A Fine Line

Posted by Ken Campbell January 5, 2014 0 Comment 1522 views

In matters of creative non-fiction, it is often hard to quantify which is the dominant factor: “Creative” or “Non-fiction.” There are those who say that the more a topic is personalized and garnished with the observer’s point of view, the less it can be seen as objective. There coastline-fine-lineis an agenda here, they say, and impartiality has its limits. Or at least the way we talk about things scientific and factual is limited and necessarily subjective.

I say that is not true. Think about it this way: Two men sit beside each other on a park bench. In front of them is a small pond, with a grassy swale leading down to the shore on one side and a mix of reeds and grasses in the shallows to the other. There are ducks and a beaver, an osprey in the high branches of a fir tree and crows calling out to one another from either side of the lawn. We give each of the men a piece of paper and a pen and we ask them to write down what they are seeing. What effect might it have on them? Are they likely to see the same things, with the same intensity?

Probably not. We all see things differently. We emphasize some things and downplay others and we talk about the things we want to talk about. Nothing wrong with that. Just because one person’s account may differ from another’s doesn’t mean that there is any less fact to his description. One man could see the lake as a haven for waterfowl and the other could see it as a possible swimming hole; both are valid views of the same experience. We inject a little bit of ourselves into the story to make its points. Yes, it is a form of bias, but there would be no story at all without bias.

All this to say that, although this site may ease its way over into the “Creative” sector from time to time, I am just as often looking at my subject with the more calibrated eye of science. Different days call for different ways. It is telling, however, that the built-in discrepancy between the way one person sees the world and the way another perceives it is something that we all accept, without much question. What effects might this reality have on other aspects of our lives, our economy, national defense, environmental protection?

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