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Where Is Truth?

November 2, 2009

Poetry is on my mind. On Thursday, I’ll be doing a presentation at a local high school about the intersections of art and poetry and the ways in which the verbal and the visual intertwine in my life. Poet and political activist Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980) wrote that the universe is made of stories, not of atoms, and used her voice as a poet to bring attention to stories she believed needed to be told. Often poetry is a way I deliver messages from my subconscious to myself, telling stories about the way things are for me at particular moments in time. Poetry appears in the margins of my art making, in notes I take during meetings, on scrap paper, and on 3×5 cards I scribble on, put away, and forget about for months, sometimes years.

I wrote the poem that follows in my journal during a class I was taking. We were talking about providing evidence for our assertions. I commented that some things are difficult to prove and someone else said, “Without quantifiable evidence, your truth is worthless.” I cannot prove everything that I believe to be true, but I can still believe in its worth.

In Vita Veritas

There is truth here
in this place
where you and I
we
meet.

There is truth here
as sure as tears are real
although their salt cannot be
teaspooned out,

as sure as listening ears
can hear and understand
yet never count the words,

as sure as hearts give life
with each unmeasured beat.

There is truth here.
As sure as love.
As sure as hope.
As sure as
we.


Much of my work as an educator lies in the realm of the difficult to prove. I can count the number of students in my classroom. I can give them tests to measure the facts they remember. I can assess their ability to use a formula to solve a problem. I can score a paper and check to see if commas and semicolons are used correctly and words are properly spelled. I can do all of that and much more and still not know if they are truly educated human beings who will continue their learning journey not because of truths that will be tested, but because their lives will be richer because of it.

The quantifiable things that I can measure provide external proof of learning, but the truth of being educated is something much more difficult to measure, the commitment of a human being to use the experiences of learning to create. as Aristotle said, a life that is both beautiful and useful, filled with things that can be counted and those which cannot.

What do you know that you cannot prove?

Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.
• Plato

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