Monday, May 18, 2015

The Truth Will Set You Free

"Clear Skies"
- Springtime in the Desert -

Now that graduation season is upon us, an article in today’s New York Times is reporting a story about a fake diploma scam widespread on the internet. The site supposedly links together a wide variety of world-wide, but relatively obscure universities offering online diplomas in a host of different disciplines like nursing, civil engineering, law and even medicine. 

The site includes glowing video endorsements from smiling, sophisticated administrators and top-level professors along with pictures of ivy league-looking campuses. For a given (usually large) amount of cash anyone can get a very authentic looking diploma accompanied by several letters of recommendation from a variety of the “highly acclaimed” faculty members featured in the videos.

The only problem is that none of this is authentic-it’s all fake.

Today's Times article suggests:  On closer examination the pictures on these websites show that it’s all a big scam, shimmering like a mirage. The video endorsements are fabricated. The professors are paid actors. The university campuses that are purported to offer these degrees just don’t exist, the pictures of the campuses are nothing more than stock photos from computer files, and the degrees have no academic accreditation.

Scam or no-scam, this fake diploma phenomenon has become a big hit nowadays as more and more people are now the proud graduates of these non-existent universities, holding fake degrees (with authentic looking diplomas). It has become a billon dollar industry.

The “graduation” story in today’s news has caused me to reflect upon just how authentic or how fake our everyday life is in today’s contemporary culture.

In a very real sense we live in a world of “smoke and mirrors.” Even news stories that seem to be an authentic truthful reporting of real life events are many times little more than fabricated propaganda pieces. TV commercials are designed to make products look bigger and better than they really are, filled with claims about the products being sold that are far from the truth;  and now that a whole new round of presidential political campaigning is about to begin, we can be sure that for the next year we will be hearing one candidate after another taking a position only to then change it the next day depending upon how the “wind is blowing.”

How much is authentic and how much is fake?

Even in our own everyday personal lives, many if not most people find themselves engaged in one performance after another- actors on a stage presenting an image in accordance with what we think others expect from us, “putting our best foot forward,” so that others will hold us in high esteem.

How much is authentic and how much is fake?

I sometimes even wonder if people really know what they actually think, or are in touch with how they really feel because they are so compelled to be what others want them to be?

There is an often-quoted phrase from the Christian Gospels- a saying attributed to Jesus:

You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.

I think there is a profound wisdom in this saying. I suppose people can get by day by day pretending to be what they are not- hiding behind fake diplomas from non-existent universities, pretending to be that perfect spouse, the flawless mother, the ideal employee who is never disgruntled and never makes mistakes; but after a while the patina wears thin. There is a lot of loneliness behind the walls of pretense.

The truth does indeed set us free.

Listen to my podcast: "Desert Wisdom"

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