Monday, March 28, 2011

Law 3: Truth is Not Isolated

Making Monday

Any workplace where employees may be exposed to chemicals is required to have material safety data sheets (MSDS) on file for those chemicals. MSDSs describe the hazards and precautions to be taken when handling a given chemical.

My favorite MSDS details the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO), a colorless, odorless, tasteless substance that kills tens of thousands each. As one of the public awareness web sites explains:
Most of these deaths are caused by accidental inhalation of DHMO, but the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide do not end there. Prolonged exposure to its solid form causes severe tissue damage. Symptoms of DHMO ingestion can include excessive sweating and urination, and possibly a bloated feeling, nausea, vomiting and body electrolyte imbalance. For those who have become dependent, DHMO withdrawal means certain death. [See, The Dangers of DHMO]
This pernicious substance, more commonly known by its chemical formula H20, is literally everywhere.

By this point you're probably groaning that I've gotten so worked up about water. And you're right: the quote does overstate the case. But go back and read it. Every statement is strictly true.

So, is water good or bad?

For someone stranded in the desert, it is definitely good. For someone with a new pair of cement galoshes who's about to take a long walk off a short pier, it is definitely bad. The truth of the matter is that you can't determine the truth of the matter without a context.

Makers are largely uninterested in absolute truths. The truth that is the substance of true making is relative and practical: a made thing will be fit for some purposes and not for others.

By the same token, when you write, don't fall into the trap of perfection. Strive, instead, to create an expression of your story that is true to your vision and true to your audience.

Plato argued that there exists the idea of a perfect sphere, of which all the balls in the world are but a poor approximation. The fact that we have not achieved the perfect sphere doesn't stop us from enjoying the ballgame.

Image: Bill Longshaw /

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