The Truth Will Set You Free

Fourteen years ago, I took a class at a tiny local theater. The goal was to create and then perform, a ten-minute monologue, which would happen on the last day of the class in front of an invitation-only audience. Our instructors - actors and improv people - led our group of eight through many exercises to stimulate creativity and practice the skills we'd need to stage and perform our pieces at the end.

One of the writing exercises was called "The Truth Is." A timer was set for eight minutes and we were instructed to begin with those words, then just let the pen go where it wished. If you got bored, you'd start a new paragraph but it had to start with "The truth is..." and go from there. Afterward, each person got on stage and read their writing aloud.

I took that class seventeen times over six years. All of my monologues came from the writings that began with "The truth is..." (Some of them are on YouTube if you're curious.)

Lately, when I use this prompt for writing, I find myself questioning more and more what the truth actually is. I think of Jack Nicholson growling, "You can't handle the truth!" I think about how several people can witness the same event and describe it in different ways. I think about how information can be manipulated and presented as an alternative version of truth. 

But I do know this: How ever you want to spin it, some things are just a fact, like getting sick or falling in love with a person who doesn't love you or getting older or losing your job. Some facts can be hard to face and accept. If I don't accept the truth and look the other way, I could cause myself harm, such as ignoring a lump that could have been easily treated if addressed early. This didn't happen to me, but it's an example.

I definitely had a point when I started this. Maybe it's that we should be careful throwing the word "truth" around like we know what it means. What's true for you may not be true for me. Or maybe it started when I heard AGAIN someone inserting "honestly" as a filler word. Or maybe it was about giving feedback because it seems like almost every topic can find its way back to that, for me anyway. 

Still, I like how this post shaped up so I'll end here despite having forgotten why I started it.


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