Word of the Day: Veridical – it's rooted in truth

  • August 28, 2010
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Word of the Day
August 28

To my delight, today’s word-of-the-day from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is “veridical.”

veridicalAudio Pronunciationvuh-RID-ih-kul
1 :
truthful, veracious
2 :
not illusory : genuine

What pleased me most is the sentence the dictionary used to showcase the word:

“All psychotherapies are based on the fact that memory is not veridical, that unconscious desires and fantasies exert their force on us all…” (Henry Kaminer, Weekly Standard, July 31, 2000)

Same goes for memoir writing, which is entirely dependent upon memory and perception — two unreliable powers. A writer’s voice and memory is filtered by emotion. We insert facts and omit others, corrupting the form. Memoir writing is how we make ourselves up — shaping raw experience, identifying cause and effect in events, connecting the dots to conquer experience.

Not only do individuals create their own stories: whole communities, whole countries revise and rewrite their histories so that citizens can live with the country’s identity and historical legacy. “History is what people write down afterward,” one author said recently, “what really happened is something else.”

If perception and memory are so faulty, why write memoir? Because the telling can illuminate something in one’s own truths, it can transform experience into meaning — because as Rabbi David Wolpe blurbed on my book, Motherland, “how we remember determines who we are.” What’s remembered becomes reality and identity.

We do not simply have an experience, William Maxwell wrote in So Long, See You Tomorrow, we are entrusted with it. “We must do something – make something with it. A story, we sense, is the only possible habitation for the burden of our witnessing.”

Memoir comforts us by bearing witness and creating meaning…even though memory is not veridical.

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