Over on my other blog, HinesSight, yesterday I wrote "Covid reality: thoughts are not facts." It starts this way:
Driving into Salem today, listening to a news channel on satellite radio, I heard a public health expert say something that made me grab a piece of paper and write it down as soon as I came to a stop:
Thoughts are not facts.
She was referring to wearing masks in schools as they reopen after a summer break. Like when a student or parent says, "But I thought that wasn't going to be necessary since Covid cases were declining so much a few months ago."
OK. You thought that. But thoughts aren't facts, they're just thoughts. The only way a thought can be a fact is -- no big surprise -- if the thought is factual.
This isn't an astounding new notion, that thoughts are not facts. I just hadn't heard those particular four words before. Now that I have, I really like them.
I've started saying to myself, "Thoughts are not facts," when I catch myself worrying about something that might happen, but so far hasn't. Where's the facts that match up to my worry? Usually nowhere, because my worrying isn't connected to factual reality.
Often it isn't a big deal if people mistake a thought for a fact. But sometimes it is.
Trump actually won the election, not Biden.
Vaccines and mask-wearing aren't effective in preventing COVID-19.
Global warming isn't happening.
These thoughts are in the heads of many millions of Americans. They aren't facts. They're false. Yet because those people mistake their thoughts for facts, tremendous harm is being done.
So ask yourself: what thoughts do I have that are being mistaken for facts? Probably quite a few, if you're like me. I suspect that you'll be happier if you're able to do a better job of telling the difference between thoughts and facts. I'm finding that's true for me.
You might be thinking, "Aren't all facts expressed as thoughts?"
Yes, of course. But facts are grounded in our shared, observable, external reality. They refer to something objectively true that transcends the thought of any particular person. Other sorts of thoughts, by contrast, are subjective, even if they're shared by millions of people.
Thus it is a fact that I enjoyed the taste of a bowl of popcorn I just shared with our dog -- a nightly human/canine ritual. However, this isn't a fact capable of being held by others, since I'm the only one able to experience how popcorn tastes to me.
If you want to believe that Brian Hines enjoys the taste of popcorn, great. But it isn't a fact that can be confirmed in any way other than believing the words I just wrote. Objective facts can be confirmed by others, which is why we can be so confident that Biden won the election, vaccines and mask-wearing are effective against Covid, and global warming is happening.