The Rotary Club of Pismo Beach / Five Cites
Emily Garrett, Second Place
Grade 11, Arroyo Grande High School
Teacher: Mrs. Dixon
“The truth is rarely pure and never simple,” claimed Oscar Wilde, a bona fide lord of the English language. His contention regarding the exclusivity of truth lends us to believe that the truth is a matter that ought to be celebrated–as nowadays it seems to be too far and in between. Men and women, protagonists and antagonists (though certainly not respectively), often find themselves within the texts of our history books and anthologies for doing that bold act of telling the truth–for having the sheer audacity to opt for reality, rather than a fabricated statement dipped in slander and cushioned by fiction. The Four-Way Test, a relatively modern invention designed with the intention of evoking the truth and goodwill of its applicant, might as well be regarded as old as an anthropology text might extend –for the Four-Way Test has long since been used by those aforementioned bulwarks of integrity that rest within textbooks and novels.
Galileo Galilei, one of the few keystones in the Scientific Revolution, is widely remembered for having improved the telescope–a certainly admirable feat in itself. However it is not this aspect that he is esteemed for. But rather, history prizes him in challenging the unbending rule of the Catholic Church by propagating the Copernican theory of the heliocentric (i.e. the planets rotate around the sun, not the earth) because he found the very empirical evidence in its favor to be incontrovertible. Thus Galileo wrote papers advocating it, told any curious ear about it, and criticized the archaic Aristotelian view that contradicted it–something that Copernicus himself neglected to do, so that he might not “rock the boat” too much. While Galileo served house-arrest until the day he died, what he championed before society was most certainly the truth, most certainly fair to all concerned, most certainly built (eventually, at least) goodwill and better friendships as the Catholic church reconciled its paradigms with science, and most certainly was beneficial to the masses in the sense that they no longer needed to plague their thoughts with confusion and doubt regarding planetary rotation.
We see the likes of iconic characters such as Dr. Thomas Stockmann in Henrik Isben’s An Enemy of the People–who is falsely made to be a charlatan and a fool by his own brother. Dr. Stockmann declines his brother’s suggestion to “acquiesce in subordinating himself to the community.” Rather, he asserts the truth about the dreadful state of the water contamination before the town, the truth that is fair to all of those citizens, the truth that would build goodwill and better friendships between the townspeople, and would undoubtedly be beneficial to their health. But his brother and the town council opted to hide behind a mask of ignorance in order to protect their precious pockets from having to spend a little money to fix the water contamination problem.
So often to we learn of men such as Andrew Jackson, Boss Tweed, and Cromwell who usurped the collectivity’s gullibility with their rhetoric, provoking a sense of shame. But history has been careful to balance the exportation of lies with figureheads of truth – the Atticus Finches, Sir Thomas Moores, George Washingtons. As the Transcendentalist archetype of the nineteenth century Henry David Thoreau put it: “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth!”