October 30, 2020

Dear Drama Observers,

Every now and then, I come across something I wrote a while back that seems more relevant now than when I first wrote it. I feel that way about parts of this week’s letter that were originally penned over three years ago.

***

In the summer of 1997, I drove into downtown Nashville early one morning. There, a man with a mask knocked me out, slit my throat, and took my money.

I’m not making this up, I promise. That actually happened to me.

This story probably raises some questions for you. How’d I survive such a gruesome mugging? Did they catch the perpetrator and what sort of punishment was meted out? In addition to the physical injuries, how deep were the psychological scars left by this trauma. Am I okay?

Let me address your questions by providing some clarity:

In the weeks prior to that early morning encounter, I was experiencing some troubling orthopedic symptoms—tingling in both hands and arms. I went to an orthopedist who said the symptoms were most likely indicative of something going on in my neck. An MRI revealed that one of my cervical disks had migrated out of place (from an old injury) and was pressing against my spinal column. That’s what was causing my symptoms.

To my dismay, he said I needed surgery and without it, a simple rear-end collision could result in quadriplegia. When I asked him what the surgery would entail, he blithely explained, “Well, I’ll cut you open from the front of your neck and remove parts of two vertebrae and the disk in between. I’ll then take a bone out of your hip, place it into the slot, bolt it all together, and you’ll be fine.”

Gulp.

I then asked him what risks came with such a surgery and he said, “Oh, I could paralyze you.”

Gulp, again.

“But,” he then said reassuringly, “I’ve done 30 of these surgeries a year for 20 years and I’ve never seen it happen.”

I was nervous but reassured enough that I let him do the surgery and, thankfully, it was successful.

Now, with that information as background, let me re-tell my story.

In the summer of 1997, I drove into downtown Nashville early one morning. There, a man with a mask knocked me out, slit my throat, and took my money.

Notice that I told you exactly the same facts both times. The first time, using nothing but factual ingredients, I created the impression I’d been mugged—a lie. The second time, I explained the context of those facts so that you understood the truth.

Here’s what I’m trying to illustrate: Facts require interpretation.

It’s been said, “Facts speak for themselves.” No, they don’t. They require an interpretive context without which erroneous conclusions may be drawn.

There are unreasonable people (Drama People) on both ends of the political spectrum. Drama People always claim that the facts are on their side, but they sometimes use those facts to support falsehoods. They first draw conclusions and then make all new facts fit those conclusions. And any challenge to those conclusions is instantly dismissed as being false.

But there are also reasonable people on both sides. Reasonable people want the facts, but they also seek to interpret them accurately. Context is everything because without it, the conclusions drawn may be faulty.

So, back to my throat being slit.

Let’s say you’ve read somewhere that downtown Nashville before sunrise is a dangerous hellscape of a place. The Drama Person might say, “Godwin went downtown early one morning and got his throat slit. So, that proves it… Nashville is dangerous.”

The normal person would counter by saying, “Godwin’s throat getting slit has nothing to do with this. Perhaps Nashville is dangerous, but his experience doesn’t prove that assertion.”

Drama People use facts to support their previously-drawn conclusions. Normal people form their conclusions from accurately interpreted facts.

***

The loudest voices on social media, it would seem, are those who insist the facts are on their side and speak for themselves. They constantly tell others to WAKE UP and see the truth and think their point is strengthened by using the ALL CAPS function. But in many cases, they’re simply telling lies while quoting facts.

There are three important elements in our quest to distinguish truth from falsehood:

CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT!

Till next week.

2 replies
  1. Jody
    Jody says:

    Thank for this article Interpretative context certainly seems lacking in drama folks. Could the frontal lobe be mis firing or maybe certain Neurological synapses are not activated.?

    Reply
    • Alan Godwin
      Alan Godwin says:

      I’m certainly no expert in the neurosciences, but I’m reading more and more that there does seem to be a brain-wiring explanation for much of this.

      Reply

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