Micro Truths

“How’s your summer?”

The question came from a friend I ran into at my favorite coffee shop this morning, and it sounds innocent enough. It’s the kind of thing you ask someone just to be nice, knowing that you’re both in a hurry and don’t have time for sustained narrative. And The nice thing to do is to simply say, “Fine. Great! It’s flying by. How’s yours?”

Unfortunately, when it comes to small talk, I’m not well socialized. I have an alarm in my brain that goes off at the slightest hint of untruth or insincerity. It’s the reason I never watch to postgame interviews with athletes, question most sermons from most preachers, and almost break my fingers trying to turn off my car radio every time I hear a soundbite from the president.

It’s also, I suspect, why friends don’t always talk to me in public. I hate the falseness of scripted conversation. If we’re going to talk, I want to share things that are true, even if they are trivial. I’d rather listen to a rant about the local baseball association or an ode to the virtues of yoga than to get the standard, “Fine. Great! Everything’s fine.”

And so, when my friend asked how summer was, I replied with something I’ve come to think of as a “micro truth”–a statement that offers but does not require a response while still maintaining an acceptable degree of honesty.

fullsizeoutput_4b5“I hate summer. It’s hot, and I’m alone all the time, and I have no consistency to my life. I’m ready for fall.”

She looked at me for a long moment, as though trying to decide if I had been drinking, or maybe if I’d forgotten some medication necessary for my mental stability. But she recovered quickly, said she understood, and we went our separate ways.

I don’t always know what to make of interactions like this. Part of me feels bad for disrupting the rhythm of casual social exchange, for failing to meet basic expectations. I know I sometimes make things awkward.

At the same time, I wonder if our communities wouldn’t be in better shape if we responded with more micro truths. Acknowledging struggle invites support. Offering an honest opinion normalizes healthy disagreement. If our casual conversations reflected a greater commitment to honesty, perhaps we would have a stronger foundation for more important discussions as they arise.

All of this is mere speculation, of course–a hunch from a writer, not a scientific treatise. But regardless of the relative practicality of honesty in casual conversation, the fact is that the truth matters to me more than the awkwardness it might create–no matter how micro that truth may seem.

8 thoughts on “Micro Truths

  1. Glad you are back to writing. I so enjoy the chuckle I usually have over your honesty. Tell you what, i’ll trade my hot for yours.

  2. “..almost break my fingers..” The abandonment of truth, as much as anything, is what is so depressing nowadays.

    • Yup! I console myself the story of Elijah, complaining that the whole world’s gone crazy. God tells him to suck it up and get back to work. Truth has never been all that popular, but I suppose that doesn’t make it any less the truth.

  3. Pingback: A Dry Spell | mondayspenny

  4. Eric,

    Guilty as charged on the casual conversation, though when I ask someone how they are doing I sincerely care. Had you and I had that talk I would have likely responded that while it’s hot I much prefer the spring and summer over the fall and winter. I hate the cold and I think I might actually suffer from a mild form of seasonal depression each year. Late October and early November are tough and January just plan stinks.

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