Thursday, October 8, 2015

Three Truths

Truth is a wonderful thing.  When we discover a new truth, it can be exhilarating.  Or it can be alternately devastating.  The Truth is unchanged in either circumstance.  It is only our individual reaction to it that is the variable, different from one of us to another.

Truth is a comfort because it is inherently a Certainty for us.  We can achieve understandings wiithin that Truth, and thereby remove dreaded ambiguity that makes us so uncomfortable and unsure.  We often prefer to arrive at Truth “scientifically”: by logical deduction validated by experience and confirmed by consistent repetition.  Such a process appears to give a weight, a seeming substance, to what is actually a purely intangible idea.  But sometimes we arrive at Truth by intuition, inspiration, an unaccounted-for flash of insight.  Those Truths can yield a Certainty as strong as by any other process.  Certainty is an expectation we have from our Truth.  But Certainty is found to be an illusion.

In actuality, Truth exists in three categories.  There are Absolute Truths: true in all times and in all circumstances.  We like to believe that all of our Truths (beliefs) are in this basket, because it causes less disturbance, confusion and effort in our minds and simplifies going about our daily lives.  But thus far I have encountered only a very few Absolute Truths.  One is that if we are born, we will thereby die.  I have thus far seen no getting out of that causal relationship.  A second is that all life in any form does not live in a vacuum, but exists within an interconnected web of energies, forces and circumstances far beyond the individual being.  We may give many names and descriptions to this web, and the details of it may be maddeningly difficult to define, but that does not negate the larger web within which we exist.  These two truths make up a pretty short list of Absolute Truths.

Then there are the Relative (Circumstantial) Truths.  Given a particular set of circumstances, then this idea is true.  But change the circumstances, then what is true also changes.  A lot of science started out believed to be Absolute Truth, but the more we learned the more we realized that cause/effect were highly dependent on a particular set of circumstances and conditions –  rendering Truth to a very narrow series of statements rarely universally applicable after all.  Space exploration has broken apart many former “laws” of physics.  So too with moral codes.  The absolutism of “thou shall not kill” becomes very relative when family members are threatened.  “An eye for an eye” quickly collides with the admonition to be merciful and forgiving.  As much as we might prefer otherwise, Relative Truth is where most Truths are found.  Such Truths ae hard because they require us to engage in continual qualifying discussions about the impact of Circumstance upon our supposed Truths, to acknowledge the inexactness of our beliefs, and to listen to and explore other perspectives.

Lastly there are Timely Truths.  Those conclusions based upon what was known (and knowable), and seemed appropriate, at a particular point in time.  So it became a religious Truth that the sun revolved around the earth.  A geographic Truth that the world was flat and fell into nothingness at its edge.  A medical Truth that leeches sucking out our diseased blood would cure us.  All were truths believed at a point in time based upon what could then be known, yet were ultimately discarded by new knowledge and experience.  As many of our current beliefs will shock our children a hundred years from now.

We depend on our Truths to help maneuver us through the day.  We cling to our Truths to try to stabilize an unstable world.  We often use our Truths as the very basis and explanation of who we are (“my beliefs”); taking away our Truths is to take away our very Self.  Yet we come to learn that our Truths do not define who we are; who we are defines our Truths.  It takes ethical courage, inner curiosity, and humility – all very spiritual traits – to pursue a genuine search for Truth.  A search that is led by opportunities from Life directed by God’s hand.  Certainty is the looming sinkhole in the road always lurking to defeat that journey.

Truth is always in motion, just like all else in Life, best held with an “expiration date.”  Truth is continually blown apart and reshaped by the curious, questioning mind working together with reflective thinking.  Ultimately we realize that there is no permanent Certainty, only transition.  That Truths held too deeply limit us by becoming a static human being.  Truths held lightly free us to arrive at our next level of understanding, and guide us to find the being we are capable of becoming.

©  2015   Randy Bell      

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