Do you ever wish there were some kind of absolute truth machine? One where you feed the words into the hopper at one end and at the other end a bell dings and a screen pops up saying “Yup, it’s true,” or “Absolute, total BS. Ignore it.”

I sure do. It would save so much time.

When I was in college I concocted a series of proofs and equations I called the “calculus of truth.” They were based on the idea that there was no absolute truth that really mattered, and that in fact what did matter, the global perception of that truth, changed over time in fairly predictable patterns. If you could slice time into fine enough chunks and analyze the various claims floating around inside those chunks you not only could figure out the “truth”, i.e., the optimal global perception for that time, but you also could predict its origins, how it would change over time and its historical perceptions at 20, 50, 100 years and beyond.

(It probably isn’t necessary to mention that I wasted a LOT of time in college.)

If we had the ability to freeze time, stack all the stories together so their points corresponded and then twist and turn them into something that really fit, my little truth calculus might be useful. Unfortunately, I can’t freeze time, and I don’t have enough spare time to figure out which political action committee is telling the fewest election campaign lies THIS time.

So…I’m going to take the popular, expedient route. I’m going to grab a couple of issues that I am familiar with and feel strongly about and research those to come to a well-reasoned, thoughtful decision. For the rest I’m going to rely on soundbytes and gut feelings, or maybe close my eyes and hope the checkmark lands in the right box.

Dammit. And it’s not just politics, although this being the week before elections they’re at top of mind right now.

I saw a commercial last night featuring Ben Stein on a raft in some pristine northern lake, presumably Alaska. He tells us that Alaska seafood is great, that it’s a renewable resource, and that I should grab a fork and eat as much as I want because there’s plenty more where that came from.

About an hour later I came across this article in the Sacramento Bee (OK, so the Bee papers aren’t exactly a paragon of truth and virtue, but still…). It says that we’re eating so much seafood these days that by 2048 those species will “collapse” and we’ll have to eat sea squirts.

Interesting. So does that mean I should stop eating fish? That I should only eat fish when I’m visiting Alaska? That I should sue Ben Stein for fraud? Or should I grab a fork and eat fast because in 2048 I’ll become a vegetarian? (presuming, of course, that I’m alive and still have my teeth)

Or does it maybe mean that I add overfishing to a brain circuit already crammed with global warming, domestic violence, deforestation, overflowing unrecyclable trash piles, child abuse, the AIDS epidemic, starving children, teen pregnancy, drug cartels with more power than the oil industry, gay bashing, terrorism, some Colorado pastor who may or may not be a gay meth-ridden massage freak (and why anyone should care), the increasing consolidation of the media into a single newsfeed that may not be the truth but it’s a helluva lot cheaper than actually researching the story, air pollution, the immolation of women in India, water pollution, the rise of slavery, cruelty to animals, female circumcision, the Republicans’ Capitol Hill arrest record which now threatens to beat the Democratic record set under (sometimes literally) Clinton, genocide, the alarming rise of serial killers, elder bashing, an asteroid heading our way, our unpreparedness for a west coast tsunami…

(slap) getting a grip now

So, since Amazon so far doesn’t carry truth machines, I’m repeating my election policy, focusing on the issues that I feel strongly about and might be able to affect (you can probably tell what they are from reading the above list). Otherwise, I’ll get through life as best I can. I promise to “Awwwwwwww,” whenever a story about something else on the above list pops up on the news. (except for the one about the pastor)

And that’s the truth.