

When I wrote my last entry I was pictureing dana as a woman therefore my entry came across as very rude I’m afraid. In order to talk civially with Dana I always picture him as a man. I know I haven’t helped my case here but, hey, i’m just being honest.

Now to dana. Everything you say is pretty much true other than you saying that I believe Christianity is the voice of authority. No I believe God is the voice of authority and I believe God says this is wrong. I know we’ve quibbled before about what we each think the Bible is saying but I believe it is the inspired word of God and that God is saying that this is wrong. As far as Jesus “hanging out with you”? No I see no where in Scripture where Jesus “hangs out with thsoe who are delibrating doing wrong. Oh yes he ate with republicans and sinners. But for the purpose of showing them he loves them and thus bringing them to a saving knowledge of who he was and is. It wasn’t to be buddies with them. In fact the Bible exhorts the Christian to stay away from the things the “world” enjoys and calls fun. We are to hold up a standard of holinees(Isaiha ?)We are to come out from among the world and be seperate and have no part in what the world deems ok!

And dana I know I am intolerant. But there are some thngs one must take a stand against and be intolerant about! I am not surprised that you say you feel sorry for me. Again, that makes you feel better because it makes you the normal one and me the abnormal one; it makes you the right one and me the wrong one. Thats ok if you think I’m wrong. I am not wrong regardless of what you think. But you are free to form your own opinions. I can’t stop you. I can only pray for you.

You know, I like how you and dave both outline the thigns that I believe. It is amazingly accurate. I can read over your analytical out lines and say, “Yeh, thats exactly what i believe and think.” The way you guys reword things helps me see what I am truly saying. You present my views much better than I do. And by the way, I like what i am saying. I do not like if I have hurt you or offended you but I am proud of the fact that I have not backed down or been wishy washy in pronouncing a thing to be sin when it is a sin. I know that there are others reading this dialogue that believe too that what you are doing is wrong. Why they have been silent I don’t know. It is to their shame that they can’t stand up for what they believe. Most of them would not have argued it this long and I agree i probably shouldn’t have kept arguing but they could have at least came on and told you they loved you but that what you are doing is wrong. And what would have been wrong with them presenting to you the plan of salvation? I did that over on Dowingbas site, and I believe I did this over in the forum also. The difference between me and a lot of christians today is that I don’t ride the fence; I am not ashamed to be called a Christian.( there that was a little “aside” to the countless others that believe fundamentally the same thing I do)

I still count you as a friend in cyber space dana. I hope you still consider me to be a friend too. I’m sorry for getting a little rude sometimes.

On 11 September 2003 (02:18 PM),
Virginia said:

Tammy, I guess my method of approach was more private, rather than for the whole world to see if I approved, or disaproved of the person in question, or of his lifestyle. (J.D. does the whole world read your weblog or am I taking a authors liberty?) :-)

On 11 September 2003 (03:58 PM),
Dana said:

Tammy,

I, for one, am glad you have held your ground and not been discouraged by several of us refuting you. I can’t speak for Nikchick, Dowingba, or Dave, but I never wanted you to not say how you feel or what you believe. I’ve just been trying to explain how I feel and believe, and where I think you are wrong, and why.

And I would hope you would do the same right back to me.

I know we’ve quibbled before about what we each think the Bible is saying but I believe it is the inspired word of God and that God is saying that this is wrong.

Earlier in this thread, I spoke about axioms being logical propositions that can’t be proved. Faith in God (or a god) is an axiom. You accept it as true, I do not. It can be used to prove other things, but at this time it can’t itself be proved, logically, one way or the other.

Which means, from a logical point of view, that any logical argument that depends on their being a God, and the bible being his inspired work, is only going to be logically valid to people who believe those Axioms. If they don’t (as I don’t), then those arguments aren’t going to be seen as valid.

It’s part of the impasse we’re at.

Identifying axioms is very important in logic.

dana I know I am intolerant. But there are some thngs one must take a stand against and be intolerant about!

I agree that there are things in life where a stand must be taken. I also think this is one of them, which is why this thread has grown to over 100 entries =)

I am not surprised that you say you feel sorry for me. Again, that makes you feel better because it makes you the normal one and me the abnormal one; it makes you the right one and me the wrong one.

Well, it’s true that I think I’m right and you aren’t, but I wouldn’t claim that I’m ‘normal’ and you are ‘abnormal’. Normal and abnormal are culturally dependent. I’m not normal for our culture, but that doesn’t make me bad, evil, or a sinner necessarily.

You present my views much better than I do.

Thanks!

I have done my best to understand your position.

And by the way, I like what i am saying.

I’m afraid I don’t.

I’m glad you’ve been able to express yourself here, and that you don’t feel like you’ve been wishy-washy. That’s an important thing. I’m glad that, at least here in cyberspace, we can be friends.

But what you are saying is intolerant and mean, and is the kind of thinking that leads to this, this, this, this, and this (PDF).

Hate and intolerance leads to violence and discrimination. I don’t think you would do this sort of thing, but the people who would believe much the same things as you do.

Earlier, you implied that this was my own fault. If I wasn’t choosing to do this, I wouldn’t have to worry about being assaulted or discriminated against.

But that reasoning is the same reasoning that leads people to blame women for being raped. “Did you see how she was dressed? She was asking for it!” No, she wasn’t. And neither am I. Yes, I’m looking out of the ordinary. But just being out of the ordinary shouldn’t put you in mortal danger in a society that considers itself civilized. Aren’t there better ways to deal with things than violence and hate? I sure think so.

Barbarians kill what they don’t like or don’t understand. Civilized people would never stoop to that sort of behavior. We have a lot of barbarians living amongst us.

I know that there are others reading this dialogue that believe too that what you are doing is wrong. Why they have been silent I don’t know. It is to their shame that they can’t stand up for what they believe.

That may well be. Is it your job to make them ashamed of their choices?

I’m sorry for getting a little rude sometimes.

That’s okay, Tammy. I get rude sometimes, too. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I’m pretty hard to offend. And I try to be forgiving if people are apologetic.

I also try to respect other people’s point of view, even when I have real problems with it. I don’t succeed at that all the time, but I do try.

Sigh.

Anyway. I get the sense this may be wrapping up a bit. What are we up to? 106? 107?

On 11 September 2003 (04:40 PM),
Tammy said:

Dana something just dawned on me that I have taken for granted that was understood here. Now I’m not so sure it was understood. Follow me here. Because I believe that what you are doing is a sin and because I believe that there is a haeven and hell; it follows that I believe that if you persist in this way of life that you will burn eternally in hell. Therefore I try to dissuade you and change your thinking.

If I were doing something that you knew would cause me certain death, such as standing on a bridge rail ready to jump over, you would do your very best to talk me out of it. You wouldn’t care if you came across sounding offensive or rude. You may even a physically hurt me to get me down from there. You would do whatever it takes to save my life. That is how I feel about you and the course you are on.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe there is a God or there is a hereafter. I do. And because I believe it so strongly I will try as hard as I can to save you from death. If i were on that bridge and I was certain I could jump without being killed and you were certain I couldn’t it wouldn’t matter to you what I believed. It would only matter to you what you belived and you would act on what you believed.

So what i am trying to say is that I have not meant to be offensive or rude or disrespectful of your view. I just feel an urgency about the entire thing that you don’t feel. It’s like you stepping aside and saying, “ok Tammy I certainly want to respect your position here so I will step aside and let you jump” You’d never say that! You would feel a great urgency to remove me from my precarious perch. Dana,try to understand how i feel here.

And mom, I didn’t know you had taken a method of approach. Did you email dana privately or something? You needn’t answer me. You can take whatever approach you want. It’s your life.

On 11 September 2003 (09:40 PM),
Dana said:

Tammy,

I did understand that aspect of your motivation. It’s one of the reasons that what you say doesn’t offend me — because as much as I disagree with you, I know you are actually trying to be helpful.

I just feel an urgency about the entire thing that you don’t feel….Dana,try to understand how i feel here.

Tammy, I think I understand how you feel better than you understand how I feel.

Let me try to explain by analogy.

You and your neighbor are standing outside. Your neighbor smokes, you do not. Smoking is bad for your health, and causes all sorts of medical problems. One of the best things you can do for yourself is quit smoking.

When your neighbor takes out a cigarette and lights it while you are talking, which you find annoying. Do you:

1) Prevent your neighbor from smoking by taking the cigarettes away, dousing your neighbor with water, stealing the matches/lighter/etc?

2) Ask your neighbor not to smoke around you, because you are concerned about second hand smoke?

3) Ignore it?

Yes, smoking is not exactly the same thing as what I’m doing. But the underlying principle is the same.

At some point, you have to accept that you can’t dictate or control or save people who think, believe, act, or reason in ways that you don’t.

You can certainly express your opinions and beliefs, but you can’t keep them from doing what they want, and at some point continued attempts to control their decisions, or to save them from themselves, is going insult them.

Each person gets to chart his or her own course through life. Some will have beliefs similar to your own, some will not. There is nothing wrong with sharing your ideas about how things work with others. There is nothing wrong with offering input and advice.

But I think choice is important. You should not choose for other people. You should not legislate morality. You should not force others to abide by your own beliefs, particularly if they don’t share them.

If someone makes it clear that they have a philosophical disagreement with your beliefs, then the respectful thing to do is to not press things unless they indicate they are willing to hear about them. If they wish to learn about your beliefs, talk. If they wish to speak about their own, and how they differ from yours, you should listen.

But if they are going to act on their own beliefs, and that action is something you feel is contrary to your own belief, well, you should not act. How can this be?

Being confrontational about a difference of belief is insulting, no matter how urgent you believe it to be, because it denies the other person choice and sovereignty over their own selves and beliefs.

To deny someone else their own choice is to be supremely arrogant. You negate their role as a living being, as a person. You presume that your beliefs and your knowledge of how the world works and what is right vs. what is wrong is superior to theirs, and that theirs is so wrong that they need to be saved from themselves. You are treating them as if they were ignorant children.

That is a terribly patronizing attitude. It suggests an intolerance for diversity, and a lack of respect for differences of opinion, philosophy, and faith.

You are free to believe that your beliefs are The One True Way all you want. But I maintain that it is evil to force someone to do what you think is good against their wishes. You can provide them with advice and support, but you should not deprive them of choice.

I’m not saying that you necessarily believe all this, and I don’t mean to be putting you specifically down, Tammy. Please don’t take it that way.

I do feel that this is a primary reason that people like myself, for the most part, have a difficult time getting along with devout evangelical Christians in either cyberspace or in real life.

You perceive my life as sinful. You have compassion for me. Your compassion and faith indicate that the right thing to do is to intervene in my life to guide me into making choices that are not sinful, as you believe sin to be defined.

I, on the other hand, am perfectly willing to disagree with others and allow them to make their own path through life, a path which may be guided by beliefs very different from my own.

I respect others right to choose their own path, whereas evangelical Christians, for the most part, seem to feel the need to choose everybody else’s path for them, in addition to choosing their own.

That insults those of us who are more tolerant of differences, and it tends to isolate the evangelical Christians into groups who all agree with one another, and who assume that all other right-thinking people agree with them, too, since everybody they know does.

I’m not trying to be insulting, here, but I am trying to criticize something that I see as a problem for the peaceful coexistence of two groups of people whose cosmologies and philosophies don’t mesh very well.

It’s the difference between stopping someone from touching an electric fence they aren’t aware is electrified (ie, ‘saving them’ from injury) and stopping someone from grabbing an electric fence when they know it’s on and going to hurt.

In the first instance, the person lacks a crucial piece of information, and you stop them to give it to them. In the second, they know what they are doing. You may think them really dumb for doing it, but they know everything about the situation that you do, and they are simply choosing to do something different than what you would do under those circumstances.

Perhaps they are grounded in some way. Perhaps they spent a lot of time in Australia becoming immune to electrical fence shocks. Maybe they are just a little strange, and they know that at worst the fence will hurt them an awful lot, but won’t hurt anybody else.

In summary, I believe we can’t save everybody from themselves. We have to accept that people believe differently than we do, and we have to allow them the freedom to do so. We can counsel, advise, argue, and teach. We shouldn’t force. To do otherwise is, I contend, evil, because you keep others from excercising their own free will. It’s like forcing someone to confess to a crime — are they confessing because they really did it, or are they confessing to get you to stop beating them with a 2×4?

To put it another way, which is better:

1) To live a life where there is no possibility to do something that is wrong, resulting in you always doing the right thing because there’s nothing else to do?

2) To live a life where you have both right and wrong options, and you choose to do the right things anyway?

I contend #2. Which implies, logically, that you need to allow people their choices, no matter how much you may disagree with them. They have to be free to fail in order to learn how to be good.

That’s in my opinion, anyway.

I expect one or two of you probably disagree with me on this =)

On 12 September 2003 (06:17 AM),
Tammy said:

Ok But Dana, we “faundamental evangelical Christians” have no choice but to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature”. That is our mission. That is why we are born! Everything was created to give glory to God in some way. Before Jesus left this earth he gave us His last comission ;that which Ihavested above.

Dana, in real life I do not push the issue like I have been here. Once i hae presented the plan of salvation to those of my friends and extended family who are unsaved; I then let it be. I have a cousin who has chosen an alternative lifestyle despite having been raised to believe similar to how I was raised. Not once have I even hinted to him that I disapprove of his life style. I don’t need to. He knows how I feel about it and he’s heard the plan of salvation many times. However if he got into a debate with me over whether his lifestyle was a sin or not, then I would debate the issue with him. And thats what has happened with you and I. I have pressed the issue because we are in a debate.(and because I don’t know whether you have ever heard how Jesus died to save you)

Ask Jd! He is an atheist. We have had a mini debate about this one Christmas but other than that I do not keep trying to press the issue with him. Why? Because he knows how I believe and I know that he knows what the Bible says. I don’t need to continually let him know I disapprove. But if he were in a debate with me about whether there is a God or not you better believe I’ll present my side of things.

The only problem with both of my cousins and you is that you all exceed me in book learning. The only book that I know better than most of you is the Bible. I can quote large portions of Scripture by memeory. So since I know the Bible so well that is the basis for my arguments. If I could quote some great Bible Exegete on the matter beleive me I would. But I can’t because I don’t read much of what Bible exegetes have to say. Not ecause Idon’t want to but because I don’t take the time to. Anyway Dana, you have some good argurments and some that are not so good but through it all you have remained a sensitive and caring individual. I am glad we have been able to meet each other in this way!

On 12 September 2003 (07:30 AM),
dowingba said:

Unfortunately, the bible has little to say about the truthfullness of personal weblogs.

On 12 September 2003 (10:14 AM),
Dave said:

Alright, I can’t resist any longer. Dowingba, some might argue that the Bible does address the truthfullness of personal weblogs by containing a prohibition on lying and then reference the 10 Commandments. Curiously enough, however, I’m not convinced that this is an accurate interpretation. Exodus 20: 16 is considered the source of this prohibition, however, it says: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.” (KJV) What is interesting here is that it does not say that shalt not bear false witness ever, full stop. It says not to bear false witness against your neighbor, meaning do not falsely state things that would prejudice your neighbor. This does not prohibit JD from making up who let the cat in (or out, or even if there really was a cat at all as the case may be). It only would prohibit JD from falsely accusing his neighbor of, say, stealing his cat. To conclude that there is a theological or scriptural basis for mandatory truthtelling in all instances would therefore be incorrect. Instead, it would appear that the Bible does not prohibit lying under certain circumstances, or rather that it requires truthtelling only under specific circumstances.

This is in contrast to the point that Dana and I were arguing, which has more to do (I think) with a free discussion of ideas being the ultimate methodology for determining the truth. Such a discussion inherently requires accurate factual information or the conclusion would be flawed. GIGO.

But we should examine at least one of Tammy’s premises. If everything is created to give glory to God, as Tammy asserts, and we also have free will, as most Christian doctrine asserts, then it must follow that a decision to not accept salvation is also a glorification of God, as is the individual who refuses salvation.

Why is this important? Because under this analysis regardless of whether Dana is being deceptive about his gender this deception is neither prohibited (he’s not bearing false witness against his neighbor) nor is it demeaning to God (since all things were created to glorify God). But, Tammy’s argument (several postings above) misses the point. Her argument is not that Dana was born with an XY chromosomal structure and therefore ought to stay that way, her argument is that because Dana has told us that she was born with male genitalia and that she wants to alter that, that Dana is somehow being deceptive. I’m not clear if the deception occurs because Dana changes, because Dana may dress as a woman, or because Dana hasn’t told everyone that for years Dana wished to be a woman.

How Dana chooses to dress is simply how Dana chooses to dress. You may assume that it’s deceptive because you’ve drawn a conclusion about the fact that Dana is wearing a skirt, but Dana isn’t being deceptive about anything. Dana’s wearing a skirt. Dana’s not saying, “I’m wearing pants” when in fact she’s wearing a skirt. Tammy believes that this is deceptive because she’s made a social judgment about what’s appropriate clothing for someone with male genitalia to wear. Unfortunately for Tammy’s argument this is essentially the argument that American society rejected when women started wearing pants. Granted, the general assumption might be that someone wearing a skirt was a woman, but I’ve spent enough time walking around major cities in this country to know that this isn’t an accurate assumption anymore.

As to the other potential deceptions, I don’t see that it’s deceptive for Dana to say, “I want to have female equipment” any more than it is for me to say “I have a CD player and what I’d like to do is trade that in for a DVD player.” That’s my preference. Period. If I go and trade in my CD player for a DVD player, that’s not deceptive either. If I were to tell people that my CD player was in fact a DVD player, that’s deceptive. Similarly, if I were born with un-holed earlobes it’s not deceptive for me to have my ears pierced. It’s a modification to my body, but I’m not deceiving anyone by it.

This does, however, bring up another interesting point. If Dana does undergo a reassignment surgery, is there deception in presenting as a woman after the surgery? I would say no, because the equipment matches the representation. There is, presumably, however, a certain amount of deception in representing yourself as a woman if in fact the equipment doesn’t match the premise. This assumes a difference between wearing a skirt and actually representing yourself as a woman, which presumably encompasses more than simply wearing a skirt. If you represent yourself as a woman when that’s not actually the case, then that would be at least an attempt at a mis-representation. I mean no disrespect when I say this Dana, but I’ve seen at least one picture of you and it was not a particularly successful misrepresentation. On the other hand, what makes it a (potential) misrepresentation is that there’s an attempt to meet certain social norms by someone who normally wouldn’t be attempting to meet those norms. In other words, the deception occurs because I make assumptions and interpretations based upon certain visual cues. It may be that Dana doesn’t want me to make those assumptions/interpretations or that she’s doing that for another purpose other than to deceive me into thinking one thing as opposed to another. That should be juxtaposed with the original premise of this discussion, which was JD’s deliberate misstatement of fact, which was apparently designed to make us think “A” when in fact “B” happened.

As to the third alternative, admittedly, if Dana were telling people that he wanted a CD player when in fact he really wanted a DVD player, THAT would be deceptive.

On 12 September 2003 (10:45 AM),
Dana said:

Tammy thats what has happened with you and I. I have pressed the issue because we are in a debate.(and because I don’t know whether you have ever heard how Jesus died to save you)

I’m glad to hear that you aren’t this confrontational about things in person.

Most of that post was not directed directly at you, but was an attempt to talk about people who have beliefs similar to yours, or who have a similar reasoning style, and some of the less positive actions those beliefs end up motivating.

It was late, and I wasn’t at my most tactful when I wrote it, I’m afraid, so while I do believe all that, I wasn’t trying to target anyone directly in this thread, and I certainly didn’t mean to offend or insult anybody.

But I am glad that you moderate in person. I also definitely agree that there has been nothing wrong with you asserting yourself and your beliefs in this thread — I’m asking and we’re debating our respective reasoning and thoughts. This is exactly the good kind of discussion on these topics that I enjoy and value.

Dave If you represent yourself as a woman when that’s not actually the case, then that would be at least an attempt at a mis-representation. I mean no disrespect when I say this Dana, but I’ve seen at least one picture of you and it was not a particularly successful misrepresentation.

Oh, I know I don’t make the best woman out there. I’m certainly not pretty. I’m not offended, but I am curious as to which picture you’ve seen of me.

I do definitely attempt to present myself as a woman — I am attempting a deception, one I have been ‘assigned’ to do by my doctors, in fact.

I try to avoid the problem as much as possible, but really, if a man dressed as a woman used the men’s room, do you think there wouldn’t be serious hassling and a certain amount of danger?

Granted, women feel threatened by us using the women’s room, too. Believe me when I say that I’m not looking, and I’m not going to do anything but take care of business and fix my makeup, and I don’t want to get beaten up.

I don’t know how many people took a look at all the links I posted, earlier, but here’s an excerpted statistic.

The chance of a transgendered person getting murdered in the US is about 1 in 12. The chance of a ‘normal’ woman or a ‘normal’ man being murdered is 1 in 18,000. There are a lot of whackos out there. We’re just trying to be safe.

Of course, this gets back to the whole “if you weren’t doing this, you’d be perfectly safe” argument, and we’re back at an impasse.

My point is that doing this, when it doesn’t hurt anybody else, shouldn’t, in a civilized society, trigger hate and violence. We don’t live in a civilized society.

On 12 September 2003 (12:22 PM),
dowingba said:

Even if the bible said “Thou shalt not lie in thine weblog”, it wouldn’t prove anything because the original debate was on whether or not the changing of certain facts was lying, in the first place.

On 12 September 2003 (01:18 PM),
Tammy said:

Hi Dave, Hi dana, Hi dowingba.

On 12 September 2003 (07:18 PM),
Virginia said:

Since I like odd numbers better than even numbers. (even numbers are too formal) I guess I’ll write one more post. This (all 68 pages) ought to make good reading on my 7 hour trip to Oregon next week.

On 12 September 2003 (08:48 PM),
dowingba said:

How did you calculate this to be 68 pages? Ha, even number again!

On 12 September 2003 (10:09 PM),
Virginia said:

I printed out all 68 pages. Something this good you don’t take a chance on trusting a machine to preserve it.

On 15 September 2003 (02:53 PM),
Denise said:

To add to JD’s mythos……my sister, Angela, actually stumbled onto his blog when she put my name into google to see what would come up. (My sister has too much free time at work, I think.) She then read about the JD’s dream, and emailed me to see if I thought this was the JD that we knew from high school. So it is strange indeed that Angela is part of the reason that we dated in high school (it has long been a belief of mine that JD was intrigued with my sister in high school, hence the reason he wanted to date me – no real interest in developing a lasting relationship, but merely a strong curiosity about Greek women – which I am not unhappy about because I gained a great friendship out of the deal) and that it was once again my sister which prompted us to reconnect and continue our friendship after a lapse of a decade. Life is definitely a strange, yet enjoyable ride.

On 15 September 2003 (04:28 PM),
Denise said:

Ok – I have read most of this page, skimmed some of it…but after 68 plus pages……this is what I have to say:

1. Truth is based on perspective.
2. Everyone has lied at least once in their life. If you have told a child that Santa is coming, or that a gift was from Santa, then you have lied.
3. Anyone who thinks that the world should end as soon as possible does not have children (or cats, in JD’s case).

It is very interesting that JD’s entry on using truth (which in this case is literary perspective)would be blown out of proportion and used as a forum for personal agendas.

On 16 September 2003 (09:40 AM),
J.D. said:

On his recent trip to California, Nick picked up a little light reading: Umberto Eco’s Baudolino. This morning he showed me a couple of passages he found serendipitous:

Baudolino was about to close Otto’s eyes, believing he had heaved his last sigh, but suddenly the older man reopened his mouth and whispered, exploiting his final breath: “Baudolino, remember the kingdom of the Presbyter Johannes. Only in seeking it can the oriflammes of Christianity go beyond Byzantium and Jerusalem. I have heard you invent many stories that the emperor has believed. So then, if you have no other news of that realm, invent some. Mind you, I am not asking you to bear witness to what you believe false, which would be a sin, but to testify falsely to what you believe true—which is a virtuous act because it compensates for lack of proof of something that certainly exists or happened�You can imagine what you haven’t seen. Oh, why has it become so dark?”

Baudolino, who was a liar, told him not to worry, because night was falling. Just as noon was striking, Otto exhaled a hiss from his now hoarse throat, and his eyes remained open and fixed�Baudolino closed his teacher’s eyes, and shed honest tears.

Nick remembered another passage which he paraphrased, “Writers tell lies, poets tell beautiful lies.” Here’s the actual passage:

“Baudolino,” he [said], “you are a born liar.”

“Why do you say such a thing, master?”

“Because it’s true. But you mustn’t think I’m reproaching you. If you want to become a man of letters and perhaps write some Histories one day, you must also lie and invent tales, otherwise your Histories would become monotonous. But you must act with restraint. The world condemns liars who do nothing but lie, even about the most trivial things, and it rewards poets, who lie only about the greatest things.”

Writers are liars.

On 23 September 2003 (12:21 PM),
Angela said:

Just for the record, I was the Gumby snagger. JD was definitely the Gumby dangler. Thank you for the interesting discussion.

On 07 January 2004 (02:22 PM),
Joel said:

Since this blogplosion, I’ve encountered many things that have taken me back to its questions. Most recently, in a New Yorker article entitled “Theatres of War” Daniel Mendelsohn wrote about the Peloponnesian War and the writer Thucydides’ account of it. His work is famous for many reasons, but partially so for what he did for the then nascent field of historical writing. Unlike his predecessor Herodotus, Thucydides strove to avoid “literary charm” or embellishments, but, in telling his story he used some techniques that JD has confessed to rely upon such as the conflation of events or the reassignment or fabrication of likely dialogue. The famous “Speech of Perikles” is an address that Thuc. wrote and stuck like a comic book bubble into the Athenian leader’s gaping mouth. Ad Mendelsohn puts it: “it’s striking how much of what Thucydides does in his history resembles what Aristotle thought tragedians were supposed to do in their plays. Thucydides’ dialogues and speeches, with their emphasis less on factual accuracy than on a kind of psychological truth, conform to Aristotle’s view that the best tragic dialogue expresses what a character is most likely to say in a given situation.”
So, effective writing can bring us truth via fabrication, no? Just don’t call it journalism. Call it, instead, “History in the Classical Mode.”

On 07 January 2004 (02:24 PM),
Joel said:

edit: “AS Mendelsohn puts it:”

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