According to many Buddhist texts we should aspire to speak only what is true and useful. Of course, what is ‘true and useful’ for some might seem dishonest or without value to others. Still, it seems worth the effort to pass our never-ending stream of thoughts through a “true and useful filter” before speaking them or making decisions.

And what if we apply this filter not only to what we speak but also to what we hear and read? How much of the information that bombards us every day meets the ‘both true and useful’ standard? Doesn’t much of it seem either true but of dubious value or apparently helpful but ultimately false?

 Television is full of politicians or partisan pundits who regularly spout popular talking points. The best one can hope in that circumstance is that they are too trusting or lazy to do their own research. Not intellectually curious enough to incorporate nuance. I want to believe that these statements without substance are not deliberate lies but often I don’t. When I see someone leaving out important facts to make a point I want to believe it’s because they are so passionate that they forgot. I don’t want to believe that ‘lying’ is now called ‘spinning’ and that, if engaged in for ideological purposes, relieves the on-air personalities from sharing what is true

 Then there are the advertisements. I put these in the category labeled “examine the assumptions.” Are we really supposed to pay attention to ads about diseases that most of us have never heard of? And then follow their directions and go ask our doctors for the company’s pills? What would happen if I turned away from the TV and toward my doctor? Or, if my doctor actually was able to practice medicine, ask questions, confirm whether or not one actually has a particular malady.

 Is it harder to be truthful in our daily lives when the media message is dominated by dishonesty? How do you practice your own truthfulness?


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