Like most everyone with an email account, I get lots of ‘Forward..Forward...Forward’ stuff from friends and relatives. Some I have learned to simply ignore because they want to preach at me or to continue a silly chain letter. But I confess to being addicted to one category: the words of wisdom/humor/motivation/blessing from one celebrity/pundit/mystic or another. Why? Because far too often those quotes are misattributed. And I have a mission in life to correct every one of them!
Silly occupation, in many views, and probably annoying to some, but there is a deeper issue here. I don’t do this to annoy or offend or show off my vast range of useless trivia knowledge. I seek the truth in all aspects of my life, and this is one area that I can – sometimes – confirm the veracity thereof.
Why does it matter? Because truth matters. If we decide that it’s really not important who said what in emails circulated ad nauseum, how do we not transfer such a blasé attitude to other areas of life? I have witnessed numerous preachers, teachers and motivational speakers offer anecdotes as their own experiences, knowing full well they picked up the story from the mists of time – Neale Donald Walsch and his Conversations with God essay the most recently publicized such occurrence (“Christmas Essay was not His, Author Admits”).
This behavior offends me on two levels. First, as a honest, truth-seeking individual, I am concerned that such actions are becoming the norm. Political spin notwithstanding, honesty does have an important place in society. Second, as a writer, I care about the words I write. Copy them, repeat them, use them as you will, but give credit where credit (or blame) is due.
Author Harry Frankfurt wrote an excellent pair of books on this topic: On Bullshit and On Truth. At barely 100 pages each, they spell out exactly why truth and the defense of same are so important. “No society can afford to despise or to disrespect the truth” (Truth 32). We must be able to discern truth in order to help us determine our reality, the bounds of our personal existence as opposed to all that is outside our selves.
And so I will continue my personal crusade against misattributed quotes, be they emailed words of wisdom or the motivational posters which fill the halls of academia and business. Forwarders, beware!