June 30th, 2002


The Missing Fact

In my work as an attorney, I hear people's stories about business and sometimes personal matters on a frequent basis. Over time, I have developed a good feeling for what I call the "missing fact". The "missing fact" is the thing which the storyteller won't, can't or does not know to tell me. It's the factual bridge which makes sense of what happens. Usually, the missing fact is one which the storyteller does not know, or has not deduced from the known facts. Once in a while, I must decline a case because the "missing fact" is one I can readily divine, which makes me disinterested in a case. In this way, my work can sometimes acquire a Sherlock Holmes quality. I love this aspect of my work, because intution plays a big part in deciding whether there is a "missing fact", and how to go look for it in the remainder of the case.

Reading LiveJournal entries always reminds me of the "missing fact".
The comparison is somewhat inanalogous, because journals are much more obviously 'novelized' than the less patterned stories I have from folks seeking help for problems. Still, I am always intrigued by how my mind wraps around and sometimes supplies guesses as to withheld or implicit "facts" which arise from the journal. I do not claim any special facility in finding the "right" facts, but instead find I have an almost autonomous need to "color in" the things I think are missing.

It's interesting to me how many journalists drop strong hints about their "missing facts", particularly if the facts are emotional dysfunctions (or, in a few cases, things that the journalist imagines are a failure of personal virtue). In some journals, the missing fact is noted as existing, usually in a parenthetical after describing a "public" flaw. In a few journals, the author seems to me to obviously have something going on in their lives, which I wonder if the author him/herself really has put a finger upon. In some cases, I imagine I can note the fictional parts of the journal from the "real" parts, as the mismatch between something particuarly grandiose and the humdrum remainder sticks out like a sore thumb. I have read a few journals which are intentionally nearly pure novels, and they usually show, whether noted as such or not. Of course, in some cases, I wonder if the "fact" I intuit or deduce from a particular journal exists or is really my own projection. Of course, delving for "missing facts", as in a mystery novel, requires the delver to be prepared to discard working hypotheses as soon as they are disproven, and to attach no real weight to unproven assumptions about what is missing. Still, I cannot imagine doing my work, or effectively reading any autobio narrative, or for that matter any interaction, without some interlineation of "assumed facts".

I wonder if my enjoyment of this quest for the truth "underneath the narrative" is part of why I somewhat unexpectedly came to enjoy doing trial work. I certainly had this facility before I went to law school; a few folks imagine I am a bit psychic for this reason. I don't think I'm psychic, but I am a good reader of stories, and stories always reveal "missing facts".

But now after building the "construct" of this post, with its own novelized qualities, I wonder if in fact the "facts" I believe I have inferred from the journals I've read are "facts", or merely projections I've made that try to fit the journals into my own narrow worldview. I also wonder if the journalists I read realize how clearly they broadcast what I believe to be "the missing facts". I may not know what the facts are, but I can taste them, like blood, on my tongue as I read. But is the blood in the journals I am reading, or is the blood my own?
  • Current Music
    Sparks, "Sherlock Holmes", in my mind