From: L. Michael Hall
2021 Neurons #83
December 31, 2021
With this article, I am concluding this series on Critical Thinking about Facts. With the new year, there will be a new series. In the last post I noted that facts become really problematic when—
- They are out of context so that there’s no way to evaluate them.
- They are partial and many things which need to be said about them are not said, but left out.
- They are anonymous and not owned by whoever identified or created the fact.
- They are coded in vague, abstract, evaluative terminology rather than descriptive empirical language (sensory-based language)
Another problem concerns the fluidity versus immutability of a given fact. Generally, the word fact carries an unstated implication, namely, that it is immutable. “This is the way it is, it is a fact.” Yet while some facts are immutable (they don’t change), many are fluid. They change. And they are facts which are more likely to change over time.
Sometimes a factual statement asserts something that just is, something that is immutable. It is something that you cannot change or alter, something that is a given. “Like what?” you may ask. Well, like the old joke, “There are two inevitables in life—death and taxes.” Factually, you and I are going to die. Factually, every person who has ever been born before the last generation has died. That’s an immutable fact that you cannot gainsay. Argue against it all you will, rage against it, protest by raising your fist to the heavens—and the fact remains.
There are many more. When my wife was trying to geographically locate herself in the Grand Valley, she asked, “Which way is east?” I pointed to the Mesa Mountain, “There, from our perspective, the sun rises on that mountain.” “Every day?” she asked. “Yes, unless the earth starts wobbling in it orbit, we will see the sunrise there.” An immutable fact that is also gruesome is this: Jump off a skyscraper and you will die. Immutability—that’s just the way it is.
Other facts can be changed. Until the invention of the airplane, it was a fact that “man cannot fly.” Now we can. Once it was a fact, “If you get polio, you will be crippled for the rest of your life.” Now that is no longer the case. Facts about polio have changed.
What then do we do when we cannot change the facts—when it is immutable? What do we do when we have to live with certain facts. “Yes, your son was in an accident and died.” “Yes, your job has been eliminated so there’s no longer a place for you here.” The answer is simple is say, but hard to live. Change your thinking. Change the way you have been interpreting things, adopt a new attitude about it, and use your meaning-making skills to attribute more resourceful and ecological meanings to the facts that cannot be changed.
For the immutable fact, change your thinking from rejection to acceptance. Meta-state yourself first of all with acceptance. If it is inevitable, part of the way things are, and outside of your control, then access and apply the magic of acceptance to it. This will enable you to acknowledge the fact as real and part of reality. You are living the serenity prayer when you do.
Next, change your thinking by altering the meaning, that is, change the frame. As you identify the old frame, shift the frame until you find one that contributes to your well-being and vitality (see Mind-Lines: Lines for Changing Minds for a book on that subject). Now you can reframe a fact by giving it meanings that enable you to keep learning and developing. Since you are the meaning-maker and you have an extremely wide range of meanings that you can create and adapt you have a tremendous capacity, to frame and deframe meaning until you find those that will empower you and bring out your best.
Just because a fact is immutable, that’s not the end of the story. You can make it the beginning of a new story. If you know how to live inside–out, then you can treat the immutable fact as one of reality’s constraints that invites you to use your creative thinking to figure out how to best deal with it.
- Tags: Facts