Truth can be a peculiar thing. Something that always exists, even if elusive or hidden. It exists even if uncovering it is beyond our ability. A "hidden truth" doesn't preclude its existence, just reminds us of our limitations, or at least should remind us.
Depending on a person's philosophical bent, it can be viewed as relative or absolute, but that is more a reflection of the person as opposed to the truth of a matter. Some "truths", in reality, are nothing more than opinions, subjective perspectives: warm vs. cool, difficult vs. easy, etc.
The oft-quoted last lines from Keats' Ode to a Grecian Urn are not even very truthful:
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," - that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
Sometimes truth can be downright ugly, frightening, hurtful, and/or emotionally traumatizing. There is no "beauty" in that sort of truth, yet, it is still "the truth".
There is a lot of truth to search for when someone either comes to the issue of pandemic influenza or becomes involved on an ongoing basis, as the netizens of Flublogia (the cyber flu community, and those who [virtually] inhabit it) have. There are scientific, political, sociological, psychological, economic, and legal issues, to name but the "major players". Thus far, none of them have been particularly beautiful, actually just the opposite – ugly they are – at least when viewing from the vantage point of a severe category PanFlu event.
Flublogia does one thing really, really, well: search for the truth. We don't always find it for varying reasons; it may be beyond our technical means, a lack of insider information, an inability to discern private motivations, or wrestling with an event not yet a reality. But even in our failures Flublogia shines brightest when it is engaged in a strenuous search for an elusive truth.
I frequently mention "Flublogia", and generally just parenthetically state "the cyber flu community", but what, exactly, is Flublogia? It is the totality of the cyber resources dedicated to all things Pandemic Influenza, almost exclusively directed at the H5N1 strain. That encompasses the blogs, the authoritative with expert/professional authors, the news oriented, and the analysis – opinion oriented (not "hard" lines of demarcation, as we all have occasional forays into each area), and then there are the Flu Forums.
It is on the forums that the real "grunt work" is performed. Issues and unfolding events are picked apart with a thoroughness that would rival that of any obsessive/compulsive. The netizens who frequent them range from doctors, lawyers, and engineers, to homemakers, and retired grandparents, with everything in between (including snarky ex-cops). Collectively it is an evolving demonstration of co-intelligence narrowly focused but expansive enough to be inclusive of everyone who pulls up a virtual chair.
I have had the pleasure and privilege to meet in the world of brick and mortar a goodly number of Flubies (the flu obsessed). My most recent encounter was when I participated at the IDSA Pandemic Influenza conference where six other Flubies either participants or attended as a means of furthering their own understanding. It was a genuine pleasure to meet people who share the same concerns and driven by the same motivations: become informed, learn, prepare, and help others to do the same.
Each flu forum has its own distinctive "flavor" and "core" participants, although many participate on more than one. Aside from the active posters there are many who are referred to as "lurkers", those who read what is posted but don't participate in the conversations, the silent far outnumbering the "vocal".
Although each flu forum has a genuine sense of "community" about it, I can be found periodically throughout the day, and most nights, participating at P4P. When searching for information finding a place that not only has helpful folk, but also a simple and well labeled structure, can mean the difference between success and failure, and P4P has that handily over many of the other flu forums. What good is information if it is too difficult to ferret out?
However, it is probably P4P's honoring of two things that are very near and dear to my heart that recommend it the most (at least for me): The greatest latitude for freedom of speech, and the highest (IMO) ratio of objective over subjective "truth". The latter artfully balanced (mostly) with the former, and opinion is clearly and unambiguously labeled as such.
This is especially important when attempting to "vet" information: are there implications that we should concern ourselves over, if so, how and why they are meaningful. Because, although I am a person who tends to be the sort that seeks a "core dump" of data, at the very core of that core dump is the "why" of why I am digging through the data: What effect does or doesn't this have on me and mine.
In the harsh realities of "truth", we must be ever vigilant for what Francis Bacon knew well in the 17th century but we, in our time, fail to either appreciate or never even realize:
The human understanding is no dry light, but receives an infusion from the will and affections; whence proceed sciences which may be called "sciences as one would." For what a man had rather were true he more readily believes. Therefore he rejects difficult things from impatience of research; sober things, because they narrow hope; the deeper things of nature, from superstition; the light of experience, from arrogance and pride, lest his mind should seem to be occupied with things mean and transitory; things not commonly believed, out of deference to the opinion of the vulgar. Numberless, in short, are the ways, and sometimes imperceptible, in which the affections color and infect the understanding.
In closing, I will draw upon another favorite quote of mine:
The truth is out there…. And so, that's where I can be found – seeking. And, occasionally, even being reminded that what I find too ugly to believe doesn't necessarily mean it can't happen, or isn't true, or potentially so.