FACTS AND OPINIONS
A Christmas Gift from Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
25th December 2009
As a working definition, facts are statements of truth, whereas opinions are statements of beliefs.
It is very helpful to note right at the beginning that facts and opinions are not necessarily exclusive. In other words, it is not true that if a statement is a fact, it can only be a fact and cannot be an opinion, and vice versa.
A fact may be an opinion, or it may not be an opinion, or it may sometimes be an opinion only and sometimes a fact only, or it may be an opinion and fact at the same time.
Similarly, an opinion may be a fact, or may not be a fact, or sometimes be a fact only and sometimes an opinion only, or it may be a fact and opinion at the same time.
The second important point to note is that facts and opinions are relative, and usually the point of reference is not overtly mentioned, and sometimes not even realized. In other words, a fact or an opinion remains a fact or an opinion only in a given set of conditions. If one or more conditions change, the fact or the opinion may change. These conditions are usually not mentioned, and sometimes not even realized.
All these sound very Zen-like. In fact it is Zen, in the sense that if we have a Zen mind, we can see all these intricacies very clearly. Many people, however, would be lost in the intricacies. A few examples will make this clear.
"Diabetes can be cured" may be a fact, or it may be an opinion.
Similarly, "diabetes cannot be cured" may be a fact, or it may be an opinion.
Whether it is a fact or an opinion is related to a set of conditions. For those who view illness from the perspective of conventional Western medicine, which means the majority of people in the world today, as well as those who have been suffering from diabetes for years, "diabetes can be cured" is not a fact; it is an opinion, and in this case, a wrong opinion.
The conditions governing the fact that diabetes can be cured are not limited just to perspectives and experience. There can be other conditions. For example, the fact that diabetes can be cured does not necessarily mean that every diabetes patient can be cured. If his diabetes has gone beyond a threshold, or if he does not practice the healing exercises correctly, he may not be cured.
In the same way, the fact that a particular antibiotic can overcome a certain bacterial infection, does not necessarily mean that every patient so infected can be cured. If his infection has gone beyond a threshold, or if he does not take the medication according to the advice of his doctor, he may not be cured.
Let us take another example. We often say that after learning Shaolin Kungfu or Wahnam Taijiquan from us, our students can use Shaolin Kungfu or Wahnam Taijiquan in free sparring. To us it is a fact; it is self-evident. But many other people will not even regard it as an opinion, they regard it as an outlandish falsehood.
Why is there such a huge difference? Why is a self-evident fact to us an outlandish falsehood to many other people? It is because of the different sets of conditions we and they use. Our perspective and experience of Shaolin Kungfu, Wahnam Taijiquan and free sparring are vastly different from theirs.
When we can see through such differences, we shall be in a better position to make better choices for our benefit. It may come as a big surprise to many people that often opinion or perception is more important than fact or reality in shaping our future. I shall discuss about "Perception and Reality" in another webpage, but meanwhile let us have a few examples.
It is not the fact that chi kung healing can overcome diabetes but the perception that it may overcome their illness that enables diabetes patients to lead healthy, meaningful life again. It is not the fact that Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan can be used for free sparring but the perception and subsequent confirmation that they can derive the benefits these arts are purported to give that enable our students find their training so beneficial. Similarly, it is not the fact that the world has more good or that it has more evil, but the perception with which you view the world that makes your life miserable or rewarding.